How the flipped classroom model reduced onboarding time by 83%

Posted June 29, 2021

Sean gabrus headshot

By Sean Gabrus

Sr. Manager of Shared Services Practice at Outreach

This article is part of our Outreach on Outreach content series, where we showcase our own revenue team’s use of the Outreach Sales Engagement Platform to help you drive success at your own company. We share workflows and strategies, backed by original research and data from the results of our own experiments and customer base.

Implementing any innovative SaaS platform can be resource-intensive.

As we’ve scaled and acquired more customers, we've brought on more resources in our Success Organization to ensure every user is set up for success in an efficient way.

But throwing headcount at the problem just isn’t sustainable.

We’re growing incredibly quickly—from 2,400 customers in 2018 to 5,000+ in 2021. 

So we took our years of previous onboarding experience, combined it with the newest trends in education, sprinkled in some Outreach, and introduced a “flipped classroom” model for new customers. 

Our new onboarding process for micro and emerging businesses—Express Start—reduced the time new customers had to spend on face-to-face calls from 12 hours to just two. That’s an 83% improvement. More importantly, it allowed our customers to learn at their own pace.

Want to know how we do it?

Read on.

Before: Resource-intensive onboarding

Before the launch of Express Start, Outreach had a successful onboarding process with our stellar Professional Services team—but some customers wanted the option to onboard in an on-demand format where they could go at their own pace. 

These customers, generally with fewer than 10 seats, received between eight and 12 hours of video calls with a consultant to get everything set up and get fully trained on the platform.

During those calls, our consultants would teach them everything. We aimed for seven major milestones.

1. Planning: Stakeholder buy-in and alignment on goals, project scheduling, and success metric finalization

2. Workflow Study: Deep dive into current workflows, planning improvements, and finalization on Outreach workflows

3. Content Strategy: Content mapping and strategy sessions

4. Data Management: CRM integration, configuration, and data import

5. System Configuration: Outreach system settings, including governance, email, and voice setup

6. Pre-Launch: Double-check setup and training approval

7. Training: Workflow-based training for each team

Our approach was to manually teach new customers how to use the product and then let them experiment with it offline, completing assigned action items based on that session's topic.

But there was a problem: it constrained customer learning. Customers often wanted to book all 12 hours in their first week; this certainly wasn’t the best way to learn a new platform, since it was always an iteration on what the customer needed.

To create an onboarding process that works well for all of our customers, we decided to flip the classroom.

The flipped classroom approach comes from the world of education. Traditionally, teachers teach in the classroom and assign students homework to reinforce that knowledge at home. (Sound familiar? It’s how our onboarding process was set up.)

But someone realized this approach was inefficient. Teaching time is incredibly valuable and should be spent clarifying complicated, challenging or tricky points.

In the flipped classroom, students learn new information at home by watching videos and other virtual content. When they come into the classroom, the teacher provides personalized follow-ups to each student, helping them consolidate knowledge and skills. 

That’s how we rebuilt our onboarding workflow.

Now: Flipping the classroom

Our first step was to create learning materials. The good news was that we had an army of consultants who had spent the last few years honing their delivery and perfecting their training.

We worked with them to identify all the basic learning needs—a sort of Outreach 101. Our consultants recorded videos and created additional materials to replicate their old face-to-face training. These targeted, proven modules were driven and reviewed by our Customer Education team. 

We uploaded everything to a new online learning track within Outreach University called Express Start.

The learning track has five milestones:

1. Platform Strategy
How your team will use Outreach, and what content will make them successful.

2. System Configuration
Safety settings and governance profiles to keep your Outreach streamlined.

3. Data Management
Integration with your CRM and importing data into Outreach.

4. Launch Plan
Getting your reps ready for training and the change management process.

5. Post Launch
Office hour sessions to support admins post launch, after completing their four 30-minute advisory sessions.

These five milestones align with the seven that we use in our hands-on implementations, ensuring new customers are still receiving the same level of best practice insight, regardless of this low-touch approach. 

Outreach university overview

To drive engagement with the learning materials and create momentum in each customer’s onboarding, we developed two powerful onboarding sequences.

New Customer Introduction

When a new customer purchases Outreach and the Express Start package, we drop them into an introductory Outreach University sequence in their first week. We see greater customer success when users engage with Outreach University early in their lifecycle.

New customer sequence example in outreach

This sequence begins with an automatic introductory email, built using HTML in Outreach. We welcome the new client, congratulate them on their purchase, and introduce Outreach University as their primary learning tool. 

The second email is an automatic bump. It acts as an opportunity to check in with the client and reintroduce Outreach University. 

The final email is the only manual step. Outreach sets the assigned professional services consultant a task to evaluate the client’s activity on the platform. Customers fall into one of three categories:

1. Customer has logged in and used the product.

2. Customer has logged in but isn’t using the product.

3. Customer hasn’t logged in.

Depending on the customer’s progress, the consultant has pre-written email templates to reinforce their progress or get them back on track.

New Customer Nurture

Once a customer is up and running, our customer success advisory team puts them in a second sequence, which fires its first email seven days after the introductory sequence ends.

At 12.5 weeks, this sequence is significantly longer than the first. Instead of promoting Outreach University in general, it highlights specific learning and support resources.

graphic showing new customer nurture in Outreach University

With this sequence, our goal is to deepen their education and surface features and functions they may have overlooked or missed out on.

Redeploying our consultants

With our self-study learning materials developed, we could reposition our consultants in the process. In the flipped classroom model, our customers learn on their own time. They watch videos, study first, and then have a human conversation that’s personalized to their individual needs, experiences, and goals.

Customers can say, "I already built my first sequence, but I'm getting this error. How do I fix that?" or “What I really want to do is prioritize prospecting. What sequences could I use?”

Our customers know they have up to four hours of video calls with a consultant. We integrated meeting buttons throughout the online courses, providing fixed points where customers can book 30-minute consulting sessions. Additionally, they all have access to a quick help email alias for small fixes and simple questions. It gives them the freedom to drive, at the speed they want to travel.

Previously, a customer would have to go through the effort of scheduling time with our consultants—and then spending more time on a consultant running through specific set up steps from start to finish. Now, they learn at their pace, accessing content via Outreach University whether they want to dive in for an entire day or jump on here and there. 

Of course, customers still have access to our consultants when they hit a roadblock or want to work out a particularly sticky problem. 

A blue graphic showing comparing the old process of optimizing consultants vs the new process

We’ve seen people power through the entire course curriculum in a single day and get up and running in 24 hours. We’ve seen others fit the learning around their existing work schedule, dipping in for an hour here and an hour there.

The most important thing is that we are giving our customers control of their own success. Customers don’t have to delay their rollout because of our availability. That launch velocity is a significant improvement.

Successfully scaling onboarding

It used to take around 12 hours of face-to-face training to get a new customer fully configured and operational on Outreach. Now, since our customers are self-learning, our consultants typically spend two to four hours onboarding new accounts—an 83% reduction.

It’s been a huge win for us, especially as Outreach continues to grow. 

We currently have over two hundred micro and emerging customers in our new program, with retention numbers at an all time high. We could add hundreds more without missing a beat or sacrificing customer satisfaction. 

It’s scalable, flexible, and precisely what we needed to take Outreach—and Outreach customers—to the next level.

Stay tuned for the next Outreach on Outreach, a special guest feature from Segment, where we’ll learn how they used Outreach to generate 92% more opportunities.

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