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Customer Onboarding Guide With 6 Best Practices

So, you’ve got a customer. Congratulations! But what do you do next?

You might have set up a system of automated welcome emails or a product tour and left the rest up to the customer. There’s a chance new users will abandon your product because they didn’t feel compelled to explore it. To avoid that, companies must focus on perfecting the customer onboarding process.

Customer onboarding is the process of welcoming new customers and helping them get acquainted with your business. It’s vital to customer retention because it helps your customer understand how they can best engage with your company.

In this guide article, we’ll discuss why customer onboarding is so important for building customer loyalty, what components and steps make up customer onboarding, and who all should be involved in the process.

We’ll also show you a couple of wonderful examples to make sure you get the idea of customer onboarding right.

Read on!

Customer Onboarding — Definition

Customer onboarding, or client onboarding, is the process of proactively guiding new customers through your product to get them started and stay engaged. It is a series of steps and resources that make it easy for customers to incorporate a new product into their routine.

You want your customers to feel like your product is the solution to the problem they’re facing.

It’s fair to assume that they became a paying customer because they saw value in your service, so you have to justify that purchase. You want your customers to be familiar with the product they’ve bought and understand how they can get the most out of it.

Since customer onboarding focuses on enhancing the customer experience and fostering relationships, it can be applied to any business model, including SaaS-based businesses.

The primary goal is to improve the lifetime value of your product for the customer. Provide them with information and engagement that will help them derive success from their purchases.

We’ll explore all that in detail in this blog. But before that, take a look at this video; it offers some insights and advice about the customer onboarding process.

 

Why Is Customer Onboarding Important?

The most important thing, for any business, is to convince their new users that their service or product is a valuable addition to a customer’s life.

Once your customers realize that, the odds of them becoming lifelong users increase exponentially. The realization — when something clicks for the customer — is what we call the ‘Aha!’ moment.

It’s what makes or breaks a product. You want your customers to reach that moment but that only happens by carefully guiding them through the onboarding process.

Successful customer onboarding familiarizes the customer with your brand. It also sets expectations for your potential relationship with your clients.

The customer onboarding experience has a direct impact on your churn rate. If done well, you can increase your customer retention rate and also the overall customer lifetime value.

A study revealed that most companies lose up to 75% of their new users within the first week. Furthermore, up to 60% of your free trial prospects never return to make a purchase.

To help customers through that initial awkwardness of trying out a new product or service, it helps that you build a user onboarding process that is action-oriented and customer-centric.

An action-oriented process ensures that your customers engage more deeply with the product.

EngageBay has a library of resources to help new users

It’s also better to learn by doing, so they are more likely to see the value of the product if they become familiar with how to use it.

Here are a few more benefits of maintaining a strategic customer onboarding process flow.

Make More Revenue

Acquiring a new customer can cost 5x times more than retaining the existing ones. Besides, it takes double the effort to attract a new user than maintaining an old one.

Properly onboarded customers are more likely to stay and continue doing business with you and sustain your revenue stream.

Reduce Customer Service Costs

Although the heart of customer onboarding is customer service, it goes beyond delighting your customers.

A successful onboarding process will ensure that your customers have a seamless transition from knowing your product to using it. They are less likely to encounter issues in the early stage of adoption.

You don’t want your customers to feel frustrated and keep calling customer service because their product isn’t working the way they expected.

A strategic customer onboarding process will help to avoid complications for both users and customer service reps. 

It drastically reduces the overhead costs of the customer support department while improving the overall efficiency, and improving customer experience.

Minimize the Churn Rate

Let’s say your business’s average cost of contract sign is $5,000. If just one customer leaves, you lose that much in annual recurring revenue.

But that’s not all. You also lose the opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell to that customer.

The Gartner Group studied that 80% of the company’s future income can come from 20% of the existing customers.

But it’s sad to see that B2B companies put only 20% of their marketing efforts towards customer retention.

Customers who go through a positive onboarding experience are more likely to stick around, becoming a valuable asset for your company.

Get Free Word of Mouth Branding

Word-of-mouth marketing can either make or break your business. It is about using happy customers to promote your business.

When your customers are happy with your product or service and satisfied with your after-sales service, they are more likely to spread the good word about your company.

A positive onboarding process equals a positive customer experience, which increases the chances of customers becoming brand evangelists.

Read also: The Customer-Centric Model – Your Definitive Guide for 2021

How Do You Onboard a New Customer? 6 Best Practices to Follow

Here is a checklist of seven customer onboarding best practices to consider.

i. Know Your Customers

You should know your buyer persona or customer profile in and out. This will give you a good understanding of your customer. Begin by collecting the necessary information from your client.

Find out all about their pain points, unique struggles, and the challenges they are facing. An ideal way to obtain this data is with a questionnaire or a briefing document.

Don’t just focus on features — also pay attention to the outcomes that your audience is looking for with your product.

This information will help you provide a successful customer onboarding process.

ii. Clarify Expectations

Your customer should know what to expect before they purchase your product.

While trying to sell them, lay out the qualifying factors for using the products. Having higher expectations than what you can offer will only leave them in disappointment.

Customers must be aware of things like how long tasks can take. Make sure that you are specific about the level of support you can provide.

iii. Show Them Value

While giving them a product demo, you must have already shared the value your product can offer. However, you need to again emphasize the value it will provide for their unique cases.

Customer onboarding, at its fundamental level, is a learning process; show them how your product or service will address their pain points and how they will benefit.

It’s always nice to have a personalized touch — include specialized training or offer documentation that will be valuable.

iv. Keep Communication Flowing

After you have familiarized them with your product, make sure you remain in touch with them.

You can use email to send them guides and tutorials, software upgrades, and other relevant information.

v. Create Customer-Centric Goals

Every customer‘s needs are unique. Allow them to define their success or goals, and help them create measurable milestones. A good example of this is Mailchimp’s onboarding process.

Right after you sign up, Mailchimp asks you to fill out a questionnaire to better understand your goals and requirements. This helps Mailchimp tailor the product tour to your needs and helps you understand the value of the product.

Your only focus should be on creating a positive experience for your customers.

vi. Measure Your Success

Ultimately, the customer onboarding best practices end at measuring your success.

Identify friction points, track key metrics, measure customer satisfaction, and gather customer feedback to get insights into what’s working for your business and where to improve.

Read also: Ace the Sales Process — 9 Strategies Nobody Ever Follows

Who Should Be Involved in the Onboarding Process?

The user onboarding process for SaaS-based businesses should be an organization-wide effort. It isn’t the responsibility of just one department or team.

Let’s look at some of the stakeholders that can participate as a part of your customer onboarding workflow.

Product Management and Development

No one understands the complexity of your product better than your developer and product management team. They know the ins and outs of your platform and how they can be applied for specific use cases.

It’s a good strategy to involve them in the onboarding process to gather feedback and make the product even more intuitive and user-friendly.

Customer Success

The responsibilities of a customer onboarding specialist include helping customers with the installation and configuration of the product, minimizing time-to-value for users, and addressing the customer‘s tech concerns.

Customer Support

Customer support supervises the product management and customer success team. They are there to help find any weak link in the onboarding process and help resolve issues at the earliest.

They are also responsible for providing feedback to the product and customer success team to help them further enhance their performance.

Technical Support

The purpose of a tech support team is to provide documentation and training to an onboarded customer. If your product or service involves a lot of technical knowledge, this team can provide in-depth information and access to a knowledge base.

Nowadays, more and more customers are going the digital onboarding route. You want that process to be as seamless as possible; the tech team’s support is invaluable in this case.

Read also: 16 Powerful Customer Retention Strategies to Stop Customer Churn

7 Components of Customer Onboarding

The purpose of user onboarding is to help customers feel acquainted with your product or service. However, there is no single way of doing it.

It varies from the specific need case of each user. Here are some key components of new customer onboarding for SaaS as well as other business models.

1. Sign-up

The sign-up step is the initial contact that a customer has with your product

This is the stage at which you determine their goals and their requirements. If you ace this, then you’ve already made a good first impression. 

Since this is the first touchpoint, you must perfect this process because it’ll set the tone for the rest of the user’s experience.

You want your sign-up process to be as intuitive as possible, so a simple sign-up form does the trick. Social sign-up buttons are also a good idea — they give you all the essential details, and they make it easy for the user.

2. Welcome Email

Your welcome email is the first contact with the customer after they have signed up for your product or service.

After the first login, this is the establishing point of contact between you and your customer. Since this is the first time you show up in their inbox, you need to use this opportunity to set communication expectations.

A few elements to include in your welcome emails:

  • Don’t forget to thank them
  • Don’t overload them with information — keep it simple
  • Offer resource materials such as blog content or video tutorials for them to access

Here’s an example of a welcome email from DocSend —

Source: DocSend

The best part of this welcome email is the prominent call-to-action button, as well as, the step-by-step breakdown of the user onboarding process.

3. Product Tutorial

Once they have signed up, you need to create a guided tutorial to take them through the setup process, step by step.

As part of the product onboarding process, guided tours and tutorials are there to support your users in the long run. Depending on the nature and complexity of your product, you can offer:

  • An in-app product tour or walkthrough
  • Tutorial options alongside different features
  • A ‘getting started’ checklist to keep the user on track

One point we’d like to make is that going through product tutorials, ideally, should be the customer‘s choice. This part of the onboarding process must be skippable — sometimes, a customer may be familiar with the product or service. 

Unskippable product walkthroughs can be a barrier to them having a good onboarding experience.

4. Documentation

Documentation is the resource section where customers can try to find solutions to common issues themselves.

These materials allow them to troubleshoot their issue before they reach out to customer support

All the documentation also needs to be easily accessible and understandable. It also needs to be updated, especially after you release new features or tools.

Notion‘s knowledge base and documentation are clean and visually appealing. Users can filter through different categories quite easily.

5. Follow-Ups

Ongoing communication is critical to keeping customer engagement alive. It makes an onboarding customer feel valued.

The best thing about it is that you get an opportunity to personally understand where your customers are getting stuck. The human touch goes a long way towards establishing trust in your product, especially during the onboarding process.

You can get a ton of valuable feedback and, at the same time, help them get more value from your product.

6. In-App Notifications

Notifications can play a crucial role in enhancing your customer‘s overall onboarding experience.

Notifications are a vital contact point between you and your user, with the potential to keep your customers engaged. It’s also a good way of reengaging with customers.

You can send push notifications to update them about the newly added feature or give small tips on making the best use of your product. It’s also the simplest way to ensure that your brand has a good recall value in your customer‘s minds.

7. Data Import

Many marketing automation tools need to integrate with other third-party applications to expand their functionalities.

In such cases, customers are required to import their data to be able to connect with other systems.

It helps to automate the process as much as possible – you can autofill information, provide dummy data, or make it the first step towards using the product.

Read more: Do You Know What All a Customer Journey Entails? Take a Look

Wrap Up

An exceptional customer onboarding process focuses on the customer.

But the journey doesn’t end there.

Customer onboarding best practices are constantly evolving. It’s a strategy that needs to be adapted and optimized consistently. As your company scales, so will your services. The customer onboarding workflow should reflect that. 

Since an onboarding process involves a lot of steps, it’s important to have a system in place that can take care of the routine tasks. With every new client, there will be new emails to send and appointments to schedule.

Implementing a CRM software system (we recommend EngageBay!) can help automate a lot of the recurring tasks. You can automatically update leads, send timely notifications, respond to service requests, and do so much more.

Nikita Agarwal

Nikita is a content specialist who harbors a love for writing, oxford commas, and desserts. She creates engaging and high-quality content for businesses that want to see their Google search rankings surge. In her leisure time, you will find her binge-watching TV series or exploring new cafes in town.

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Nikita Agarwal