The Lessons I Learned About Simplifying Onboarding

CS Show and Tell with Brian Nicholls, Vice President of Customer Success at UserIQ


In 2018, I had just taken over the technology group as the senior leader for my former organization. There were a lot of good things within the group but also a lot of chances for improvements that would positively impact our customers.

I spent countless hours assessing the current state and how we would execute. I laid out my strategic plan to move the group forward. I was fully prepared and excited to discuss these with my CEO and to get his approval.

After listening to me speak for nearly an hour, he looked at me and simply said,

“Brian, if you try to do all 15 of these things, you will get 30% of the way through at best and will not fully complete any of them. Pick the 2 or 3 ideas that are most impactful, focus 120% on delivering them, get customer validation they are receiving value, then move to the next item.”

This stunned me and my mind searched for explanations. Had he forgotten my history of getting stuff done? Did he not agree with my ideas? Did he not want to invest in them?

Turns out, it was none of these. Looking back, it was hard to know how insightful and impactful this lesson was. It applies to your work life. It applies to your personal life. And, yes, it applies to onboarding customers.

Finding focus is paramount

Think about a time when you were the customer. Maybe you documented the capabilities you needed. Maybe you conducted product research.

Then, you found a few solutions and went through the sales process. The sales team probably did a wonderful job showing all of the capabilities you asked for — and some you didn’t.

You found your solution, purchased it and were ready to utilize it. Then…

  • You realized you couldn’t use all of the features.

  • You ran short on time.

  • Maybe you experienced a life change.

  • And perhaps you forgot about the original purpose of the solution altogether.

Now come back to your role as a customer success practitioner. Ask yourself if this is happening with your customers.

  • Are you trying to teach 15 unique features to 10 stakeholders with different needs?

  • Does their time spent using the product decrease as you show more features?

  • Is your time to value (TTV) longer than an act of Congress?

  • At renewal time, do you lose revenue because the customer decides to downgrade?

My friends, if any of this applies to you, I urge you to consider simplifying your customers’ onboarding process. Work with your sales team to understand all of the customer needs upfront, then have the customer narrow those down to two or three features that will drive value within 60 days.

My belief

Most people can only fully absorb a few critical items at once. If we try to absorb more, lines get blurred and we tend to forget the entire experience — including the most important parts. The sensory overload world we live in has certainly contributed to my theory.

Following my own advice, here are the three onboarding principles I live by:

  • A successful onboarding process needs to be simple for the customer.

  • It is OK to show the customer multiple features your solution has in the sales process, but the onboarding process should first focus only on two to three features that your customer chooses based on what will drive value for them.

  • Implement those two to three features at 120%, then (and only then) climb the ladder to the next feature.

Your customer will find success, you will find success, and you will be off and running on a long-term, beneficial, value-driving partnership together.

Brian Nicholls joined the UserIQ team in 2020 and currently serves as the Vice President of Customer Success for the company. At UserIQ, Brian is responsible for leading a talented team of individuals in the charge of providing a world-class experience for customers. He previously worked as the Executive Director of Client Success for Profit Recovery Partners, where he spent 7 years in a variety of roles cultivating his craft.

Having spent the majority of his career in the customer success space, he brings a wealth of knowledge and commitment as a recognized CS leader. Brian holds an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and earned his Masters of Business Administration from Pepperdine University. Connect with Brian on Linkedin.