SaaS Customer Onboarding: Best Practices and Examples

SaaS Customer Onboarding: Best Practices and Examples

When it comes to SaaS customer onboarding, there are dozens of things to consider. Whether it’s journey mapping, building flows, reducing friction, or choosing the right user onboarding software, the entire endeavor can feel like a Herculean task.

This guide will help you build a successful onboarding process, go over the best practices you’ll need to follow, and show you examples of how other SaaS companies onboard new users!


  1. Determining goals. Figure out what your customer’s goals are for using the product by creating a welcome survey that asks about their task, role, or use case.
  2. Journey mapping. Map the customer journey to identify key touchpoints where onboarding can provide value or preempt problems.
  3. Choosing a model. Choose between self-service, low-touch, or high-touch onboarding models depending on who your target audience is.
  4. Personalizing flows. Build personalized onboarding flows with content that’s tailored to different segments — checklist tasks should be different depending on the use case.
  5. Measuring and iterating. Analyze your onboarding flows to gauge engagement rates and continuously improve each step.
  • There are 12 best practices to follow when building your onboarding process:
  1. Build a frictionless signup process. Creating a frictionless signup process makes it easier for new customers to sign up for your product before their interest wanes.
  2. Use gamification to enhance the onboarding experience. Game-like elements such as challenges, rewards, and badges can make your onboarding process more enjoyable for new users.
  3. Build an interactive walkthrough to shorten time to value. Interactive walkthroughs offer contextual guidance throughout each onboarding task while still letting users learn by doing.
  4. Use contextual tooltips to drive feature engagement. Onboarding tooltips are highly effective at highlighting — and providing additional information on — specific features.
  5. Offer live demos with a customer success manager. Giving new users the opportunity to interact with customer success managers will ensure they receive personalized guidance.
  6. Offer self-service support with a resource center. Building an in-app resource center with self-serve materials empowers users to find solutions without customer support representatives.
  7. Allow user onboarding flow replay. Onboarding flows should be replayable at any time in case users accidentally dismiss them or need a refresher after returning from an inactivity period.
  8. Enable a sandbox model for users to understand the product. Creating a sandbox environment where users can see the product in action before uploading their data reduces the time to value.
  9. Collect feedback after the customer onboarding process. Post-onboarding feedback helps you pinpoint the steps or flows that need further tweaks and optimizations.
  10. Use funnel analysis to understand onboarding friction. Conducting funnel analysis will help you identify and address friction points to reduce the drop-off between each step.
  11. Conduct path analysis to improve your onboarding flow. User path analysis shows you how users navigate across your product, so you can build onboarding flows around existing paths.
  12. Use a customer onboarding platform for automation. Customer onboarding platforms let your team members create flows without needing to write any code or request engineering resources.

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What is customer onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the process of getting new users ready to start using your product. The term is often used about software products — such as SaaS platforms — and can be done either manually or through automation.

Why is SaaS customer onboarding important?

There are a few core reasons that make SaaS customer onboarding so important:

  • Product adoption. A well-designed user onboarding process helps customers quickly understand the product which leads to higher product adoption rates overall.
  • Customer retention. The customer onboarding phase is crucial for reducing frustration and increasing customer retention.
  • Reducing support costs. Effective onboarding minimizes ticket volume — reducing the workload of your support representatives while making the job easier for your customer success team too.
  • Conversion and expansion. A successful onboarding flow will facilitate higher conversion rates and create upsell opportunities that drive account expansion.

How to build a successful onboarding process?

Building onboarding flows is a complex undertaking that with a low margin of error for execution. As such, the sections below will go over the steps you’ll need to take to build successful customer onboarding processes.

Determine customers’ goals and objectives

First and foremost, you need to figure out what your customers’ goals are when using the product. You can accomplish this early on using a welcome survey to ask users about their task, role, or use case for the product.

Here’s an example of a user survey built with Userpilot (but not by Miro):

Userpilot welcome survey
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In addition to surveying new users during onboarding, you can also conduct customer behavior analysis on your existing users. This will help you identify trends and patterns that reflect the goals of the users you already have.

Map customer journey to identify important touchpoints

Mapping the customer onboarding journey will make it easier to highlight key touchpoints between the first interaction and full-on user adoption. Look for Aha! moments, activation points, and any other touchpoints in the customer journey where onboarding can provide value or preempt problems.

Here’s an example of how to map the SaaS onboarding phases with a flywheel:

User adoption flywheel
User adoption flywheel.

Choose an onboarding model

Not all onboarding models are created equal and some will be a better fit for your needs than others. There are three main types of onboarding models for you to choose from depending on your product, audience, and goals:

  • Self-service onboarding. Self-server onboarding is a method of enabling users to onboard themselves. Instead of being funneled through a preset path, users can learn about the product organically as they go along.
  • Low-touch onboarding. Low-touch (AKA tech-touch) onboarding relies on self-service resources and knowledge bases to guide users across their earlier stages of the customer journey. In-app guidance and other automation may also be used to bolster self-service capabilities.
  • High-touch onboarding. High-touch models use a hands-on approach to onboarding new customers and guiding them on the path toward product adoption. It often includes 1-on-1 training from human agents to reduce the time to value or TTV.

Whether a high-touch vs low-touch onboarding model is best will vary from business to business.

Build a personalized onboarding flow

Using information that you gathered from the aforementioned welcome surveys to segment users by role or use case will help you personalize onboarding content based on each group’s specific needs. Depending on which segment users fall into, you can launch different user onboarding checklists:

Userpilot checklist editor
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This will make it possible to tailor the onboarding checklist to each use case and ensure that users only see tasks that are relevant to them. Checklists are only one step of the broader customer onboarding flow chart but they can have a huge impact on onboarding drop-off rates.

Measure onboarding flow engagement and iterate

Once you’ve built your onboarding process, the next step is to analyze customer behavior so you can nip any issues in the bud. For example, seeing that the majority of onboarding checklists are either dismissed or left unfinished could indicate that the tasks are:

  • Difficult
  • Irrelevant
  • Or just take too long to complete

You can also look at the engagement rates for individual onboarding modules to find the weak link in the chain. Use these engagement metrics to continuously iterate upon your existing onboarding process and make the necessary improvements that will have the largest impact over time.

Userpilot engagement analytics dashboard
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12 Customer onboarding best practices for SaaS

The specifics of your customer onboarding strategy will vary depending on the complexity of your product, who your target audience is, and a myriad of other factors. There are a few SaaS onboarding best practices you can apply broadly to create a positive onboarding experience for new customers.

Here are 12 customer onboarding best practices to follow:

Build a frictionless signup process

Creating a frictionless signup process will make it easier for new customers to quickly sign up for the product while the interest is at its highest. Think of this as a way to reduce customer churn before the customer even has an account.

Our own signup page example is a great way to see this best practice in action. All customers with Enterprise SSO enabled only need to submit their work email during the signup process to complete their account setup.

Userpilot Enterprise SSO
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Use gamification to enhance the onboarding experience

Incorporating game-like elements like challenges, rewards, and badges will make the onboarding process more fun for your new users. Perhaps the most well-known example of engagement gamification is Asana’s flying unicorn animation that appears after users finish a task:

Asana engagement gamification example
Source: Asana.

Build an interactive walkthrough to shorten time to value

Creating interactive walkthroughs can help you guide users through tasks while still giving them enough control to learn by doing. When you relieve users of the burden of needing to self-navigate to each product feature, you shorten the time to value and get them to their Aha! moment far sooner.

A prime example of an interactive walkthrough is how Kommunicate guides users through the various dashboards, features, and settings they have access to:

Kommunicate interactive walkthrough
Source: Asana.

Use contextual tooltips to drive feature engagement

Contextual onboarding tooltips can be one of the most organic ways to draw a user’s attention toward a specific feature — thus driving feature discovery. These tooltips are highly effective at providing context-specific information about individual features.

This form of contextual help increases feature engagement and flattens the learning curve.

Here’s an example of what tooltips built with Userpilot would look like on your product interface:

Userpilot contextual tooltip
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Offer live demo with a customer success manager

While in-app guidance with automated tooltips — so-called “tech touch” — can streamline the onboarding process, that doesn’t discount the value of live demos with real people. Offering new users an opportunity to interact with customer success managers in real time and ask questions is helpful.

This will ensure that the guidance they receive is personalized. Customer success managers can adapt their customer education instructions to the specific use case and needs of each user in a way that automated patterns can’t.

This also gives users a deeper understanding of the product overall.

The easiest way to get users to sign up for live demos is to use in-app invitation modals:

Userpilot demo modal
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Offer self-service support with a resource center

Building up a comprehensive in-app resource center that contains guides, tutorials, and answers to frequently asked questions can be a boon for onboarding. These self-serve materials enhance the accessibility for users and empower them to find solutions without the need for agent assistance.

Userpilot in-app resource center
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Allow user onboarding flow replay

Users — both new and existing — should be able to replay the onboarding flow at any time in case they accidentally mistake it or need a refresher after extended periods of inactivity. This increases user retention by promoting continuous learning and creates the opportunity for secondary onboarding.

Enable a sandbox model for users to understand the product

Users are less likely to use the product before completing setup but also unlikely to experiment after everything has been imported and is working properly. As such, providing an environment where users can explore the product and test features without consequences is incredibly valuable.

A prime example is how Chameleon lets users tinker with the product without installing anything:

Chameleon sandbox for customer onboarding
Source: Chameleon.

Collect feedback after customer onboarding process

Getting post-onboarding feedback mechanisms in place will give you a robust system for identifying which areas to improve upon moving forward. For instance, having a scalar rating-based survey question followed by an open-ended question will provide a healthy blend of customer feedback.

Here’s an example of the in-app surveys you can create with Userpilot to gather actionable insights:

Userpilot onboarding survey
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Good survey questions are:

  • Clear and concise
  • Avoid leading respondents to a specific answer
  • Only ask about one thing at a time to avoid double-barreled questions

Use funnel analysis to understand onboarding friction

Conducting funnel analysis to identify friction points that could lead to funnel drop is paramount to your onboarding success. Addressing these high-friction points and seeing how the changes affect your customer onboarding metrics will help you optimize the onboarding process with each iteration.

Userpilot’s funnel charts show you the exact drop-off percentages between each step of your funnels:

Userpilot funnel customer onboarding analysis dashboard
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Building a funnel chart in Userpilot is quite easy. All you need to do is select the events you’d like to track as funnel steps, add any filters to the data, and generate detailed breakdowns. Target events could be feature tags, tracked events, page views, content engagement, or our built-in events.

Conduct path analysis to improve your onboarding flow

User path analysis can give you a better understanding of how users navigate across your product and make their way toward the activation point. Familiarity with how users navigate will help you tailor your onboarding process around those paths and create more effective in-app guidance as a result.

Userpilot’s path analysis dashboard even lets you narrow down specific date ranges or user paths. By choosing a specific starting point, you’ll be able to see where your users navigate to (or from) within a certain number of steps.

The path analysis feature will be available to all users across every subscription tier as of March 2024. In this example, we’re using Userpilot’s path analysis to see where users go three steps after the starting point:

Userpilot customer onboarding path analysis dashboard
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Use a customer onboarding platform for automation

Last but not least, using a customer onboarding platform to automate the onboarding process will provide a sense of consistency for new users and increase scalability. This lets you create automated flows that cater to different segments by adjusting the automatic trigger conditions.

Userpilot’s no-code flow builder lets anyone on your team build onboarding flows without the need for developer support or engineering resources. This streamlines the process and saves time while increasing the personalization of your onboarding process.

Userpilot automated customer onboarding flows
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8 Examples of effective SaaS user onboarding experience

Now that you’re familiar with the importance, process, and best practices of customer onboarding, it’s time to look at a few examples from successful companies. Take the chance to draw inspiration from an onboarding example below and apply the same best practices that they’ve used to succeed.

Mixpanel replaces empty state with dummy data

Mixpanel replaces the empty state on its dashboard with dummy data so that newly active users can still see how the analytics will be visualized even if they haven’t added data sources yet. This creates a sandbox environment that can help users understand the product early on.

Mixpanel dummy data
Source: Mixpanel.

Figma includes an onboarding replay button

Figma lets its customers replay the onboarding flow at any time in case they accidentally dismiss it, have to reload their page, or are just in need of a refresher after not using the software for some time. This enables continuous learning and increases retention rates for returning users.

Figma onboarding replay
Source: Figma.

Monday uses single sign-on to simplify the signup process

Monday leverages single sign-on (SSO) to let interested prospects create an account in just a couple of clicks. This streamlines the account creation process and helps new users start using the product before their interest starts to drop off.

Monday SSO
Source: Monday.

Userpilot implements a resource center with options to book a live demo

Userpilot’s in-app resource center supplements its text-based guides with the option to book a live demo or attend training webinars. This provides multiple options for users who want to learn more about the product.

Userpilot resource center example for customer onboarding
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Grammarly includes a demo document

Similarly to Mixpanel, Grammarly provides a demo document that comes pre-loaded into every new account. This reduces the time to value by letting new users complete the editing process as soon as they finish creating their account — even if they haven’t uploaded any of their own documents yet.

Grammarly demo document
Source: Grammarly.

Zendesk has personalized product tour options

Because Zendesk is a full-suite platform that services multiple avatars, its welcome survey lets new users choose the product tour that would be most relevant to their use case. This ensures that even self-service onboarding processes will be personalized to each user.

Zendesk product tour
Source: Zendesk.

Propad gamifies the onboarding process

Propad lets new users unlock more time on their free trial users by completing tasks on their onboarding checklist. This increases checklist engagement while creating a sense of urgency for trial users to complete key tasks before it’s game over.

Propad gamified onboarding
Source: Propad.

Notion uses a welcome survey to personalize templates

Rather than personalizing product tours like Zenesk, Notion uses its welcome survey to personalize the templates that new users see depending on what they’ll be using the platform for. This strikes the balance between offering relevant templates but not cluttering a workspace with irrelevant templates.

Notion welcome survey
Source: Notion.

For instance, those choosing “For personal use” on the Notion welcome survey will be directed to this set of templates:

Notion personal templates
Source: Notion.

Automate your customer onboarding flow using Userpilot

All the onboarding examples above have one thing in common: automation.

Manually onboarding every new user is unrealistic for most SaaS companies due to how expensive and unscalable high-touch models can be. Thankfully, tools like Userpilot can enhance your customer onboarding strategy in a few key ways:

  • UI elements. Userpilot has a wide variety of UI elements that you can use to build your onboarding flows.
  • Checklist analytics. Our checklist engagement analytics are segmented by each module to give you targeted data on each onboarding flow.
  • In-app resource centers. We let you build in-app resource centers that offer guidance and 24/7 support without needing to write a single line of code.
  • Advanced analytics. Userpilot’s advanced analytics capabilities help you understand user behavior and fine-tune your onboarding process (including reporting for paths, funnels, and trends).
  • In-app surveys. The in-app surveys that you can build with Userpilot help gather actionable insights and come with over a dozen templates to choose from.
Userpilot no-code flow builder
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As you can see, SaaS onboarding is a multi-stage process that requires the right balance of strategy, execution, and analysis to pull off successfully. If you follow the process in this guide, abide by all the best practices listed, and draw inspiration from the examples above, then you’re bound to succeed.

Ready to start building your own SaaS customer onboarding process? Get your free Userpilot today!

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