8 SaaS Onboarding Best Practices

Onboarding best practices

Customers have bought your SaaS (Software As A Service) product to solve a specific problem. If they do not see that your product solves that problem soon enough, they will churn as there are so many products out there in the market and switching between SaaS products is quite simple. So, the shortest path taken by your Customer to the WOW moment in your product is what “Customer Onboarding” is all about. Very rarely do Customers Churn after seeing the true potential of your product.

Here are 8 best practices that you can follow to ensure your customers journey towards their first WOW moment is as quick as possible.

1. Understanding your customer goals with your product

Customers buy products to solve different business problems. If your product has multiple features, the first step is to understand what problem your customers are trying to solve. Depending on your customer onboarding process, how you get this information will vary.

If your product is self-service and you provide a trial or freemium service, get this information when they sign up on your portal using a simple form focussing on the data that would help you to show relevant information.

Here is an example on how Zendesk does it.

Understanding customer goals and intent

If your product is Sales driven, then on the first exploratory call, focus on understanding what problem your Potential Customer is trying to solve.

Once you understand this, you can move on to the next steps in Onboarding.

2. Focus on your customer goals

Once your customer goals are understood, your customer’s experience from that point onwards should be directed in making them believe that your product can help them achieve their goals.

If your product is self-service like the Zendesk example shown above, change the user experience and layout of the product to show what is relevant to your customer to achieve their goals. For example, if I am using Zendesk for internal purposes, there is not much purpose in me seeing a screen focussed on external customers.

With sales-based products, focus your demos on features that are relevant to the customers. Often, SaaS products will have several features and it is tempting to talk about all the features that you have. But the time for that will come later, initially our goal should be to create the WOW moment for your customer as soon as possible and that will come if they feel their goals can be achieved through the product. So, focus on just those features in the beginning.

3. Use an onboarding checklist and progress bar

Once the initial layout or expectation is set with the customer, making it intuitive by using a check list with a progress bar helps users complete the onboarding process much more easily.

Understanding customer goals and intent

4. Use interactive walk-throughs

Interactive walk-throughs take the complexity out of self-service products to an extent. As discussed earlier, walk-throughs must be used carefully as if it tries to cover every feature available, it will be frustrating for the user, and they will close it. Focussing on the key value propositions is essential. As tempting as it is to highlight all the cool features in your product, refrain from that on Day 1. Once the customer is onboarded and has reached their WOW moment and have value from the product you can slowly introduce one new feature at a time.

Interactive onboarding walkthrough in Slack platform

5. Create an onboarding process for your Customer Success Team

Depending on your product your onboarding process might vary, from being simple in which case the above points would suffice, to being elaborate in which case there would be several steps and the help of a customer success manager might be essential.

If your onboarding process is elaborate, spending time defining the onboarding process and training your customer success managers is critical to ensure they follow the process. The principals remain the same (whether its self-service or whether it is customer success team driven), they are:

  • Understand your customer goals
  • Focus your demo’s features on the functionalities that would help them satisfy their initial goals for which they bought the product
  • Help them with a check list and follow up with them gently to complete the tasks that are dependent on them
  • Get them up and running and help them solve their core business problems as soon as possible, for which they bought your product

A customer success platform like Churn360 will help to convert your processes into plays to make it consistent and repeatable across customer success teams.

Onboarding process in Churn360 dashboard

6. Accelerate time to initial value

As can be gathered from all the above points, the focus should be on how quickly you can show value to your customers. Majority of customers who see value quickly will not leave. If there is a delay from the time of buying the product to seeing value, often, other tasks take priority, and your product will be put in back burner until someone audits and finds out that they are paying for something that they do not use.

7. Motivate unresponsive customers

When a new customer is engaged with you for the first time, try and understand their user personas and identify whom the decision maker is and who the users are going to be. In a lot of cases, the decision maker might have a vision but once the product is bought, they might hand it over to some other team member who might not share the same motivation as the decision maker.

To counter this, involve your decision maker in your onboarding process by explaining the importance of onboarding and the value that they can get by completing the onboarding tasks.

In communications with non-responsive customers, focus on benefits they can get by using the product rather than focussing on your features. This is where understanding why they bought your product and how it would make life easier for the users becomes important. If your able to connect with the users and make them feel it will help them get their job done more effectively, you can try and motivate them to respond.

8. Track your customer journey from onboarding to renewal

Grouping customers based on where they are in the customer journey provides useful insights to see at which stage of your customers journey most of them are churning. This is an effective way to see whether there is a problem with your onboarding or whether it is an issue with adoption or customer support or something else.

If the problem is with onboarding, try changing one aspect of your onboarding process at a time to identify which is the weak link.

In Summary

Focus on your onboarding efforts. In most cases, it is what causes the greatest number of churns. Show the customers’ value as quickly as possible and do not overwhelm them with all the features they have, just focus on the problems your customers have bought your product for and you will start seeing that your churn due to onboarding will reduce in no time.

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