Which Metrics Matter the Most During Onboarding?

Amber Monroe is the Head of Enterprise Strategy at Paradigm Senior Services and a member of Vitally's Success Network. For more of Amber's onboarding advice, visit her page on Rocketlane TV.


The journey from signing a new client to successfully integrating them into your product or service ecosystem is one of the most critical phases in any business relationship. 

Onboarding is truly the phase where promises from your sales team are met with the reality of what is possible. And, if you are operating a seamless business operation this should be the most frictionless handoff between teams. But let’s face it, how many times does it actually feel like you are steering a ship through choppy waters hoping that it doesn’t crash into an iceberg along the way? 

Trust me, we have all been there, but I am here to help provide you with some valuable guidance. With the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you can chart a course to smoother sailing and a more satisfied customer experience along the way. So let’s dive into the top metrics that matter the most during onboarding.

Onboarding Metric #1: Time to Value

Let’s start with Time to Value (TTV). Think of this a bit like waiting for your favorite show to start streaming after hitting play. You want your client to experience that “aha” moment as quickly as possible. But defining which moment actually is as an “aha” moment can be as tricky as choosing which series to binge-watch next!

It gets even more challenging when each client experiences value at different moments of time during their onboarding journey. So here’s the deal: If TTV is a metric that you have a strong desire to measure, then your first step is pinpointing those clear milestone moments where your clients start seeing the benefits they signed up for when they invested in your solution. 

It could be hitting a specific goal, reaching a key usage target, engaging with a specific feature, or maybe it’s more like feeling a whole lot more productive. These are all moments that matter. But I want to make something clear here. This metric isn’t always a metric that is easy to measure and it also may not make sense for you or your business. 

Value moments can be so fluid and subjective, but if you can clearly define these value moments, your onboarding teams can track progress more effectively and then tailor the onboarding process to prioritize actions that lead to the quickest value realization.

Onboarding Metric #2: Time to Launch

As an alternative to measuring time to value, consider measuring time to go-live or time to launch. This can be a more tangible and objective metric for assessing onboarding efficiency and it’s as easy to track as it sounds. With this metric you are looking to measure the time that it takes from when a client first signs a contract with your business to the client becoming fully operational with your product or with your service. 

Let’s be honest, no one likes waiting for a show to start right? So the goal is to get the show started as quickly as possible so you can get your client to the main event. If you and your onboarding team can focus on streamlining and improving processes to eliminate bottlenecks or friction for the client, the quicker you can deliver value.

Onboarding Metric #3: Customer Effort Score

If you’re still here with me, let’s talk about the Customer Effort Score (CES). This is such an incredibly valuable metric for gauging both the ease and the effectiveness of the onboarding experience from the perspective of your client. 

CES measures the amount of effort a customer has to expend in order to complete what is needed during onboarding with your business. A low CES score is indicative of a smoother and a more seamless onboarding experience. A higher CES score suggests that there are possible areas for you to improve and optimize the onboarding experience for your clients. 

If you can’t tell yet, I love analogies, so think of CES like trying to put together a piece of furniture with a ton of instructions and missing pieces. Yeah, that is what a high CES would feel like for our clients during onboarding. 

CES is typically measured through a 5-point scale from very easy to very difficult. It is necessary to regularly collect and analyze this metric during onboarding to identify client pain points so you can quickly make improvements where needed.

Onboarding Metric #4: Feature Adoption Rates

Continuing down the path of metrics to measure, do you remember that feeling when you discover a cool new feature on your favorite app and then you wonder how you possibly ever lived without it? Well that is what we want our clients to experience with our products or services. 

That’s why feature adoption rates become so critical to measure during onboarding and even beyond onboarding. Tracking this metric can help you identify which features are the most valuable vs. the features that are causing friction, not visible enough, or may otherwise need attention. 

The reality is that as much as you want your clients to adopt every feature you offer they won’t. But low adoption rates across the board could indicate a lack of training or awareness of that certain feature and the value it may have for your client. Encouraging feature adoption helps your clients to maximize the value delivered and will help you to drive long-term engagement and retention.

Onboarding Metric #5: Onboarding Completion Rate

We’re into the home stretch! Have you ever started a “Do It Yourself” (DIY) project only to abandon it halfway through because it was too hard? Yeah, we definitely do not want our clients feeling like this during onboarding. 

Measuring onboarding completion rates help you track the percentage of clients who successfully complete onboarding without abandoning (ghosting) or churning. If you start seeing high abandonment rates during onboarding, this should be a clear signal of client dissatisfaction, confusion, or frustration with the product or service — all of which should swiftly be addressed. 

On the flip side, high completion rates mean clients are sticking around and are probably a lot more satisfied with the experience. If you’re looking for ways to minimize abandonment and churn during onboarding, you should focus on providing personalized support, clear and consistent communication, and comprehensive training resources where you can.

Get Onboarding Right and Great Customer Relationships Follow

Phew, we made it! That was a whirlwind tour of some essential KPIs for measuring the success of your onboarding. Keep a close eye on the metrics that matter, stay connected to your customers to understand points of friction and address them as needed. 

Remember, successful onboarding is the most critical and important part of the customer’s experience with your business. The smoother this experience is, the better you are setting your clients up for long-term retention and success. Continuously optimize and improve where you can, and good luck!

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