CUSTOMER ONBOARDING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW, PLUS TIPS AND STRATEGIES

What is customer onboarding?

Customer onboarding refers to the entire process and the actions needed to introduce your product to new users. This includes a walkthrough of how your product works and being present when they need help using it. This experience is a crucial stage of shaping customer attitudes about your product and company. The more responsive and supportive you are, the more likely customers are to think highly of your company.

Customer onboarding may be in the form of a series of steps, a set of resources, webinars and more. An effective and outstanding user or customer onboarding process considers every step of the customer’s journey to adoption, such as the following:

  • free trials and freemium models
  • how-to’s and tutorials
  • accessible customer support
  • celebrating milestones when they achieve success through your product

Why is customer onboarding important?

There are a few reasons why customers stop using a product. Among the most frequent are a lack of product understanding and a customer feeling as if they are not getting value out of it. This is where customer onboarding enters the picture.

Any new product or SaaS solution has a learning curve and a bit of hand-holding goes a long way. When a customer buys your product, that means they already believe they can find value in it. Customer onboarding helps them define success and is necessary to keep this product belief intact.

Onboarding makes the customer experience as seamless and rewarding as possible for the users.

It also sets the tone for your relationship with them throughout the journey – from the first touchpoint all the way through their experience after the purchase. Especially for the “Consideration” and decision-making step of the sales funnel (think free trial and freemium), user onboarding can help you capture their intrigue and turn leads into customers.

When users have a positive experience with your product, you will convert happy customers into product evangelists – all while making them come back for more.

And if you need more reasons to implement customer onboarding, here are some statistics from HubSpot that suggest it should be an essential part of your business:

  • 75% of new users give up on a product on the first week of using it. Even after the sale, customer churn is an issue. Over two-thirds of SaaS companies experience churn greater than 5%.
  • If you offer free trials, 40 to 60% of those who sign up will use the product once. Product understanding and making sure that free trial users get optimum experience during this stage is key.
  • It’s best to focus your strategy on customer retention, as the bulk of the revenues come from happy customers, them being the top referral sources. Retaining your customers also costs less than acquiring new ones.

How does customer onboarding differ from user onboarding?

While both have the same objective, which is to win buyers and keep them – customer onboarding differs from user onboarding in a couple of ways. Often, you’ll hear the terms used interchangeably, but there is a more nuanced way to think about the 2.

User onboarding is the process of introducing your product to potential buyers, those who have started a free trial or are using a basic free product model. The end goal of user onboarding is to turn a prospect into a paying customer. Along their onboarding journey, you’ll want to build in opportunities to highlight product features that are only accessible to paying customers. While the user onboarding experience is typically low-touch, you may want to embed calls to action including booking a demo or a meeting with your sales team members to engage qualified buyers.

Customer onboarding also involves introducing your product, but this term refers to the process of onboarding your paying customers. The end goal is to reduce customer churn by helping your customers learn the tool quickly, achieve early success with your product, and ultimately find value. Many companies provide high-touch onboarding for customers to make sure these goals are met, especially for their larger enterprise clients.

What are the trends in customer onboarding?

There are various ways that customer onboarding can be implemented. Here are some of the top trends in customer onboarding:

Digital empathy
Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also be used to know how customers are responding to the product, their individual needs, and the features that resonate most to them. Analytics from customer interactions, product engagement, transactions, browsing activities, and other behavioral data could all feed the customer onboarding strategy and make the experience more “empathetic.”

Product content guides used for marketing and conversion
A few years back, free how-to PDF guides and product data sheets offered by a website used to be provided to paid customers only. But because a focus on user onboarding has become more common, these product content pieces have become readily available. This now becomes the first touchpoint of your user and customer onboarding, which can be as early as when prospects check out your website.

Guided customer walkthroughs
Many SaaS companies are now providing in-app messages and guidance directly inside their platforms. Companies like WalkMe, Pendo, and Chameleon allow for customized onboarding while providing customer interaction within the app. They also deliver insights on how users behave throughout the customer journey. The customer onboarding process is data-driven and usually automated - with analytics identifying where users struggle and which parts they become more engaged - thus informing the strategy.

Focus on customer experience (CX)
In today’s extremely busy and hyperactive world, most customers would prefer to use products that are easy and as rewarding to use as possible. Tech giants such as Netflix and Apple have put customer experience (CX) at the core of their strategy. For businesses without a tangible product or direct contact with a person from a company- such as SaaS - CX is extremely important. It’s a way to be present for your customer, without being (physically) present. The more a product addresses pain points while minimizing the pain of using it, the more customers it is likely to retain.

Use of “virtual workforce”
You may have noticed the rise of chatbots in today’s digital platforms. Or you may already be using it regularly (think Siri and Alexa). These chatbots, robots and virtual assistants are all part of the virtual workforce, which will become more mainstream. Especially for customer onboarding, the virtual workforce will allow you to provide omnipresence for your users. It is still important, however, to strike a good balance between the use of a virtual workforce and the presence of human connection to keep your customer onboarding experience engaging.

Best practices for customer onboarding

If you’re wondering what effective customer onboarding looks like, then here are some best practices to inform your customer onboarding strategy:

Know your customer and personalize their experience
It is essential to know your customer and their needs. When the strategy is grounded on addressing their pain points, your customer and user onboarding will be personal, engaging, and valuable to your target audience. With a solid picture of the buyer persona, you can map different learning paths for the different segments in your audience.

Make it easier for your customer to understand your product or service
This means allowing them to go through customer onboarding as gradually as possible. Break down the process into smaller parts or microlearning sessions that are easier to absorb and understand. Try not to overwhelm them with all of the product features. Prioritize the ones they need first to navigate the platform and plan additional content from there.

Provide value as early as your first touchpoints Come from your users’ point-of-view and answer the question: what’s in it for them? Show them how your offering will address their pain points. Use cases, discovery conversations, customized training and supporting resources could go a long way.

Manage your customers’ expectations
Given that onboarding happens in the early stages of your relationship with your customer, it’s essential to get on the same page. Understand their expectations and clarify if there’s a gap. It helps to spell out what to expect from your offering right at the very beginning, and throughout the customer onboarding process. If there are limitations on what your product can provide to meet their needs, give them a heads up to decrease your customer churn rate.

Be present for your customer
Make sure that you are available to handhold your customer at each step of the way if needed. Your customers are likely to hit a snag and your quick response is key when this happens. Provide a customer service staff that is accessible and responsive. With marketing automation, you can activate an onboarding email drip campaign when they sign up. That drip campaign keeps your product top of mind and gives you the opportunity to provide value-adding content that will help them navigate your offering.

Celebrate milestones
Set key milestones throughout the entire onboarding process and acknowledge your customers’ achievements when they’re able to meet their goals. Use automated onboarding emails that trigger when a customer accomplishes a task in the system. With a clear path that might include uploading their first file or creating a user, you’ll be able to recognize their adoption of key processes.

 

What’s next

Every encounter with a potential user or customer is an opportunity to shape their experience with your brand. A seamless experience that prioritizes the customer’s needs will lead to more conversions and less customer churn. If you’d like to learn more about customer onboarding and how it can work for your business, the Edubrite team can show you how. Book a demo now or watch a live one here.