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Ultimate Guide to SaaS Customer Onboarding: Process, Importance, Best Practices, and More
September 28th 2021
Sales Best Practices
SaaS onboarding Process
Onboarding is an opportunity to break the ice and start your relationship with new customers. It’s the best chance to help them solve their problems with your products or services. Customer onboarding can minimize friction, maximize efficiency, and make customers feel heard, seen, and appreciated.

A compelling SaaS customer onboarding experience begins with the framework. The journey from prospects to customers must focus on building relationships than just closing deals. 86% of customers state that they are most loyal to businesses that invest in onboarding content to welcome and educate them after purchase. While technology is revolutionizing products and services, the human touch is essential for a successful onboarding experience.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

  • What is Customer Onboarding?
  • Customer Onboarding Process
  • Essential Elements to your Onboarding Process
  • Importance of SaaS customer onboarding
  • Examples of Good Onboarding Process
  • SaaS onboarding best practices

What is Customer Onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the process of introducing new users to your product or service. Since your customers have chosen you over your competitors, they must see value in your product or service. Onboarding helps customers start using your product or service comfortably. It reassures new users that your product or service was the right choice leaving them more confident while using.

Customer Onboarding Process

As per reports, about 10% of revenue is lost to churn every year by SaaS companies. A customer onboarding process for SaaS businesses can include the following stages:

  • Pre-onboarding
  • The sales-to-service hand-off is essential as it sets the tone for the customer relationship. A seamless transition from sales to customers can delight new customers. Since the sales team has acquired all the information required to provide valuable service, translating such information for onboarding can enrich the customer experience post-purchase.

  • Project Kick-off
  • To ensure promises don’t turn into disappointments, you need to get the entire team on the same page from the beginning. You need to align, understand, and build trust within the team for consistent planning and adequate preparation. You can establish goals, the scope of work and set expectations with customers through effective communication. Based on customer requirements, onboarding and implementation can be predefined.

  • Account Set-up
  • Account set-up is when customers are given a walkthrough of the product, settings are configured, and the potential for the product is explained. It includes account creation, user roles and logins, merging existing data, and other tasks for testing the product based on use cases.

  • Final Handover
  • It would be best if you chose your customer onboarding flow from the below models:

    • Self-serve Onboarding
    • It is a hand-off approach to onboarding where your product is simplified to be self-explanatory. A self-serve onboarding allows users to sign up, explore the product, and gain value without interaction with the sales or customer success team. You can set up a basic onboarding flow with a getting started guide or walkthrough, followed by customers exploring the rest themselves. Stripe, Dropbox, and Jira are a few examples of the self-serve model.

    • Low-touch Onboarding
    • Low-touch onboarding is one step above the self-serve model as it includes in-app tours, checklists, step-by-step walkthroughs, and getting started tutorials. It provides an option to contact human support, but no support is dedicated to individual customers. Zoom, Shopify, Mailchimp, and several others are examples of the low-touch model.

    • High-touch Onboarding
    • The high-touch onboarding model is helpful for complex products that require mandatory training for initial set-up or even understanding the product. This method helps in customizing customer requirements, providing in-person training, and creating customized onboarding documentation. Allbound’s onboarding process can be an example of the high-touch onboard model. Since the product is a complex relationship management software, it requires training sessions to get started.

Essential Elements to your Onboarding Process

Onboarding is the stage where new users may need resources to get started with using your product. To create the best customer onboarding process, you can consider including the following elements:

  • Welcome Email
  • Content in a welcome email can create a first impression for your new customers. You can use the following template to draft your welcome email:

    Hi {First Name},
    Welcome to [Product]!
    Most [Product] users typically [receive X state benefit (e.g., increase productivity by 20%, accelerate their revenue growth by 10X)].
    Are you ready for it? The first step is [mention the first action to reach ‘Aha’ moment. Include a link to the URL within the app for real-time experience, if possible].
    Over the next several days, you’ll receive tips to help you gain the maximum value through the [Product]. If you ever need help, reply directly. We will be happy to help!
    Talk soon,
    [Signature]
    PS: here are some of the features [Product] users explore the most:
    [Feature 1]
    [Feature 2]
    [Feature 3]

  • Login Experience
  • Though a welcome email is a good start, you can personalize the login experience for new customers. You can personalize in-app messaging to encourage them to explore the platform, prompt a welcome video, or personalize the product walkthrough.

  • Tutorials
  • You can recommend a specific setup to get started with using the platform. These steps could help in ensuring that they don’t miss any critical steps while getting started.

  • Walk-through
  • Regardless of the simplicity of your platform, make sure you can go through it together. You can get a better understanding of the user perspective and provide real-time quick tips and tricks. You could provide them with prompts, help docs, or videos for a better experience of your platform.

  • Help Center
  • Once the set-up is complete, you can create a help center or introduce them to a community to educate them and resolve their concerns. It is essential that users find your help center easily, for example, in-app FAQs or chatbot help center.

  • Feedback
  • Acquiring feedback from customers can help in understanding their pain points within the platform. You can know if their expectations from the platform are being met. You can show that you are there to help them, and their experiences matter.

  • Milestone Notifications
  • Celebrating customer milestones will keep your customers informed about their progress. They would look forward to the next steps and make the most of your platform. You can automate such notifications through an email or even personalize them with a phone call. It will encourage new users to get ambitious and open up to higher expectations.

Importance of SaaS Customer Onboarding

Saas Customer onboarding is the process of nurturing new customers and help them get accustomed to your platform. The most common benefits of customer onboarding include:

Low Risk of Churn

More than two-thirds of SaaS companies experience more than 5% churn rates annually. Onboarding is the first interaction of your customers with your platform. A well-thought onboarding experience can make your customers

  • Like your product
  • Use your product
  • Never switch to competitors

Long-lasting Relationships

Maintaining consistency in your customer onboarding can enhance your customer experience. Being proactive when your customers are getting started with your platform can ease new users. When you lay a strong foundation for customer relationships with onboarding, it can leave a lasting impression.

Customer Advocacy

Happy customers are easier to turn into advocates who refer more prospects. You can gather social proof, such as testimonials that can influence other prospects. Customer advocacy can build your brand identity and increase customer loyalty.

Increase Retention

65% of customers prefer a positive experience over great advertising. You can consider your customer onboarding successful when your customers

  • know how to use your product
  • are aware of new upgrades
  • enjoy engaging with your product

Retaining such customers will be easier and cost-effective instead of acquiring new customers.

Examples of Good Onboarding Process

Every product can be different, and thus, the onboarding process will also differ. When considering the best approach, you can begin with some examples. Below are some examples of exemplary onboarding implementation.

Drip.com

Drip is an eCommerce CRM solution with user-centric features that enhance their experience. They introduce their solution during the onboarding process and do not provide more profound insights at the beginning. Their idea is to get the first dopamine rush and reach the ‘aha’ moment when new users sign up.

Autodesk

Knowing when to alter the onboarding process versus when to enhance it with resources is critical for any company. Autodesk has complicated software that could take years to masterfully as a developer of design programs for professionals. Their customer support team noticed that several customers found it challenging to master Fusion 360. Autodesk added extensive learning resources that allowed its users to acquire self-paced knowledge across all aspects of the program. Had the company altered the onboarding process itself, it could be overwhelming for all the users. Providing accessible resources within your platform can help find the right balance between the information provided and the time required.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is an eCommerce company that needs to be firm with its customer support. They need to have answers ready, especially during onboarding. It offers the ability to talk to a live support agent 24/7 via email, chat, or call. They take customer support a step further with optional service to pay an additional fee for 7 hours or more of dedicated consultation from an expert eCommerce coach.

SaaS Onboarding Best Practices

Using the best practices while designing your onboarding framework can help in creating a memorable experience for new users. Here are some points to consider for an efficient onboarding experience.

Sign-up and Introduction

When new visitors encounter your website for the first time, it should have clear, enticing, and relevant information. At this stage, your prospects would most likely want to understand how your product or service can help them resolve their current problems. You can address their pain points directly on the sign-up page. Your new users will be aware of the benefits of your platform and not just the features which will help them connect instantly.

Simplified Experience

Simplify your user experience from their first engagement - the sign-up form. Make it easy and quick with only relevant information to get them started. An unnecessarily long or complicated sign-up process can lead to prospects leaving your platform before completing the form. Always remember, as the number of form fields increases, the conversion rate decreases.

Warm Welcome

After the sign-up process, welcoming new users is essential. You could send a welcome email or personalize the welcome page itself. It is the first step in building a relationship with your customer. Sending a welcome email has become a mandatory part of any onboarding process; therefore, it is essential to send an acknowledgment to ensure you retain the trust of news users.

Personalize User Experience

As new users move through the set-up process, you must keep it optional to move ahead with minor friction points. For example, you want to leverage the network of new users and encourage them to invite or share their contacts. But is this essential in the first engagement with your platform? You can add an option to skip steps and come back later for those not mandatory. It will encourage new users to engage with your platform in the most relevant manner.

Pro Tip: Ensure new users engage with your software as much as possible.

Engage with Tutorials

Once a new user has set up their account, it is critical to make sure they use the platform. Keep your tutorial engaging and make them learn with the flow. You can prepare a sequence of steps that allows users to measure their progress. It will enable you to monitor any stress points to correct them. The stress points could be potential reasons for drop-off and lead to churn.

Generate Value

The first session on your platform will make or break for new users. They will either make the most of the benefits or leave the platform. At this point, you will be answering the critical question:

Does your SaaS resolve their problem?

A platform that delivers the promised value will reach the ‘aha!’ moment with tangible benefits. Achieving real benefits from your product or service will make your users return and get hooked.

Celebrate Achievements

When your product or service delivers a tangible benefit to new customers, you must notify them. Celebrate big and small achievements to keep your customers informed about every milestone they achieve through your product or service. It works as a validation that they are using the right solution, making them get closer to their goals.

Follow up and Feedback

Once a user has completed one session, the walk-throughs, or gone through the tutorials, you need to follow up. You can educate them about how to get the best value from the platform. Such emails will keep your solution fresh in their mind and encourage them to continue using the product or service. You could even request feedback from users who have left a session, walkthrough, or tutorial mid-way. Such users are more likely to churn, so it’s essential to identify them and provide quick support to get them back on track.

Final Thoughts

A strong customer onboarding strategy is an ongoing process, not a fixed destination.

Onboarding is a journey for new users that introduces your product or services. It is an ongoing process that needs to be nurtured, evolved, and customized for prospective customers and new users. It’s important to delight your customers, and customer onboarding can be an essential step. Keep your users engaged with the best practices to get the most out of your platform.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richa Sharma
Content Marketer
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richa Sharma
Content Marketer
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