How do you go about designing a great customer onboarding process from scratch?
In this guide, we’ll break down everything about customer onboarding. Plus, we’ll include examples and actionable insights to help you create a solid onboarding strategy that retains customers.
Customer onboarding is the process of helping new users become familiar with your product or services, through a series of interactions. It starts before a user signs up for your product and continues after they do — until they fully adopt your product.
Having a solid customer onboarding process is great for creating an engaging experience that contextualizes new features for end users. It includes, but is not limited to, things like emails, walk-throughs, tutorials, guides, and videos.
The customer’s first experience with your business will influence whether they come back or jump ship. If those initial interactions are positive, customers will be more likely to purchase again and recommend your company to others.
Here are a few other reasons why customer onboarding is a big deal for SaaS businesses:
Effective customer onboarding can increase your business revenue. In fact, research found that 84% of companies working to improve customer experience saw an increase in revenue. This is because when users have a great experience, they tend to stick around and become paying customers.
A good customer onboarding process keeps your customers engaged and helps them quickly experience the value of your product. Ultimately, this improves your customer success.
When people are happy with their first interaction with your product, they are more likely to keep engaging with it for the long term. A poor experience can cause them to jump ship and churn out before making any meaningful commitments.
Customer onboarding provides new customers with helpful information and resources to ensure they’re able to use your product to its fullest potential with minimal hassles.
It increases product adoption rate by making it easier for customers to understand how they can benefit from using your product.
A good onboarding experience will lower churn rate by clearing out friction points and providing a smooth user experience.
Customer onboarding gives you a chance to build relationships with every new customer before they have any reason to complain or churn. In the long run, it increases customer tolerance and reduces frustration.
Good onboarding gives you a competitive edge in the market. It helps people understand your business better, and gives them a reason to choose your product again.
The goal of customer onboarding is to teach new users how to use your product and show them its value. In other words, the endgame of customer onboarding is to retain more customers.
Ultimately, an effective onboarding process increases customer satisfaction, which increases revenue, retention, and referrals.
Before building your onboarding flow, it’s important to first create an onboarding strategy. Every great plan starts with a solid strategy, and the same holds true for your customer onboarding process.
You need to define your goals and what onboarding means to your business. Answer questions like:
After defining your goals, the next step is to create a plan and follow a process.
As discussed earlier, great customer onboarding can help your business retain customers, increase sales, and gain more positive reviews.
However, designing a customer onboarding process can be tricky. Below, we’ll go over some steps you can take to create a successful onboarding process.
The sign-up page is the first step in onboarding customers. It’s where users give their information in exchange for an account and a trial of your product.
The signup page should be designed with conversion in mind; it must explain what you’re selling, provide value upfront, and state clearly why people should buy from you.
Leverage social proof on your sign-up page. Display testimonials from existing customers using and achieving their goals with your product. This way, you establish credibility even before a new user tries your product.
In addition, don’t request credit card info or payment upfront. Focus on delivering value first, then, the customer can choose to pay for your product.
The sign-up page should be designed with the following best practices in mind:
Buffer, a social media toolkit for small businesses, uses a simple sign-up page to admit new users to their products without wearing them out. The registration process is so simple and frictionless that anyone can get to the UI in less than 5 mins.
Every button on the form is labeled appropriately for any user to understand where to click. They also make sign-up easier by including a “keep me signed in” button, which saves the users’ details and makes signing in more seamless.
Notion’s sign-up page carries one form field requesting an email only. It’s short, straightforward, and sets an expectation from the start.
Notion takes its sign-up a step further by providing relevant single sign-on options like Google and Apple so that users can create a new account with their existing credentials.
After a user sign-ups, the next step is to send a personalized email welcoming them and providing more information about your product. This is your chance to humanize your product, engage your users, and build a customer relationship.
Use welcome emails to get users excited about your tool, set customer expectations, and highlight the benefits that differentiate your product in the market.
The best welcome emails are personal enough to feel like a conversation between friends rather than a sales pitch. It’s all about telling people what they want to know to help them make informed decisions down the line.
Slack’s welcome email hits a personalized note right from the start. They focus on delivering value to the user with a minimalistic design and friendly copy that’s super easy to read.
Slack’s welcome email provides useful tips for getting started right away. It also provides two sets of CTAs; one to open the Slack app, and two, to see more tips on how you can start using the app.
From the start, Harvest’s welcome email sounds like it’s coming from a real human person, celebrating their friend. The tone is friendly but quickly sells the benefits of using Harvest.
Next, they remind you of the key info for your login details, followed by a clear CTA to help you sign in and continue using the product. Plus, they present a set of next steps to help you use the tool to its max potential.
If ever you get stuck, you can always click on the CTA, which takes you to the help center where you can talk to the customer care representatives.
A customer onboarding survey is a great way to gather feedback about your new user’s interest in your product. Ideally, this comes right after they have signed up and put forward specific questions to assess the customer’s goals.
Use onboarding surveys to collect more data about the new user, what they do, and how they intend to use your product. Gather this data and act on it to provide an experience that caters to the user’s needs.
Copyai uses its onboarding survey as an extension of its signup form. The onboarding survey is used to gather more information about the user, what they do, and how they heard about the product.
Data gathered here can be used to help the company discover its most functional marketing channel and where it can improve.
Canva’s onboarding survey is short, and straightforward and aims to segment users according to their product goals. The onboarding survey is fun, colorful, and graphical with icons that represent each user segment.
To save time, they divided user segments into six categories that fit their user personas. When the user chooses the best category that describes them, Canva uses their choice to recommend suitable design templates, thereby, personalizing their experience.
A welcome screen is a type of splash screen that appears when users first launch your app. On this screen, you can make little gestures like greeting them, introducing yourself, and letting them know what to expect in the long run.
You can also provide useful information, such as tips and tricks, or just be a way to brand your app and make it more memorable.
in-app message to welcome new users on the welcome screen: Here, you will make little gestures like greeting them, introducing yourself, and letting them know what to expect in the long run.
Slack’s welcome screen is focused on one end goal: to welcome users. They start with a big, bold headline but quickly switch to the product’s benefits and unique value proposition in the subtext.
The microcopy on this page convinces users and reminds them of why they chose Slack in the first place. This is followed by a CTA that takes the user directly into the product.
Asana’s welcome screen is a great example of how a welcome page can be fun while conveying an important message. It comes up right after the sign-up process to welcome new users.
The copy is brief; instead of long text, they show the product’s use cases with colorful illustrations.
An empty state is a blank screen that a new user encounters the first time they log in to your app. This screen contains no information or data whatsoever and often leaves users confused about what to do next.
Utilize blank states by filling them with educational content. For example, add videos to educate users on what to do next. You can also include tooltips or modals to provide the right help when users need it.
Notion combines learning and showcasing its product on its empty screen. Rather than leaving users confused about what to do next, they fill their empty state with checklists and onboarding videos to walk users through the tool’s basic functions.
PandaDoc takes a similar approach to utilizing their empty state like Notion. But instead of educational content, they include design templates in different categories so users can choose the best-suited one and get started immediately.
An interactive walkthrough is a guided tour that allows users to learn about your product as they interact with it.
Through these interactive demonstrations, you can teach users about your product without boring them with feature jargon, irrelevant onboarding steps, and long product tours.
Interactive walkthroughs can be created in a variety of ways, including:
Airtable’s tooltips strategically guides the user to discover product features while showcasing the product in use. Notice how the tooltip covers only a small portion of the screen?
Tooltips should be intrusive and triggered at the right time.
After successfully onboarding your customers, don’t leave them on their own. Provide in-app help to improve the in-app support experience and help them solve issues faster.
You can also create a knowledge base hub to continue educating your customers about your product. So when they need help, they can always refer back to the existing content to solve their issues faster.
In this section, let’s discuss the best practices for designing an effective customer onboarding process:
The first step in creating a seamless onboarding experience is understanding your users. That includes who they are, their needs, motivations, and behavior. You can’t simply throw a UI together and expect it to work for everyone.
The best way to know your users is to create a user persona. Put simply, a user persona is a visual representation of a fictional character that represents your target audience.
Pressing questions that surround building a user persona include:
Gather these insights about your users and put them to work in your UX design. Use them as a point of reference to predict your user’s behavior and identify possible areas of friction in their user experience.
As soon as you have developed your user personas, the next step is to segment each type of user to tailor their experience to their specific needs. By definition, segmentation is the process of grouping your users according to similar characteristics.
Segmentation is critical to customer onboarding; it helps you create targeted messaging for the right user, at the right time. Plus, it prepares you to anticipate your customer’s varied needs in each segment.
You can segment users in-app based on their behavior, demographics, or buying characteristics. For example, Convertkit segments its new users into two groups: people who are starting from scratch and other users moving from a competitor tool. Customers transferring from a competitor’s tool get quick access to the tool.
Your customer onboarding process should be designed to get your customers on the right path to the “Aha moment”.
The “Aha moment” is the moment a customer finally discovers the value of your product. But it’s not just a moment; it’s an entire experience that helps people understand how to use your product and why it’s valuable.
Drive users to the “aha!” moment faster with the help of UI patterns. For example, use tooltips to guide users and show them where to go.
Onboarding videos also work great to show new users around and help them get value from your product.
The most annoying thing during onboarding is feeling stuck. And when new users feel stuck or frustrated, they jump ship.
Try to pinpoint areas where new users are getting stuck. Is your sign-up page too long? Or is your copy hard to understand? Every little thing matters.
Don’t overwhelm new users with too much information at once; instead, break up tasks into smaller chunks that users can complete faster. A progress bar works great for this. Here’s an example from Airtable.
Create an onboarding flow that encourages users to share their thoughts on how they feel about the product. By asking for user feedback, you open up a channel to see into your user’s thoughts and feelings about their experience.
Trigger in-app surveys at various touchpoints throughout their journey with your brand. For example, if someone signs up for a free trial, ask them if they’ve had any problems along the way.
Create in-app guides like tooltips, hotspots, or checklists to guide new users through the onboarding process. Don’t assume users will understand your product as you do.
The beauty of in-app guides is that they drive users toward key milestones and features in your product, without roaming your entire UI.
Keep your guides concise and simple so that they don’t distract from the main purpose of the guide: helping users do what they came for in the first place.
One of the best ways to learn what’s working when onboarding new customers is to run A/B testing.
A/B testing is a tool that allows you to compare different versions of your website or app and see which one is more appealing to visitors. You can test different content or different forms of communication with your existing customers, for example, and see which ones perform better.
The best way to know if your customer onboarding is successful is by tracking key metrics. Metrics are quantitative measurements or indicators used to help you gauge performance and identify areas where you need to improve your customer onboarding.
Here are some key metrics for measuring customer onboarding success:
The best way to manage customer onboarding is by using a tool that helps you automate the process. There are many tools out there that can help you manage your customer onboarding process. But what makes them so great?
Let’s take a look at some of the best tools for managing customer onboarding:
Churn360 is an all-in-one tool for building an amazing onboarding experience without coding. This means you can focus on building an amazing onboarding experience even without a big budget.
With Churn360, you can:
Churn360 can help you with your user onboarding by:
Chameleon is a tool that helps you manage customer onboarding and engagement. It empowers teams to capture and share their data, tracks their progress, and gives them access to a dashboard of key metrics related to their customers’ journeys.
The tool provides real-time access to insights about every step in a customer’s journey, from account creation to activation, till they become paid users. Chameleon combines machine learning with data from your other tools like Salesforce and JotForm to provide actionable insights for each step of the customer lifecycle.
Userpilot is a user onboarding software for creating and managing your user onboarding experiences. It offers a number of features that enable you to create a seamless user experience and increase the effectiveness of your onboarding process.
With customer onboarding, you have the ability to build a strong relationship with your customers and allow them to experience the full potential of your product.
When you have a great customer onboarding strategy, you’re able to take your business to the next level and increase sales and profits.
Want to get started building amazing onboarding experiences? Book a demo and get started today!