You have done your marketing, convinced your audience of the benefits of your product, and converted them into paying customers. Congratulations!
The work is not done, however. You still need to bring users into the fold in a strategic manner that shows them how to use your offering, why they should keep coming back, and where they can reach you for any assistance or problem-solving.
That is what customer onboarding is all about — making sure that customer acquisition becomes customer retention each and every time. A Wyzowl research reports that 86% of consumers are more likely to stay loyal to a business that invests in onboarding.
So if you are new to customer onboarding or want to upgrade your existing strategy, here is a handy guide to help you out.
What is customer onboarding and why is it important?
If you think your business offerings really have a chance to meet the ever-changing consumer demand and keep up with your competitors in the cut-throat online landscape, you must invest in a thorough digital transformation, which includes building a customer onboarding process.
Essentially, onboarding is the post-purchase stage where new customers are acquainted with the product and are made comfortable with its key features. The process consists of helpful guidance at every step and encouragement at every milestone.
Easy access to the knowledge and resources customers need makes your intended audience's lives much more straightforward and helps them trust your product right away. It also sets a positive tone for your relationship with them and improves your customer lifetime value.
The happier your customers are, the more revenue you will get from them, the lower your churn rate will be, and the likelier it is that they will refer your business to other prospective customers.
When you invest in customer onboarding, you invest in your growth.
What your customer onboarding flow should focus on
As with any new initiative, you need to have a fixed goal and a fixed plan in place for your customer onboarding.
While the exact goal will depend on your offerings and the customer base you are working with, make sure it achieves the following retention objectives:
➡️ Building a pattern of usage.
➡️ Getting your customer to use your product more than once in the first week itself.
➡️ Making your product essential to their lives.
This requires figuring out four crucial things from the customer’s perspective:
- What do their goals look like
- What their ‘dream’ results are like
- What success metrics matter most to them
- What they want to achieve with your business
Your plan should focus on empowering customers to start using all the features of your product on their own from the get-go. Below you'll find a list of things to include.
1. Welcome email
This is the first communication your customer receives on signing up with your business.
Use a cheerful, friendly tone and thank them for choosing you over the other options out there. Also, give a sneak peek into how your offerings will benefit them or a special coupon code.
Many welcome email templates also include points relating to the next steps, how to get started, what to expect, and more.
2. Greeting message
A greeting message should be your second communication. It's usually an in-app welcome message (or another email) that guides the customer towards the first essential step towards setting up, such as changing their login password or something more specific like joining a class (e.g., if it is a fitness site).
You could also offer a step-by-step setup tutorial to guide the customer through the initial process of using your offering or navigating through your store. Keep this optional, as many users might prefer to figure things out independently.
3. Interactive guide
An in-app functionality, a walkthrough enables your customer to complete each step in detail. The guidance for each consecutive step will appear as the previous one is completed. This is perhaps the most substantial part of your customer onboarding content.
4. Blank spaces
Blank spaces are the empty boxes your customer will see when they log in to try your product for the first time. Use this space for educational content about how the feature works, such as a mini-tutorial for scheduling a meeting in the empty calendar space.
5. Tip boxes
Tip boxes are pop-up information banners that show up when the customer hovers over various features on the portal. These are not substitutes for a full tutorial but can serve as handy reminders as the customer navigates the screen.
Handy, an online marketplace for residential cleaning and home services, does a great job using coach screens to introduce key features. They lead with app value before explaining the features, include one concept per screen, and use minimal text with visual elements.
6. Knowledge base
A knowledge base is a go-to list of FAQs and handy guides that customers can refer back to as necessary. You can design this as a separate tab or as a responsive chatbot, which the customers can benefit from in their own time.
If you want to boost customer engagement with your product, include congratulatory pop-ups and animations as users complete each step in the setup process. This can get them more excited about the product and motivate to invest more time in subsequent steps.
A checklist for customer onboarding
To make sure that you are adding value at every stage of the customer onboarding process, here is a quick checklist to start you off.
1. Establish one primary goal
Regardless of what industry you operate in, your product should have one clear, overarching takeaway for your customers, and your onboarding process should get them to that takeaway as quickly as possible.
2. Have secondary goals too
These are the other goals, also important, that serve as extra reasons to keep your customer hooked to your product. You can consider including them as features to be unlocked along the way to gamify the onboarding experience and make it more exciting for the customer.
3. Identify customer pain points
There are two ways you can get feedback about pain points directly from the customers. The first is by scheduling calls with them to understand what problems they are facing, for instance, too many secondary features or a navigation guide that is too complex.
The second is to understand what is being said about your product online through social listening. Several tools can help you accomplish this, including Sprout Social, Falcon.io, Mention, and Agorapulse.
4. Map out a plan for those pain points
In your customer onboarding plan, incorporate elements that specifically address those pain points.
For instance, if you are upgrading from a complex guide, highlight that you have listened to customer feedback and simplified the tutorial. Your customer will feel heard and trust you all the more. This also increases their chances of staying loyal to your brand.
Best practices for customer onboarding
When you are just starting out with customer onboarding, it may feel like there is just too much to do. Writing guides, designing tutorials, revamping the dashboard, sending out emails and texts… the list goes on. In actual fact, it is much simpler.
Your customer onboarding plan needs to actively guide the customer towards deriving more and more value from your business, and the material you create should embody that.
To help you out further, here are six tried-and-true best practices.
1. Know precisely what your customer needs
We have mentioned the importance of identifying the pain points above, but this one goes a bit deeper. It involves understanding the big ‘why’ that motivates customers to invest in your offerings. Study your existing users as well as your target audience.
Get a firm grasp on details like who your customers are, what their goals are, what they define as success, what problems you can help them solve, what barriers they are facing when using your offering, why users are churning, and so on. This way, your customer onboarding process can be designed based on facts, not guesses.
2. Guide them as fast as possible to the "yes" moment
Remove any barriers that slow your users down from actually using your product.
For instance, does the account creation take too long? Please do not make it mandatory right away. And when the time comes, make sure to include such options as signing up using social media accounts or Gmail, for example.
The fewer formalities the customer has to navigate before using your product, the better.
3. Have a multi-channel experience
Different users have different learning styles and different channels that they prefer. Use multiple channels to onboard your customers most effectively while ensuring synchronization among those channels.
For instance, the initial welcome email could include a link to a video webinar; at the end, there could be a downloadable guide with helpful hints.
Also, consider resources that the customer might need further down the line, such as a repository of FAQs or short tutorial videos. In addition, push your app download button, social links, YouTube channel, and other presence you might have.
4. Give them options
Not every customer wants or needs to be taken through the entire platform in detail from the get-go. Some just want to get started quickly and work things out on their own. When they log in for the first time, therefore, give them an option to skip if you can.
In addition, use this tailoring option to offer upgrades along the way, as different customer groups have different sets of needs.
5. Do not forget the brand experience
Your product is an extension of your brand personality. You will retain the most customers if it reflects the attributes that they love about your brand, be it quirky, creative, empathetic, or funny, in addition to being efficient.
6. Keep measuring and improving
Your customer onboarding plan can never be one-and-done. You need to keep monitoring usage, studying insights, and making adjustments on the go as soon as you can.
Make the analysis process as numbers-based as you can by deciding on metrics and minimum goals for each metric. Then, track your performance in each and commit to periodic upgrades based on what the numbers say.
Over to you
In conclusion, customer onboarding is a crucial step to your marketing outreach plans and introducing customers to your product. The better the experience customers have with starting off, the stronger their commitment to you. Invest in designing an intuitive, goal-oriented, and user-friendly customer onboarding process and see the results for yourself.
This is a guest post by Hazel Raoult.
Hazel Raoult is a freelance marketing writer and works with PRmention. She has 6+ years of experience writing about business, entrepreneurship, marketing and all things SaaS. Hazel loves to split her time between writing, editing, and hanging out with her family.
✍️ Want to write for us? Check out our guest blogging guidelines here.