Customer Onboarding Strategies: Effective Ways to Streamline the Onboarding Process
Looking to build a customer onboarding strategy from scratch or plan on reworking an existing framework?
You’re in the right place. This short guide will show you user onboarding strategies that cut to the chase, reduce time to value and lead to retention.
We’ll show you how to create onboarding goals and what to prioritize in the onboarding process. You’ll also see how to reduce friction and drive product stickiness, among other things.
- Customer onboarding is proactively guiding and nurturing new users through your product. The user onboarding process can consist of just a few steps or a long learning curve, depending on the audience and product complexity.
- Any company that practices customer onboarding will experience reduced churn, higher LTV, and faster product adoption.
- The customer onboarding process includes:
- Welcome emails and screen
- Designated empty states
- Activation checklists
- Interactive walkthroughs and tooltips
- Resource Center
- Celebration modals
- In-app surveys
Steps to onboard new customers:
- Define your goals
- Create product or service adoption programs
- Collect customer behavior data to reveal friction points
- Set up measurable milestones and measure your results
Customer onboarding best practices
- Focus on product stickiness
- Personalize customer experiences based on the user’s jobs-to-be-done
- Guide your users across the onboarding process
- Set up different support channels
- Use customer onboarding automation for repetitive tasks
Onboarding strategies for a more positive customer experience:
- Use a welcome survey to collect user data and personalize customer onboarding
- Segment your users to provide personalized onboarding
- Use interactive walkthroughs to close the value gap
- Implement a customer onboarding checklist to guide users
- Set up a resource center for self-serve support
- Gather customer feedback with in-app surveys
- Create webinars to help customers master their skills
What is customer onboarding?
Customer onboarding is proactively guiding and nurturing new users through your product. The customer onboarding process can consist of just a few steps or a long learning curve, depending on the audience and product complexity.
Why is customer onboarding important?
Your customers came with high expectations from the benefits you sold them during the user acquisition phase.
They’re in now, and it’s your job to show them—through a thoughtfully designed onboarding flow—that you weren’t lying.
A good customer onboarding strategy gets users to the Aha! Moment quickly and streamlines product adoption. It proceeds to build an emotional bond with the user that results in user satisfaction, retention and increased customer lifetime value.
What is the customer onboarding process?
The customer onboarding process is the step-by-step approach employed in getting customers up to speed with your product.
Think of onboarding as the goal (e.g., turn your freemium users into paying customers). And the customer onboarding process is the steps you take to get there (experience the Aha! moment, get value from the product, adopt the product, use features, etc.).
A successful customer onboarding process involves different elements. The common ones include:
- Welcome emails and screens: Used to greet new customers, thank them for signing up, and show the next steps. Welcome screens are sometimes used to collect customer data for a more personalized onboarding experience.
- Designed empty states: Empty states could result from application error or just that fact there’s nothing to display on that page since the user just got started. Either way, these blank pages can be scary to new customers, so try to fill your empty state with educational content or contextual guidance for the next step—don’t leave it blank!
- Activation checklists: As the name suggests, activation checklists show users the steps involved in the onboarding process. Then guides them one step after the other.
- Interactive walkthroughs and tooltips: Similar to checklists, interactive walkthroughs guide users from feature to feature.
- Resource Center: To provide 24/7 self-serve support.
- Celebration modals: Used to celebrate onboarding milestones and motivate users to continue with the product.
- In-app surveys: To collect contextual survey data with ease.
We’ll provide more details on the points above in a later section, but before that…
How do you onboard new customers?
Customer onboarding can influence the rest of the user journey in your favor and how you go about it matters.
You’ll keep struggling to reap the benefits if you don’t get the fundamentals right. Below are some important steps to lay the foundation for good customer onboarding.
Define your goals
Successful customer onboarding begins with a clear goal of what you want to achieve. You can use the SMART goal-setting framework to keep yourself accountable—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Measure your progress by regularly tracking onboarding KPIs like:
- Time to Value
- Trial to paid conversion rate
- Customer onboarding completion rate
- User engagement score
- Customer satisfaction score
- Feature adoption rate
Create product or service adoption programs
Your adoption program can be webinars, tutorials, or help articles created to help new customers make the most of your product. You can use customer success software to automate the process and make it more effective.
For instance, software like Userpilot enables you to automate in-app guidance, create a self-serve resource center, etc.
Collect customer behavior data to reveal friction points
It’s not enough to set goals and create a stellar adoption program. You also need to analyze the onboarding flow to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Fortunately, there are several technologies available for collecting user behavior data and tracking friction. The common ones include heatmaps, feature tagging, and product usage analytics.
Set up measurable milestones and measure your results
Goals in SaaS are conversion points along the customer journey that you want your users to reach—e.g., specific feature adoption or the completion of a value-driven activity.
Used well, goal setting is an effective way to determine if your onboarding is successful and if you need to fix something.
At a glance, you can look at the analytics and know the percentage of new users that have completed the goal or not. Such information is valuable for optimizing your customer onboarding strategy.
Customer onboarding best practices
Many things go into customer onboarding. However, your focus should be on quickly getting users to experience the product’s value. That’s the only way to prove your tool is worth their time and money.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
Focus on product stickiness
You know you have a sticky product when users engage regularly and can’t seem to do without it. High stickiness indicates that the product solves user problems and is also a precursor to increased customer retention.
You can improve product stickiness by prioritizing feature adoption and engagement. It’s an ongoing process, so you’ll need to be making adjustments based on the results you’re getting.
A simple way to measure stickiness is by calculating your daily active users (DAU) to monthly active users (MAU) ratio. However, keep in mind that DAUs/MAUs won’t be the same for all products.
For instance, Meta expects the average user to visit Instagram daily. There will be cause for alarm when people spend days without logging in, but the same can’t be true for an accounting SaaS where customers only need to log in 3-4 times a month.
Personalize customer experiences based on the user’s JTBD
Your product likely has multiple use cases. A recipe for onboarding disaster is allowing new users to explore the platform without tailoring their experience. They will encounter many features and guides that aren’t useful to them, plus the flow will be long and boring.
Avoid this by personalizing the onboarding process for each user. It’s simple: set up a welcome survey to ask customers about their goals before the onboarding begins. Use this data to segment users and personalize the experience based on their JTBD.
Guide your users across the onboarding process
Left alone, many users will explore the product and learn all there is to know.
But there are two problems with this:
- It takes time to explore a product for the first time without proper guidance.
- Some users won’t have the patience—especially free trial users that aren’t invested in the product.
So, use well-designed guides to cut the time to value and reduce churn. Some UI elements that can help with this include interactive product tours, tooltips, and onboarding checklists.
Set up different support channels
Any company with a sizable customer base should have multiple support channels. It’s a nice way to provide ease and tell customers you care about them.
You know the popular support channels—email, calls, social media, live chat. Also, ensure customers don’t have a hard time finding the support option.
Use customer onboarding automation for repetitive tasks
Automating key elements of your customer onboarding strategy can help boost growth. You’ll be able to provide a more consistent experience and improve customer satisfaction with personalized journeys.
Start by mapping the happy path flow for the onboarding process. Then use the right software to automate small customer interactions at each point in the journey.
For instance, you could automate the content on your welcome screen, send automated surveys based on user actions, automate the path to specific onboarding milestones, etc.
Effective customer onboarding strategies to implement
This final section shows you customer onboarding strategies that will keep users happy and satisfied as they progress through your product:
Use a welcome survey to collect user data and personalize customer onboarding
A welcome screen is all about creating a positive atmosphere from the very beginning. It’s the digital equivalent of how brick-and-mortar businesses welcome customers to their shops.
Aside from thanking the user for signing up and making them feel comfortable, use your welcome screen for data collection.
Ask a few targeted questions to understand their primary goals and personalize the user onboarding process so they experience value faster.
Segment your users to provide personalized onboarding
User segmentation helps you get the right messaging to the right users at the right time.
You can use our software to target specific segments and ensure customers only get valuable experiences.
Example of in-depth segmentation on Userpilot:
Use interactive walkthroughs to close the value gap
You can think of an interactive walkthrough as a more engaging version of a product tour.
What do product tours do? They show users around the tool without caring if those users are actually learning. But that’s where walkthroughs are different.
An interactive walkthrough consists of the systematic steps involved in understanding and mastering your product. The user can only move to the next step after successfully engaging with the previous step.
In other words, they can’t mindlessly click “next” until they’ve completed the required actions for that step. This way, you can ensure customer success because the user will finish the onboarding knowing exactly how to solve problems with your tool.
Implement an onboarding checklist to guide users
Checklists simplify the onboarding process by breaking it down into small, digestible steps. They also add an element of gamification as users will be excited to cross off steps and get done with the process.
You can add a progress tracker to further amplify this feeling.
Set up a resource center for self-serve support
Self-serve support is one customer onboarding strategy you can’t afford to ignore.
As your user base grows, the load on your support team will be much and wait time will increase. This will naturally lead to frustration.
But that aside, customers generally prefer solving issues on their own and only reaching out to a human agent when it’s beyond them. Creating a resource center is a good way to meet this self-service need.
Your resource center should anticipate all customer problems and have educational content to answer them. How do you do that?
Begin by checking your support tickets for frequently asked questions. Also, involve your customer-facing teams in the process—they’ll have tons of insights since they’re constantly engaged in solving user issues.
Include different content formats to make your resource center more engaging. Examples: videos, case studies, knowledge base articles, and documentation.
Collect feedback from your customers with in-app surveys
Rarely will any customer reach out on their own to tell you how good or bad the onboarding experience was. But you need feedback to improve.
So, create in-app surveys that are strategically placed along the user journey. This can be as simple as a CSAT survey asking customers how they’d rate an interaction they just completed.
Collecting qualitative and quantitative feedback will let you act on a negative experience before users churn. You’ll also see what’s working for customers.
Create webinars to help customers master their skills
Go the extra mile by having experts from your customer success team conduct webinars on specific topics. Customers will learn faster since it’s a presentation. Plus, those that attend live, will have the opportunity to ask questions and get quick answers.
Example: Userpilot’s webinar on Minimum Viable Onboarding (MVO) to help our users hit their onboarding goals quickly.
And that’s a wrap! Hopefully, you’ve learned some new things and will leave this article knowing the next steps to take.
As mentioned at different points in this piece, Userpilot has many features that will help you automate and enhance your customer onboarding strategy.
- Build onboarding flows
- Send and analyze in-app surveys
- Create a self-service resource center
- Build checklists, interactive walkthroughs, tooltips, etc., to contextually guide users and increase activation
The best part? It’s all code-free. So what are you waiting for? Book a demo now to discuss your needs.