Customer Success Onboarding Playbook For SaaS Businesses

Customer Success Onboarding Playbook For SaaS Businesses

Creating a customer success onboarding playbook is necessary if you want new customers to:

  • Use your product as intended and find value
  • Adopt features with little to no friction
  • Upgrade their plans
  • Require as less touchpoints as possible (and improve product-led onboarding)

Unfortunately, successful customer onboarding differs from company to company, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Having said this, let’s go over everything you need for making a customer onboarding playbook that works.


  • A customer success onboarding playbook defines the goals, outcomes, touchpoints, and experiences needed so your new users can experience success across the journey and reduce customer churn.
  • Playbooks are different for every business. But in general, they include the desired outcome, an entry point, an exit point, milestones, tasks, and a target user segment.
  • You can categorize onboarding based on how many interactions are needed, such as low-touch, medium-touch, and high-touch. The fewer human-to-human interactions are required, the more in-app experiences you can implement.
  • Building onboarding playbooks is important because: It gives you a clear vision of how your onboarding should be from initial stages to product advocacy; allows product-led growth with automation; helps you track success.
  • A playbook requires an entry and exit point, so you should create a playbook for each: onboarding stage, JTBD or use case, or user segment.

There are 7 steps to making an onboarding playbook:

1. Understanding your customer’s definition of success, and how your product helps with it.
2. Determining your onboarding goals.
3. Mapping your onboarding outcomes across the customer journey. And define the stage your playbook will impact.
4. Segmenting your customers to optimize product adoption.
5. Defining the actions and in-app experiences required to reach each milestone.
6. Setting up the right KPIs and OKRs to track your playbook’s performance.
7. A/B testing the actions and optimizing your onboarding playbook.

  • Want to build, track and optimize your customer success onboarding playbooks? Get a Userpilot demo and see how we can help.

What is a playbook for customer success?

A playbook documents the goals, milestones, touchpoints, and actions required for customers to achieve success with your product. Customer success managers use playbooks to ensure that every single user is successfully adopting the product and finding value in it.

What is a customer onboarding playbook?

A customer onboarding playbook is a highly structured plan of the entire onboarding process, to get users from signup to becoming brand advocates. It helps customer success teams provide the ideal user experience to the customer with a repeatable onboarding framework applied at each step in the journey.

This way, your new customer is not only safe from getting overwhelmed, but you can automate these tasks and drive product-led growth.

What should you include in a customer onboarding playbook?

Customer success playbooks differ from company to company, so what you include will depend on the type of product and users you have.

However, these will often include:

  • Outcome: what success is from the customer’s perspective.
  • Entry point: where the user must be in the journey to trigger the playbook.
  • Exit point: where the user needs to get with the help of the playbook.
  • Product adoption milestones: steps or subgoals your new customer must go through to get the desired outcome.
  • Tasks: specific actions the user must take.
  • Segment: user base segment that your playbook is designed for.

To know what to include in your playbook you must determine the onboarding type your product requires.

Types of customer onboarding playbook

The more complex your product, the more your customer will require help from your customer success team.

When building your playbooks you should consider which type of onboarding your users need:

  • Low-touch onboarding process playbook: fully self-served onboarding process where a new customer can find everything it needs within the product experience. Ideal for products with an easy and fast learning curve.
low touch customer onboarding process
Low touch customer onboarding process.
  • Medium-touch onboarding process playbook: a mix of self-served and human-to-human support meant for products that are scalable but have a more challenging learning curve.
  • High-touch onboarding process playbook: personalized and dedicated onboarding process is often appropriate for enterprise products that require custom setups.

Why is an onboarding process playbook necessary for a customer success manager?

Without playbooks, the customer experience becomes unclear, chaotic, and different for every user. You’d deal with them over and over again, without any significant data left for analysis.

There may be some results but you might be sabotaging your success too.

Let’s go over some reasons why you need onboarding playbooks.

Get accountability over the entire onboarding process

With playbooks, you have a clear vision of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Playbooks make it easy to identify friction points and spot the steps where customers tend to get stuck—so you can fix it.

With an overview of the whole process, you can continuously test different playbooks to see what drives the best results.

Scale and drive product adoption

Having your onboarding process documented step-by-step, you can identify what tasks can be automated and what requires a human touch.

This means you can automate your onboarding program and scale your customer base without having to hire more CSMs.

Building playbooks allows product-led growth, and your time as a CSM will only be invested in necessary touchpoints.

Easily track success with specific metrics

Frameworks, processes, and structures can all be measured.

When you automate your onboarding playbooks, it becomes easy to measure how each task and action is impacting your outcomes and helping you drive customer success.

Do you need multiple onboarding playbooks?

You can’t create one playbook for your entire onboarding process. As different customers require different outcomes, and different outcomes require different playbooks.

That’s why you have to create a playbook for different:

For your playbooks to work cohesively, it’s key to define the entry and exit points so it becomes clear when to trigger a specific playbook, and when it should end.

This user activation playbook example shows how it works.

The sample playbook below starts when the user signs up successfully (entry point), ends when the user activates (exit point)—and then starts the next playbook.

User activation playbook example
User activation playbook example.

How do you make a customer success onboarding playbook?

There are 7 steps to make a customer success onboarding playbook:

  1. Define success for your customers
  2. Determine your onboarding goal
  3. Map the customer journey stage your playbook will impact
  4. Segment your customers before creating an onboarding experience
  5. Define the actions required to reach each milestone
  6. Setup the right metrics to track your playbook’s performance
  7. A/B test your onboarding actions to optimize your playbook

1. Understand your new customer’s pain points

It is useless to create a playbook without a goal.

As a CSM, you must know what “success” means for your customers. So ask yourself:

  1. What’s your customer’s definition of success?
  2. What are their main obstacles?
  3. What is the JTBD (job-to-be-done) they’re using your product for?
  4. How does their day-to-day work change when they use your product? How many habits should be changed?

2. Define your customer onboarding playbook goal

From understanding the problem you need to define your playbook goal. What is the main outcome your playbook will influence?

Here are some examples you might want to focus on first:

  • Driving user activation
  • Improving trial to paid conversion
  • Increasing product upgrades

Add those goals to the customer onboarding tool you use. This way, you can measure your onboarding actions and keep track of your playbook’s performance.

Tracking multiple goals across the user journey will then give you a birds-eye view of the onboarding process and how well your playbooks are impacting success.

3. Map the customer journey stage your onboarding playbook will impact

An actionable playbook requires a clear start and end. It usually triggers with a key action (e.g. activation), and stops after achieving one goal (e.g. paid subscription).

A typical user onboarding funnel looks like the one below. Once you have the goal, you simply need to identify the entry and exit point on the journey.

User journey milestones
User journey milestones.

At this step, it’s all about mapping success milestones to define the stage in the onboarding process your playbook will impact. For example, if your goal is to drive account expansion, you will be looking at users that have passed the onboarding stage, as shown below.

Contextual account expansion graphic
Contextual account expansion graphic.

4. Segment your user before launching an onboarding experience

Each playbook and action in it should address a specific audience.

Once you identify the entry and exit points for your playbook, the next step is to clearly define the users your playbook is designed for.

This is where segmentation comes in.

Segments can be defined using multiple attributes like custom events, in-app engagement, and different user behavior criteria.

Build advanced user segments using Userpilot
Build advanced user segments using Userpilot.

5. Decide which onboarding playbook actions to use in your onboarding experience

With goals in mind, milestones, and a segmented userbase, it’s now time to define what actions and touchpoints are required to achieve success based on the type of onboarding playbook you are building.

You should consider:

In-app experiences like modals, checklists, tooltips, etc— mostly used in self-serve onboarding.

Build onboarding tooltips without coding, using Userpilot
Build onboarding tooltips without coding, using Userpilot.

Human-to-human interactions like emails, demo calls, training sessions, and webinars require the CSM’s time to fulfill.

6. Define success and measure it with the right metrics

Metrics are essential to clearly observe if your playbook works or if it needs improvement.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some basic onboarding KPIs you should monitor:

When you’re ready to take it to the next level, start using OKRs.

An OKR framework allows you to align onboarding objectives with your playbook goals, and track your progress over time.

OKRs vs KPIs
OKRs vs KPIs.

7. A/B test your onboarding actions and iterate your playbook

Your first playbooks won’t be the best. There’s always room for improvement.

Once you’ve set up your OKRs, you’ll be able to track your playbook’s performance. Hence, you can A/B test different approaches to see what performs best.

For a self-serve onboarding activation playbook, you can build a checklist of features the user must engage with and A/B test it to see if it helps them reach the activation point faster.

When using a product adoption tool like Userpilot, you can simply set a goal and an A/B test right when building the in-app experience flow.

A/B test different playbook tactics to see which drives better results. Get a Userpilot demo and see how
A/B test different playbook tactics to see which drives better results. Get a Userpilot demo and see how.

You can run A/B tests against specific goals in your playbook or time-based. Then track impact by looking at the results with or without the in-app flow.

Onboarding flow A/B test results
Onboarding flow A/B test results.

With all of this, all that’s left to do is to go over step one again and try different tactics in each playbook until your onboarding process is completely covered.


Playbooks lead your onboarding, customer expectations, the sales process, and overall your job as a customer success manager.

Building a customer playbook also improves the user experience, as it encourages you to polish the product experience so your customer’s goals can be reached repeatedly.

What’s more, creating an onboarding playbook doesn’t have to be complicated, as it mostly involves:

  • Knowing what success is for your customers.
  • Defining the steps needed to find success.
  • Figuring out what experiences will lead your customers to success faster.

Need a tool to build, track and improve onboarding and customer success? Book a Userpilot demo and see how easy it is to get started.

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