Customer onboarding is the nurturing process that begins after purchase, to familiarize new customers with your product or service. Through a series of step-by-step tutorials, along with resources to help users answer their questions on their own, and celebrating the moments when clients prosper with your product.
The way you handle your customer onboarding sets the tone for your relationship with your new customer. No matter what your sales process may be, the reality is it is much more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain a current one. That means, it’s essential to focus on retention after the sale.
Regardless of how awesome your product is, if your customers don’t understand your product or know how to get value from it, they’re not going to stick around. The onboarding process gives you a chance to hold their hand through getting started, which increases the chance they’ll remain a customer.
Your customers are already fond of you and are willing to give your product a chance – otherwise, they wouldn’t have bought it. The easier things are and the better you can serve their needs, the better your first impression is.
Why Customer Onboarding is Important
Though research varies, the consensus seems to be that increasing your customer retention rate by just 5% can increase your profits by 25% to 95%. A solid client onboarding process can go a long way toward improving your retention rate since your new users learn, step-by-step, how to use your product.
More than 66% of SaaS companies have churn rates higher than 5%, which hampers business growth.
The best way to ensure using your product is what the sales process promised it would be is to build a customer onboarding experience that becomes part of your standard customer service.
Start with Strategy
Starting anything in business without a strategy risks rendering your efforts ineffective and potentially damaging your reputation. Determine your goal, then build a plan for how you’ll get there.
As you learn more about your customers, refine the plan accordingly. As you build out the customer onboarding strategy, focus on keeping objectives specific to your customer base and your product. Your objective must address three retention goals:
- Getting users to use your product more than one time within the first seven days.
- Establishing a usage pattern.
- Making your product indispensable.
The good news is, some of the information you collect about customers during the marketing and sales processes will help you at the start of onboarding. That said, while you may have hundreds of touchpoints with prospective customers, each customer only has one impression of you. The more you can do to create a seamless experience, the better.
To build a solid user onboarding experience, you’ll need information from all points of contact with your customers.
Know Your Customer
Build a thorough buyer persona. The more detailed it is and the better you know it, the better you know your real customers. Understand all the challenges they face, along with the obstacles and pain points they’re dealing with. Learn the ideal solutions and outcome so you can tailor the onboarding experience to their goals.
Set Clear Expectations
If you’ve done your sales and marketing job well, your customer should know what to expect from your product or service before making a purchase. The qualifying factors for using the product should not only be laid out during the sales process, but also carry through to the onboarding process through reiterating your product’s value.
Prepare for potential snags and setbacks so that if they happen, your customers are better prepared and less inclined to give up quickly.
At this point, customers know your product offers value, but it’s never a bad idea to reemphasize the value it gives to their specific use case. Provide them with examples of how your product addresses their specific pain points, and do so with a personal touch. Schedule a kickoff call or specializing training. At the very least, give them documentation.
Keep in Touch
Use email after the initial welcome message, as a complement to your other resources. At this early stage, their email box is where you’re most likely to catch them. After they realize your product is indispensable, you can use in-app notifications because you know they’re logging in on their own and will see them.
Set Customer-Centric Goals
Allow your customers to define success, because their goals and metrics are unique to them. Help them to create the benchmarks to aim for and milestones to hit throughout the journey.
Aim to Impress Your Customers
Every interaction should seek to create the same positive experience that drove your customers to sign up in the first place. Make them so happy they have no choice but to sing your praises to everyone they know.
Onboarding isn’t just to benefit your customer. Ask for feedback so you can identify any friction points, see what’s working, and find places to improve.
The Customer Onboarding Process
1. Personalize the Experience
When and where possible, create a personalized experience for your new customers. Take the time to create a unique homepage for known customers.
Personalize your calls to action (CTAs) to drive your onboarding goals. Simple things like, “Try this feature” or “Invite your team” are effective. Personalize the CTAs for expansion, whether it be through product upgrades, cross sells, or both.
Hilton demonstrates hyper-personalization exceptionally well. Every section of the page is designed to entice and engage. It is literally all about me.
Points of personalization include:
- Merge tag with first name
- Customer status (Diamond)
- Upcoming travel
- Milestone bonus
- Use cases
- Refer a friend CTA
- Upgrade CTA
Each customer will have their own unique concerns. Tailoring your solution to their needs makes it easier to earn their loyalty. For brand new visitors, personalizing the experience reduces your bounce rate. You’re more likely to turn a visitor into a customer if you understand what they’re looking for.
Your Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures customer satisfaction. Once you have an NPS of 9 or 10, show CTAs that encourage them to rate/review on G2 Crowd or share with a friend to help grow your reach.
2. The Welcome Email
This is your first correspondence with your new customer, and it needs to be positive. Start by congratulating them for their purchase and thanking them for choosing your company. Show your excitement about having them on board.
Stuck for ideas? Use this template for inspiration.
Congratulations! Welcome to the [Company] family.
We’re thrilled to have you on board, but we’re even more excited to help you achieve your goals. We can’t wait to help you [take specific action.]
Sign in to [start specific action] today!
If you need help, that’s okay. We’re here to help you every step of the way.
[Sign in Now Button]
To your [specific] goals,
Name at Company
If you intend to schedule a kickoff call, you can include those details in the welcome email, as well.
3. The Greeting
The greeting isn’t the same as your welcome email. The greeting is an in-app welcome message that users see the first time they login. This message encourages them to take the first steps to setting up their account.
The best practice here is to only ask the user to do one thing – whether it’s to turn on email notifications, change their password, or something else. Whatever action you want them to take, include a video to guide them through it.
4. Guided Setup Wizard or Tutorial
This is a tutorial to guide your customers through the setup process, step-by-step. Keep it short, but also make it optional. Use a setup wizard when there are multiple steps, or when you are required to follow the steps in a certain order. Otherwise, you can create a guided tutorial.
For any areas of the customer’s portal without data, fill them with actionable and educational content to explain the feature while demonstrating its value.
5. Feature Callouts
Tip banners are your best friend. Use them throughout to indicate where the important features they need to know about are. Remember, though, the banners introduce it and do not take the place of an actual tutorial.
6. Knowledge Base
Spend time creating a knowledge base and other help resources so that your users can get answers to their frequently asked questions and try to solve issues on their own. In addition to the knowledge base, consider adding a chatbot for a personalized touch that helps users resolve their issue without needing to search your website for an answer.
7. Create Multiple Touchpoints
Your new customers need to know you care about their progress. Create multiple touchpoints so they can easily reach you – on social media, via email, live chat, etc. Include your phone number in all your correspondence so they can reach you if necessary.
Check in with the customer on a regular basis to make sure things are running smoothly. Find out what’s working well and where they are having issues. Ultimately, look for ways to support your client and help them get more value from your product.
8. Celebrate Milestones
As you create the supporting content for customer onboarding, you’ll develop a number of customer-centric milestones. Celebrate each of them with your customers, to foster excitement about them moving closer to their goal. Whether you do it with a congratulatory email, a short phone call, or an in-app notification, this helps your customers feel like you’re invested in them. In turn, they’ll be more invested in your product.
Metrics to Keep an Eye On
To measure the success of your customer onboarding program, closely monitor the following.
Churn is the rate at which customers discontinue their relationship with your company. The more value you can provide to your customers, the lower your churn rate will be. Part of getting them to see and realize the value is getting them to use the product right away, which is where quality onboarding comes into play.
Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
The LTV is the amount of profit you can expect from any new customer. Many things affect LTV, such as the length of the relationship. The longer someone is with you, the higher their LTV.
Measure retention within time periods to get insight into why customers churn. If you find you’re losing most of your customers during the first week of onboarding, adjust your welcome messages. Figure out a way to entice your new users to sign on faster.
Your NPS helps you get a feel for customer loyalty by calculating how likely your customers would be to recommend your product or service to someone else. Ask your customers to rate on a scale from 0 to 10 how likely they’d be to recommend you.
Customers who answer with a 9 or 10 are your promoters. Customers who answer with 7 or 8 are neutral, so they are passives, and customers who answer between 0 and 6 are detractors because they most likely wouldn’t recommend you to people they know.
If your sales team is doing a good job bringing leads and converting them to new customers, then effective onboarding will finish the job to get you started on the right foot and establish a working relationship with all your clients.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How would you feel after completing your current onboarding experience? If you’re not 100% excited about the product at that point, then it’s time to make some changes.