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The old saying that “the first impression is the best impression” is often true. In SAAS and tech industries, the first impression is the first touch point when the sales demonstration representative (SDR) gets in touch with a lead.
The SDR shows them the product, highlights how it solves their pain point, and then passes them over to the sales team, which later converts the lead into a customer.
However, the first impression extends to onboarding in B2B and B2C tech industries. Customer onboarding, after a successful sale, ensures your customer knows how to use the product effectively enough to derive maximum value.
This ensures that your customer is engaged and satisfied with the product.
Why is customer onboarding so crucial?
In today’s rapidly evolving tech market, customer acquisition is one of the main costs incurred by a company.
The costs involve massive digital marketing spend, ad campaigns, and converting a lead into a paying customer. However, in a subscription-based model, you profit from customers only if they stay with you beyond a specific duration.
One of the main reasons customers churn early is that they don’t know how to use your product and are not deriving any value from it.
A successful customer onboarding process is crucial to customer success and retention in the long run. A survey from WYZOWL found 86% of people saying they are more likely to stay loyal to a business that invests in good onboarding content.
Easy onboarding process tips for new customers
A successful onboarding process leaves a customer feeling more loyal to your product, confident in the value the product provides, and more trusting of the brand.
There are different ways to conduct customer onboarding, and the method you choose should depend on your product's value, usage complexity, and buyer persona.
Here are some tips on how to create a customer onboarding process:
1. Getting started
The first step in onboarding is helping customers get started with your product. You can initiate this by sending them a welcome email or message.
Congratulate them on their new purchase, thank them for choosing you, and let them know how excited you are to have them onboard.
Additionally, you can automate the app or platform to give out a greeting message, which welcomes a customer on their first login and encourages them to take the first step to set up their account.
It is advisable to ask the user to do one thing at a time, like sign up or change their password. Having a video tutorial to guide them is a bonus.
2. Product configuration
The next step would be configuring the product according to the customer’s needs.
This includes setting up any customization the customer needs, like a specific feature on their homepage, templates they require, or even certain enhancements they had requested.
A customer success or onboarding specialist can do this step, or the customer can be guided to do it themselves by providing intuitive tools and support. This makes the beginning of the journey with the product seamless.
3. Product tutorials or how-to guides
To smoothen the setup process, develop a guided tutorial or set up wizard that can provide a product walkthrough, taking them through each step logically.
This approach is particularly useful when multiple steps are involved, and the sequence of steps is crucial.
A clear roadmap of steps removes any confusion or uncertainty, increasing the likelihood of a successful setup.
This can be provided as a video tutorial or a step-by-step guide with pictures or text. Some pointers to remember are
- There should be options to skip the tutorial in parts or entirely.
- Customers should be able to come back to the tutorial anytime in the future.
- An option to contact customer support should be displayed if the customer needs further help.
4. Interactive training
The most important aspect of the customer onboarding process is teaching customers how to use the product and derive maximum value from it.
The best way to do this is to encourage customers to use the product and learn by doing.
You can do this by getting a customer success specialist to check on your customer, encourage them to start using the product and stand by while they figure it out.
A more automated option is creating feature callouts that can come as the customer completes one task to show them how to perform the following task or can be popups as the customer’s mouse or touch hovers around a feature. Make the tips and instructions conversational and lucid.
5. Online knowledge base
Provide an online knowledge base or resource for customers to access more detailed information about the product, a specific feature, an integration, or troubleshooting an issue.
The knowledge base software should ideally contain frequently asked questions, pictorial, and video tutorials, and articles on different use cases and issues customers might face.
This way, customers can access help and support 24x7, allowing them the freedom to learn more about the product at their convenience.
6. Data imports and integrations support
For B2B brands, the customer onboarding process often involves multiple team members and complex integration with existing tools.
In some cases, the product becomes a part of a giant tech stack, requiring coordination and data migration.
Automate as much of the setup and integration as possible, so you can eliminate potential bottlenecks that may arise.
- Make this flexible because only some customers will require the same level of integrations, data imports, or user invitations. Offer options so customers can tailor the experience to their specific needs
- Deliver robust and timely support through a responsive staff available at short notice to assist clients who encounter challenges during integrations. This way, you can address any concerns and ensure a successful customer onboarding journey.
- Invest in a suitable data migration product or a team that helps specifically in this function because it's crucial in kickstarting and smoothing the onboarding process.
7. Customer interaction
Make the onboarding process as interactive as possible for the customer.
Interactions could be via calls from customer support or happiness teams to schedule a tutorial or an onboard assist, emails welcoming the customer and providing a link to access the app or platform, or a chatbot that appears when customers log in.
The interactions could give customers simple onboarding tasks and a reward or a system to mark off to show progress toward being wholly onboarded. This creates a feeling of accomplishment for the customer.
8. Recurring check-ins
Recurring check-ins through email or messages are also a great way to assure new customers that their usage and success with your product matter to you. Constantly check in to see
- If your customers are stuck at any point
- Are not fully satisfied with any of your features or product’s performance
- If the customer can derive more value from your product.
This practice also makes new customers realize that help is close and can be reached at any time. This can be frequent for the first fortnight to a month but continue and off until the 90-day mark.
9. Request feedback
Feedback is a valuable tool for getting on how to improve the customer onboarding process.
Keep encouraging customers to provide feedback through simple email surveys, a survey after every customer support interaction, and even through automated callouts while they are using your product.
You can even incentivize detailed feedback by offering a discount coupon for those who take the time to fill out a detailed form. This makes a customer feel valued, improves product usage, and improves the overall product.
10. Keep notes and follow up
Customer success specialists can send periodic emails with tips and best practices to keep the customer engaged. The emails must be personalized.
- Keep the emails helpful by providing help center articles, and videos on specific features rather than an upgrade or cross-selling another product.
- Keep notes on the customer’s initial requirements, feedback, and usage, add them to your CRM, and check on those in your follow-up mail. It can be simple, like, “Hope the SSO is working well for you now”. “Just wanted also to check if you are enjoying the enhanced search feature”.
- Add a couple of customer testimonials and reviews to the emails to remind customers of your product’s value.
Three bonus tips for customer onboarding
1. Give it a personal touch
Personalize the onboarding process by understanding your customer’s requirements, background, and capabilities.
While automated callouts and emails are good, it's always better to accompany it with personalized welcome messages and plan recurrent check-ins considering the customer’s usage history.
Ensure even automated emails and welcome greetings include the customer’s name, a direct and conversational message addressing them, etc.
2. Always be there for your customers
You can even automate customer onboarding and customer success process, but it can rarely replace customer support.
Thus, ensure options to contact customer support are displayed in prominent places, like during your product walkthrough, ending every automated chat conversation with an opportunity to get help, and creating a link or widget above every page that leads the customer to more contextual information in an online knowledge base.
3. Embrace small wins
Make the onboarding process engaging and encouraging by rewarding the customer for every step they accomplish on the onboarding process. You can extend this to every new feature they begin using.
This makes the customer feel more confident and booming in using your product and like they have accomplished something.
The rewards can be star badges that pop up or even a shopping coupon.
Best practices for customer onboarding
Considering your product, industry, and target audience, you must design your customer onboarding process.
Whether you automate the entire process or depend heavily on human support, here are some best practices to remember.
1. Get to know your customers
Have a detailed analysis of your target audience. The analysis must include:
- Industries and firms that could use your product
- Designations and backgrounds of people in those industries who will be using your product; when it comes to an online knowledge base, the users are usually technical writers
- Personalize the understanding of the exact requirement or pain points of a specific customer you are trying to address with your product
This can help you decide how to design and conduct the onboarding process to achieve maximum customer satisfaction and success.
2. Set clear expectations
Your sales team should clearly outline how the product can solve the pain point a customer is facing so the customer knows what to expect.
This honesty should carry into the onboarding process as the onboarding specialist or customer success specialist reiterates the value your product can add and provide to the customer.
The relationship manager should also ideally prepare them for potential setbacks or sticky points and ways to solve them. This way, when they hit a snag, they’ll be prepared and not give up on the task.
3. Set customer-centric goals
Every customer’s goal and metrics will be unique to their situation. Allow the customer to figure out their own metrics for success and help them create milestones by which they can measure progress.
Goals could be to reduce the calls and emails to their support or IT team, increase usage of an app, improve customer retention, etc.
4. Make an effort to impress
Make every interaction count as an opportunity to improve customer experience.
Consistently deliver exceptional service that leaves a lasting impression, exceeds expectations, and turns customers into your brand and product advocates.
Focus on creating more such moments that are likely to be shared by your customers on social media platforms, industry gatherings, and by word of mouth.
5. Keep track of your accomplishments
Keep evaluating your customer onboarding process by figuring out metrics to measure its success.
It can be in terms of customer retention, feedback on the product from new customers, increase in platform usage, specific features, etc.
End of the day, if usage and customer engagement increase, your onboarding process was obviously successful.
6. Demonstrate value
Before getting a new customer excited about the product they have just purchased, emphasize the value they can derive.
The value they can derive is often unique to their use case. Do this by giving them specific examples of how the product addresses their paint points during the demonstration or welcome call.
7. Communicate constantly
Leverage email as a vital tool during onboarding, alongside in-app tutorials. So even after the initial welcome message and kick-off call, periodically send emails to check in on customers.
It can be twice a month for the first six months and once a month after that.
The email should check on how they are using the product, update them on any new feature you think may be helpful to them, request feedback, and assure them that help, or support is always a call or email away.
8. Give them an onboarding gift card
Once customers complete all the initial tasks that allow them to start using the product in a full-fledged manner, besides giving them a reward in the form of all stars, give them a gift voucher too.
The voucher can be a discount on future upgrades and renewals of the product, usage of a specific integration, or even external, like an Amazon voucher.
This creates a happy and pleasant customer experience.
Best examples for customer onboarding
While every product’s onboarding process and journey depends on its functions, users, and flexibility, among others, here are a few customers onboarding process examples
1. Xoxoday Plum
Xoxoday Plum helps businesses manage customer reward and gifting programs. It also handles employee payouts and loyalty programs.
Every new customer who signs up with Xoxoday receives a warmly worded welcome message congratulating them on signing up.
They also immediately point to their support channels which are open 24x7, guiding new customers on how to access and navigate through them.
Their help and support section plays a large role in their customer onboarding process. They also have two other products – Xoxoday Empulse and Xoxoday Compass for other employee engagement and performance analytics.
Document360 is a knowledge management tool that has a freemium version, along with paid business and enterprise plans.
Every new customer that signs up with the product receives a warm welcome message thanking them for choosing Document360.
The customer success team then gathers the customer’s requirements and the value they plan to derive and accordingly assigns them an account manager who conducts a kick-off call.
Every new customer receives two hour-long sessions to help them start using the product and configure the product according to their requirements. Setting roadmaps and milestones till the knowledge base goes live, regular check-in calls and emails, then follow this.
Slack is a popular tool for internal communication among teams and enterprises. Slack has a free version, so its onboarding experience does not have much human element.
However, Slack still boasts of a seamless onboarding experience because it has intuitive product overlays to call out specific features to show new customers how to use the product.
Slack also provides a knowledge base that customers can refer to and an account manager if you move to a paid version.
Duolingo is a tech company that teaches people new languages. It has two processes—soft onboarding and direct onboarding, which happen after a full account sign-up.
People only must answer a few questions to access the first lesson. The app then routinely asks the user if they want to sign up for a full account, and once the sign-up is done, the user receives regular emails on how best to learn a language and check in on their progress.
Throughout its onboarding process, Duolingo motivates with a side of data. Duolingo sends weekly emails that show customers how much they’ve practiced and prompts them to keep going or start up again without being too pushy.
A smooth customer onboarding process flow is critical to nurturing a positive customer experience and fostering long-term relationships.
By implementing the tips and best practices we’ve shared in this blog, you can create an onboarding journey that delights new customers and sets them up for success.
From personalizing the experience to providing comprehensive support, each tip plays a role in ensuring a seamless transition to your product or service.
A well-executed onboarding process boosts customer satisfaction, drives business growth, and increases the lifetime value of a customer.