Every SaaS company agrees that new users need some sort of education in how to use the product when they first sign up. The line between onboarding and training is blurred, but they are distinct entities when it comes to welcoming the customer and teaching them how to use the product.
Customers come to your software product expecting a certain level of hand-holding when they first become acquainted with its features and capabilities. Your business needs a strategy to onboard these new customers effectively, rather than focusing on training.
If you don’t either train or onboard your customers, they are far more likely to churn because they won’t be using your product to its full capacity. You won’t fulfill the promise that you made to customers to solve a problem, and they’ll start looking to your competitors to see if they can do it better.
Onboarding vs Training
First, let’s think about the difference between onboarding and training. SaaS customer onboarding is the process of getting a customer set up with your product and is usually conducted with a single point of contact. Customer success managers are frequently responsible for customer onboarding, as this is a vital stage of the customer journey where you want to activate your customers with your product.
Training, in contrast, is teaching customers how to use the product for specific tasks and is usually conducted later down the line after onboarding. You can usually automate training with resources such as video tutorials or how-to-guides, and happens on a much more ad hoc basis than customer onboarding.
Onboarding also includes getting the customer set up with the product and this can also involve integrations and other technical configurations, such as imports from legacy systems. Onboarding is much more likely to require the intervention of a customer success manager to ensure customers are getting the most out of your product.
Can Customer Onboarding Replace the Training Process?
Although you need both onboarding and training for your SaaS product, there are several reasons why onboarding is superior. Customers need to be immediately welcomed when they sign up for your product, and this process provides the first impression. Customer success managers, in essence, are establishing relationships with new customers.
Training might help customers get more out of your product later down the line, but customer onboarding is the first point of contact. Training can’t happen if the customer isn’t already set up with the appropriate configurations.
Each onboarding experience is unique, and you should tailor it to the needs of the customer. For example, one of the customer’s concerns could be migrating their data, and they’ll need the support of your migration team, which can be facilitated through your customer success manager.
The Benefits of Customer Onboarding
Customer success teams are deeply concerned with customer onboarding because it is the first stage in the journey when customers are actually using the product. To provide the best customer experience, your CS team needs to make it easy for customers to accomplish initial value, which can be done through onboarding.
Without customer onboarding, it’s like entering a room but not being able to find the light switch. Customers came to your product for a reason, but the onboarding curve is not necessarily so intuitive that customers won’t need help. Your customer onboarding can be a combination of automated and manual processes, depending on the size of your team.
The customer onboarding phase can be used as a chance to learn more about your customers and gain insight into what your product can do for them. Tools like Churn360 can be used during onboarding to help keep track of customer health and predict the likelihood of churn. Customer onboarding is made all the easier by the existence of specialized tools, so that each customer success manager can manage more customers.
Customer Onboarding Process Steps
Unlike training, customer onboarding can be thought of as taking place through a series of concrete steps.
1. Finding information
There is a stage in which the customer is prepared for onboarding, which is before they have paid their subscription to your product at all. You might not think this is a part of onboarding but this stage is all about getting customers ready to onboard with your product. You educate your customers with a product demo on your website to get them ready for a sales call.
2. Initial sign on
A customer’s initial sign on is usually after they have signed up for a free trial of your SaaS product which introduces them to your software for the first time. You want to show your customers tours, walkthroughs and guides to familiarize them with the platform.
Activation is when a customer needs to be supported with learning your product and experiencing its first value, which can require the intervention of a customer success manager. It’s all about getting them past any obstacles and having them use their new product successfully.
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4. Aha moments
Customers don’t always experience the value of a SaaS product straight away, and it can take weeks or months of regular usage before the software really comes into its own. Customers now click with your software and consider it part of their daily routine.
Successfully onboarding your customers will lead to long-term retention and a reduced risk of churn. Customers have come to rely on your product and may even be open to cross-sells and upsells.
Customer onboarding and training are both concerned with the success of the product, and as such, they have similar goals. On the one hand, training is optional, while customer onboarding is absolutely essential, and determines the total success or failure of the product.
Customers who undergo unboarding are much more likely to be satisfied with your product and are at a lower risk of churn. When customers are already successfully using your product, you can offer them optional training that can extend their use of the software. It’s important to remember that when customers upgrade to a higher tier, they may need to be onboarded again. Alternatively, your primary user may leave their job role, and their replacement will also need to be onboarded.
Training is not a substitute for effective onboarding but can be used to supplement a thorough onboarding process. You’re waiting for that “lightbulb moment” when customers realize that your software is the exact solution they have been looking for.