Over 50 years of customer success experience were on display Wednesday at the CSM Onboarding Sink or Swim panel. During this hour-long conversation, Customer Success legends Dan Steinman, Bernie Kassar, Jon Herstein, and Bryan Plaster discussed their experience with onboarding, what perfect onboarding would look like, and how new technology is helping teams scale their onboarding process.

Onboarding has Changed

The panel agreed that onboarding has changed since when they started in customer success. As clients have become more familiar with customer success, their expectations of what a CSM should look like have changed. Clients expect a CSM with a deep knowledge of their product, along with the emotional intelligence to handle a variety of different situations. These expectations put pressure on the onboarding process and stretch out the timeline before a CSM is ready to start interacting with clients. This extended onboarding process is happening across the board. 85% of attendees of the panel indicated that it took them over 3 months to onboard a seasoned CSM.

What Makes a Perfect Onboarding

During the panel, the question was asked “If you had unlimited resources, what would your onboarding process look like?” Some of the ideas for this perfect onboarding were apprenticeships, shadowing, boot-camps, and EQ training. The common thread between most of these suggestions were that they were ways to equip CSMs with the soft skills they need to do their job. Why are CS teams not employing all of these soft skill training methods? It’s not a money issue, it’s a time issue. These types of training require hours of review and reflection from both the new CSM, and a coach. This makes it difficult to execute when as Jon Herstein said, you are always “chasing capacity”, and need to get CSMs in front of customers as quickly as possible. Doing these hypothetical exercises is important because it allows you to identify where the current process is lacking. In this case, it is a way to teach soft skills with less of a time commitment.

AI: The future of Onboarding

The panel concluded with a discussion about how AI could revolutionize how companies handle onboarding. Where most onboardings fall short of the perfect one we discussed earlier is with a lack of soft skill training. Most organizations find it too time consuming and costly to do right, so they either do it half way, or not at all. New developments in AI are making this soft skill training less time consuming, more effective and more accessible. AI steps in and takes the role of a coach you would have been getting feedback from. The AI is tuned based on your team’s best CSMs, and then gives you feedback on your performance. Onboarding CSMs can now practice their soft skills as much as they need to without taking up more time from your CS leaders who are already stretched too thin. Along with this, using AI you can do a much deeper dive into a CSMs performance and provide more comprehensive feedback. As Dan Steinman said, there is no one silver bullet, but according to the panel, AI seems like one part of the solution to the onboarding at scale problem.

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