Best Customer Engagement Model For Driving Customer Success in SaaS

Best Customer Engagement Model For Driving Customer Success in SaaS

The best customer engagement model for your SaaS offers the right balance between personal and automated interactions with customers.

But this isn’t as easy as it sounds, as every SaaS product requires different types of experiences and support.

So, your only shortcut is to learn:

  • The type of customer engagement model that fits your business.
  • How to create in-app experiences that engage customers.
  • When you should go for human-to-human interaction.

Keep reading if you want to improve your onboarding and retain engaged customers.


  • A customer engagement model is a strategy to engage customers with your product, drive customer success, and retain clients.
  • The types of engagement models depend on their level of interaction with the user, which can be: low-touch, high-touch, or hybrid.
  • A customer engagement model is excellent for building customer relationships, retaining clients, onboarding new customers, and creating brand advocates.
  • Therefore, SaaS businesses should focus on onboarding and retention models.

For onboarding models, you must hand-hold your customer throughout the primary, secondary, and tertiary onboarding stages with:

  1. Low-touch models: automated in-app experiences like tooltip sequences and checklists to onboard customers.
  2. High-touch models: tailored onboarding calls for each account.
  3. Hybrid models: combining automation with personal interactions.

For retention models, the goal is to monitor your customer’s health score and prevent churn with:

  1. Low-touch models: use tooltips to introduce new features, send reactivation emails and gather feedback from churned customers automatically.
  2. High-touch models: customer success regular meetings with existing customers to solve problems and introduce features.
  3. Hybrid models: use automation to collect feedback (NPS surveys, churn surveys etc) then reach out in-person to users with a high churn potential (detractors for example).

What is a customer engagement model?

A customer engagement model is a strategy for engaging users across the customer journey.

Based on the engagement model, customer success teams apply tactics such as using in-app tooltips, training, and support resources to create a frictionless onboarding experience, improve customer retention, and achieve success.

What are the types of customer engagement models?

Engagement models can be automated low-touch, human-led high-touch, and hybrid. The goals and the tactics used will depend drastically on your business model, product’s complexity, and your customer relationship.

Here are more details.

Automated low-touch engagement model

A low-touch engagement model leverages software and automation to create a personalized, self-serve experience for each user segment.

To engage customers, you must implement different in-app experiences such as tooltips, modals, interactive walkthroughs, checklists, and more—while also gathering data to spot common obstacles, measure feature adoption, and optimize the product experience.

This model fits freemium business models and products with a smooth learning curve (think of Miro’s user-friendly platform).

Human-led high-touch engagement model

A high-touch engagement model involves a lot of human-to-human interactions such as onboarding calls, training, customized setups, and constant support.

For this model, you need to assign a CSM or account manager to assist your client through the stages of customer engagement.

The number of accounts a manager can handle will depend on how valuable each client is for your business—so the bigger the contracts, the fewer accounts you need to deal with.

Hence this model is often used for enterprise-level software that requires customized setups, staff training, constant strategy calls, and more (e.g, Salesforce enterprise products).

Hybrid engagement model across the customer journey

The hybrid engagement model falls between the spectrum of low-touch and high-touch interactions.

Some tactics in the hybrid model combine the self-serve experience with human-to-human interactions. Such as inviting new customers to a live webinar to learn a new feature, or prompting the user to contact a support agent to unlock a specific integration.

Generally, this model fits products with a steeper learning curve and where the CSM’s assistance can shorten time-to-value, improve retention rates, and accelerate onboarding.

Benefits of using the right engagement model for customer success

Following the right customer engagement model for your business is essential for customer success, and the reasons are not lacking:

  • Engagement models incentivize retention, improving customer lifetime value.
  • It helps build customer relationships, increasing brand advocacy.
  • Reduces friction in the onboarding process for seamless product adoption.
  • It makes it easier to adopt new features.
  • Increases product upgrades and account expansions.

When to apply a customer engagement model in SaaS?

A customer engagement model is necessary for any business model that relies on high momentum and customer LTV to sustain itself—which is the case for most SaaS.

Since SaaS companies are so reliant on keeping customers for the longest time and reducing churn rates as much as possible, your holistic engagement model should focus on two areas:

  1. Onboarding. To help prospective customers experience the business value of your product and get to the activation point as soon as possible—increasing adoption, retention, and account expansion.
  2. Retention. To ensure that your customers stay with your brand with churn prevention and customer interviews—increasing LTV.

However, how do you implement these models?

Onboarding models

The onboarding job is to hand-hold your customer throughout the customer journey.

There are multiple onboarding playbooks that focus on different stages of customer engagement, which is often divided into three phases:

  • Primary onboarding: Where you help the user reach the “AHA moment” and focus on the first-time user experience
  • Secondary onboarding: when you help users get continuous value by engaging with advanced features
  • Tertiary onboarding: when you focus on driving account expansion and word of mouth from your advocates.
user onboarding stages
User onboarding stages

Now let’s look into some examples of how you can apply an onboarding model for user engagement.

Automated low-touch onboarding model

To make low-touch onboarding effective, you must personalize the onboarding for each user segment.

And for this, you need to collect data.

Either during the signup process or use a welcome modal to ask users the main goal they are trying to achieve by using your app. Then continue to collect user behavior data and feedback.

With enough data, you can segment users by job-to-be-done, NPS, behavior, company type, and more by using your customer success tool:

segmentation software
Advanced segmentation with Userpilot.

Then, you can trigger different in-app experiences to personalize the onboarding experience throughout the journey. For example:

Onboarding checklists

Checklists help users “set up”.

Onboarding checklists make the primary onboarding process easy and frictionless—ultimately leading to more customer engagement.

Its main goal is to drive customers to the activation point quickly by following short steps, such as integrating your product with a platform or installing it on a web app.

Activation checklist
Activation checklist in Userpilot.

On the other hand, you can also use checklists to make users adopt advanced features and achieve success, like adding partners in your workspace:

feature adoption checklist
Feature adoption checklist.

This type of checklist works perfectly in the secondary onboarding stage, as it helps users engage with more features and incentivizes product upgrades.

Tooltip and modals

You can create a sequence of tooltips that triggers when the user performs a certain action—without overwhelming them with too much information up front.

This way, you can reward engaged customers and improve feature adoption—which is essential for both primary and secondary onboarding stages.

onboarding tooltip example
Onboarding tooltip example.

If the sequence is too long, using ball progress design helps the user know how many steps they need to finish the action:

onboarding modal example
Onboarding modal with ball progress design.

Note: Do not confuse sequences with product tours. This is not about random tooltips pointing out each element of the UI. It’s about guiding users contextually to performing an action, step-by-step.

On-demand support

In-app help centers allow users to browse your knowledge base, access in-app guidance, and contact a support agent within the product—eliminating friction and mitigating negative impressions from a problem.

on demand customer support
On-demand customer support center.

Just like the example above, on-demand support centers are often placed as an expandable icon on the lower-right side of the screen.

High-touch onboarding model

High-touch onboarding models can’t be automated and should be executed by your account managers or CSMs.

This type of customer engagement model tends to rely on:

  • Personalized onboarding calls tailored to the customer’s needs.
  • Regular strategy calls with stakeholders.
  • Staff training sessions.
  • Active collaboration between both your team and your client’s team.

Tailor onboarding with a hybrid model

Hybrid models can also tailor the onboarding experience for your customers.

You can implement in-app guidance with a user onboarding tool, while also offering personal assistance when your customer needs it. For example:

Pair in-app prompts with webinars

Imagine you’re launching a new feature but you always struggled with feature adoption. You can simply host a webinar to teach users how to use it, and then invite them through in-app experiences.

This is what we did here, at Userpilot when launching the new Resource Center feature.

We used a modal to announce the feature and encourage people to learn more about it.

new feature announcement modal
Use a modal for a new feature announcement with Userpilot.

Then we segmented the users based on who clicked the modal button to read about it and showed them a slideout to invite them to the webinar.

in app webinar invitation example
Conditional webinar invitation.

Regular training sessions

Additionally, you can create multiple training sessions for both beginner and advanced users. Just like Userpilot’s Youtube channel, where you can find playlists on multiple topics:

userpilot youtube channel
Userpilot’s youtube channel.

With video onboarding, you can actively train users as part of your customer engagement process and make it more efficient.

Retention models

If onboarding is about hand-holding your user through the customer journey, retention is about ensuring that your customers stay with your product.

Onboarding and retention work in parallel. So think of retention as the outcome of onboarding, but with a focus on tactics that keep users active and reduce churn with proactive engagement.

Here’s how retention models work:

Automated retention models

For good retention, you have to monitor your customer’s health score, determine the symptoms of a churning user, and provide value to prevent it.

Once you know what prevents churn and what sustains good health scores, you can automate retention models.

Tooltips and modals

Users need to get the most value out of your product. When they stop, they churn. Make sure to always keep users updated with what’s new in the product, so they can continuously discover new ways of getting value.

For small product enhancements, tooltips work great.

new feature tooltip
New feature tooltip.

Additionally, you can also use modals to announce new features and encourage users to give them a try.

new feature modal
New feature modal.

Reactivation emails

Maybe one of your customers left because of a missing feature, or there’s a new pricing plan that might fit them this time. If you know the reason and you added enhancements to the product the overcome their objections, you can send reactivation emails to get their interest back.

Just like this example from ActiveCampaign:

reactivation email example
Reactivation email example.

Offboarding flows

You can make churns less expensive by understanding why customers leave, using churn surveys. Build a simple one and add multiple-choice options.

churn feedback survey
Churn feedback survey.

Then you can offer an alternative to canceling based on their responses.

churn alternative offer
Churn alternative offer.

High-touch retention models

For high-touch retention models, it’s the customer success manager’s job to ensure that the client is happy with the product and the results it brings.

Tactics for high-touch models can include:

  • Constant collaboration calls with the client’s team to ensure they use the product as intended.
  • Creating customized programs to help users adopt new features, overcome problems, and upgrade their plans successfully.
  • Solving technical problems with the product.
  • Upselling features and add-ons that fit the customer’s needs.

Ongoing retention with hybrid models

For the hybrid approach, you can use automated engagement to monitor your customer’s health score and determine when it makes sense to reach out personally.

Here are some tactics for this:

Reach out to NPS detractors

Even if you can automate a message for NPS detractors, it might not be enough to change their minds (much less to learn deeply about them).

That’s when you need to reach out personally.

With Userpilot, for example, you can sort and tag NPS survey responses to see what’s impacting low NPS scores.

With this data, you can determine who you should reach out to and the type of questions you want to ask them.

NPS survey tags
NPS responses tags on Userpilot.

Get more insights from feedback

Invite customers to book meetings with your team, test features, and talk about where they experience friction—or you can simply ask questions about their job and goals.

You don’t have to send invites through email, you can automate this part of the process by triggering a modal to a specific segment, and even offer a discount in exchange for help that requires a bit more effort.

For example, getting users to fill in a friction log.

customer engagement friction log
Friction log invitation with a discount.

This way, you can gather data automatically and focus more of your time on having productive interviews that will help you engage and retain customers.


Customer engagement models are essential for most SaaS businesses.

However, engagement models are not created equal. Hence you need to find a model that helps create a frictionless onboarding process and optimize customer retention.

Once you find the right balance between automated and personal interactions, you’re setting yourself up for successful growth.

So, if you want to automate and build product experiences without code, book a demo call with our team to get started.

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