Six Steps to an Effective Customer Onboarding Process

February 3, 2017 Taimur Ahmed

customer onboarding process

The key to a good customer onboarding process is to guide your customers as frictionlessly as possible to their first success with your company. This initial experience will not only set the tone for the rest of your customer’s lifespan, it’s also the time in which your new relationship is at its most fragile. 

Customer Onboarding Requirements

To set up your customers — and yourself — for success, your onboarding process must do these things:

  • Train customers to use your product.
  • Give customers a sense of confidence in working with your company.
  • Provide customers with their first win.

Keeping these goals in mind while designing your own customer onboarding process will help you create a journey that’s intuitive, logical and confidence-building. Read on for 6 steps to an effective customer onboarding process. 

1. Sign-up

When a new customer signs up for your platform, is the process intuitive? Have you removed as many barriers as possible? This includes asking for too much information right off the bat. 

Many customers will only be dipping their toe in at this point — give them a moment to see how they like the water before requiring them to jump all in.

2. Welcome email

Your first communication with your customer after they’ve created their account is the welcome email. It may be tempting to pack it full of information, but it pays to use restraint here. 

Welcome your new customer, make it clear where they can turn for help, and then direct them to the next step — whether that’s guiding them through a product demonstration, getting them to add more details to their account or helping them to complete the first transaction.

3. Account set up

Again, try to make account set up as effortless as possible. If you really need a piece of information, ask for it. If it’s not central to the core experience, let them know it’s optional and then remind them to return to it later.

4. Product demonstration

Your customer probably knows the basics of what your product does, but it’s unlikely they know all the finer points of how to use it. Demonstrating the product is a critical step in the customer onboarding process, and there are a variety of ways to do it effectively. 

  • Create a series of step-by-step training videos.
  • Create a video product tour.
  • Embed training modules throughout your product.

Try to make this demonstration as interactive as possible, rather than just sharing a bunch of tool tips and features that the customer will have to remember later. Keep the product demonstration short, and let your customer get their hands on the wheel.

Related reading: Training Automation Is Your Ticket to B2B SaaS Growth in 2016

5. First transaction

Your customer signed up for your software for a reason. What are they hoping to accomplish? The goal of effective onboarding and an effective first transaction is to get them to their desired outcome as quickly as possible.

The goal of your onboarding process should be to help your users hit their “aha” moment — the moment when use of your product clicks for them. Facebook, for example, considers that moment reached when a user has added at least seven friends within the first 10 days.

To find your own “aha” moment, take a look at your own customer data. Is there a noticeable cliff after which customers are more likely not to churn? 

6. Map your customer onboarding process to milestones

When Bell Canada discovered that a high percentage of repeat calls to their customer service team were actually downstream issues related to the original call, they mined their customer interaction data to find connections between customer service issues and trained their staff to head off future problems. 

This includes things like giving a quick tutorial about key related product features or sending a series of follow-up emails to help customers through upcoming steps. By planning ahead for future milestones, Bell Canada reduced their “calls per event” by 16 percent and customer churn by 6 percent. 

When designing your own customer onboarding process, don’t look at each event in isolation. What can you do at each touch point to prepare customers for success further along in their journey?

Related reading: The 10 Most Critical LMS Requirements for Modern Online Training

Following up and digging deeper

At this stage in the onboarding process, your customers probably have the basics of your product down. But the onboarding process doesn’t stop there — now your goal is to draw customers into becoming power users of and brand ambassadors for your products.

Identify which places in your customer’s onboarding journey they will need an extra boost of encouragement or where you hope they will start using a new feature. Using these triggers to communicate with them via email autoresponder or embedded training will help unfold the utility of your site in a logical, useful manner. 

Along with product-related communications, plan to educate your customers on related topics, like how to improve workflow or teamwork using your service, or any other tips and tricks to make them more successful in their tasks.

As you keep learning more about your customer’s journey, keep revisiting your onboarding process. Consistent review can help remove even more barriers, helping an even larger percentage of customers make it from sign-up to success.


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