Customer Onboarding 101: How to Master It


ultimate guide to customer onboarding

“A customer bought your product or subscribed to your service.” 

Getting this good news every day, multiple times is what every business person strives for. 

A common perception around customers is – the more customers you acquire, the higher profit you clock. 

But that’s not true. It’s the acquired customers you are able to retain who bring the most profit. 

With some customers coming in and others going out, you are trapped in a vicious circle and going nowhere. 

While it is not possible for every customer to stick to your business, if a large number of customers leave as quickly as they come, it is a matter of worry that you cannot afford to ignore. 

The trick to retain customers and turn them into brand loyals is customer onboarding – a process of helping customers use your products successfully and making them feel valued from the start. 

Dive in to learn about customer onboarding, explore its benefits and best practices, and learn how to deliver a memorable onboarding experience. 

Let’s get started. 

What Is Customer Onboarding? 

Customer onboarding refers to the process of getting new customers acquainted with the products and services you offer. It defines how your offerings work and how customers can derive the most value from them.

Onboarding is a crucial first step in customers’ journey right after they sign up or purchase your product. At this point, customers barely know your business. Making the most of this time to give customers an incredible first-time experience is vital. It sets the right tone for all subsequent interactions. 

Customer onboarding involves introducing customers to your business and teaching them to use your products. It also includes endless guidance and support, step-by-step tutorials, and milestone celebrations every time a customer gets success by using your solutions. 

Why Customer Onboarding Matters? 

The importance of customer onboarding cannot be stressed enough. 

Over 55% of customers return a product because they don’t completely understand how to use it. 

Lack of a proper onboarding process that educates customers, solves their problems, and guides them on the right path, is clearly the culprit. 

How vital is it to keep your customers happy? That’s just how crucial it is to provide them with exceptional onboarding. 

Here are some substantial benefits that successful onboarding provides: 

On the flip side, an inadequate onboarding process can be costly for your business. Some problems that a poorly managed onboarding can cause are:

  • Negative reviews from unhappy customers 
  • No access to customer feedback that delays product or service improvements 
  • Loss of the trust you have built in the process of winning customers 
  • Customer churn rates increase, which means less revenue for your business

Formulating a customer-focused onboarding strategy is the solution. Such a strategy brings you on the right path to achieve your top goal – customer delight. 

Let’s learn the essentials of creating a customer onboarding strategy. 

How to Create a Pragmatic Customer Onboarding Strategy

You have a goal. But you need an actionable plan to achieve it. That’s why a customer onboarding strategy is essential. 

With a proper strategy, you run the risk of ineffective onboarding that doesn’t deliver the intended results. 

Follow these simple steps to create a powerful strategy and get it in action. 

1. Set Specific Goals

With a clear goal, there is a high chance of your onboarding process going off track. When you focus on something, you know the steps that will take you there. You can plan things accordingly, which further increases the likelihood of success. 

It helps you channelize your efforts in the right direction and achieve maximum success. 

While setting goals, ensure that they are SMART: 

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time-bound

Stick to this criteria as it will make both achieving goals and measuring results easier for you. Work on your onboarding goals and delight customers with aha moments early in their journey.

2. Get the Right Team on Board

For successful customer onboarding, it’s important to assign the task to the right team. A single person can handle onboarding if yours is a small business, but you will need a full-fledged team if you are a SaaS business dealing in complex products. 

SaaS customer onboarding has various components. Some of them are: 

  • Designing the content 
  • Deciding the channels of support 
  • Conducting training sessions 
  • Managing relationships with customers 
  • Adopting the right support tools

Your customer success team must have complete clarity on your goals and the process to achieve them. While adding members to the team, ensure that they are: 

  • Experienced in handling customers
  • Comfortable using support tools 
  • Proficient in client communication
  • Well-versed with the basics of onboarding

A team with the right skills and knowledge is better positioned to onboard customers and leave a lasting impression.

3. Determine the Onboarding Process

How do you want onboarding to occur – through self-service, product walkthroughs, emails, or a high-touch model where dedicated agents onboard customers? 

The onboarding process depends on how you want things to take shape and the level of involvement you want from the support team. 

For example, the self-service model is designed for no-touch onboarding. Customers can self-learn at their convenience and progress at a pace they want. This model works great for B2C companies having a large number of customers. It is also a good option if you don’t want to spend a lot on onboarding. 

On the other hand, low-touch models like emails and chat support are good for products that are a bit complex in nature but not to the level that requires in-person support. If you want to provide extremely personalized onboarding, a high-touch model where support agents intervene and provide solutions tailored to customers’ needs is recommended.

4. Measure the Success

Once the process ends, create a system that helps you measure the success of your onboarding. Tracking customer onboarding metrics like: 

  • How much time customers took to fully onboard 
  • The product features and functions that caused frustration 
  • Rate of product or service upgrades 
  • Level of customer engagement. Find whether customers are taking the defined actions and routes to achieve success with your products.  
  • Customer churn rate 
  • NPS scores. These are perfect for gauging customer loyalty towards your brand. 

Tap into this data to measure the onboarding’s impact and accordingly refine the process for superior results.

5. Stay in Touch With Customers 

Onboarding is not just limited to 30, 60, or 90 days. It’s an ongoing process that requires constant communication. Customers should get the support they need even long after formal onboarding has been completed. 

Eventually, onboarding is all about educating customers and supporting them every step of the way, from the first interaction to subsequent ones. 

Approach them for feedback and learn about their pain points. Share surveys to determine what’s bothering them and let them know that they matter to you now as much as when you first acquired them. 

Leading Best Practices for Impeccable Customer Onboarding

For a solid onboarding experience, the onboarding process should be carried out effectively. It should be carefully designed, incorporating various aspects such as emails, product tutorials, in-app messages, and more to deliver an impeccable experience. 

These tried and tested best practices can turn your customer onboarding from mediocre to miraculous. Try them out.

1. Understand Your Customers to the Core

Create buyer personas and get a complete grasp of your target audience. Learn about their preferences, purchase or subscription history, buying behavior, past issues, and more to gain a holistic understanding of your customers. 

Find out a few basic things about them: 

  • What are they looking for? 
  • The problems they are experiencing
  • The risks they are facing
  • Reasons behind churning, and more. 

Get a hold of this critical data and tailor the customer onboarding experience.

2. Set the Expectations Right

You don’t want customers to expect something that you cannot deliver. Being practical and reasonable is recommended as it ensures that customers are not disappointed when lofty or unreal expectations are not met. 

Customers create expectations even before they purchase from you. When these expectations are not met, they leave in disappointment. Avoid such situations by setting the right expectations from the very beginning. 

Your marketing campaigns have conveyed the value your product provides but once customers come on board, reiterate that value so that they know what to expect. Convey the bottlenecks they might face and the best ways to resolve them. Also, explain how your team will be supporting them when issues go out of control.

3. Send New Customers a Welcome Email

The first interaction you have with new customers should start and end on a positive note. As such, you can send them a welcome email featuring information such as:

  • A congratulatory message for making a purchase or joining your client list 
  • A thank you message for opting to buy from you 
  • A note of delight to inform them how happy you are for having them onboard  
  • A mention of what your product will help them achieve

Grammarly is an excellent customer onboarding example of companies that send a simple but sweet welcome email to new customers.

Grammarly welcome onboarding message

Also, to connect with new customers emotionally, you will have to personalize your welcome email. Companies that rock customer onboarding develop email templates personalized to individual customers’ needs and matching their personalities.

Here is a sample personalized welcome email below:

Hi, George,

Congratulations on joining our customer list! Welcome to CustomMade.

We are thrilled to have you onboard and are excited to help you achieve your goals. We are eager to help you create your first email marketing campaign.

Sign in, pick your preferred email template, and start sending emails today! 

If you need help, don’t worry. We are here to walk you through every step.

[Sign In Now]

Joy, Customer Support Representative, CustomMade

You can also use videos to wow new customers during the welcome stage. This option rides on the premise that most customers want video content more often.

Though creating videos takes time, businesses can opt to use personalized videos for each new client. If you use videos to welcome clients, ensure that they contain critical information about your business and convey your team’s dedication to supporting customers.

4. Gather Customer Data

Gathering critical customer data is an integral part of the onboarding process because, with such information, you are able to measure success. The process of collecting customer data should kick off immediately once the welcome email has been sent.

There are several methods that you can use to gather customer data. These include online surveys and inbuilt tools and technology. When using surveys, ensure that they capture meaningful information required to engage customers in the next stages.

Modern survey tools help you create and launch customer satisfaction surveys, scored and in-app surveys, polls, and others. Collecting and analyzing feedback is a breeze with such tools. 

Learn how you can create beautiful surveys with ProProfs Survey Maker in this video.

5. Place an In-App Message 

Greet customers using in-app messages when they first log in to their account or start using your product. Guide them on the initial few steps and help them proceed with confidence. To effectively nurture new customers, it is advisable that you only ask customers to do one thing at a time.

For an impactful in-app greeting, try to add a video to the message. It makes things much easier for your new customers, helping them get familiar with your brand and products in less time. 

Stylehive has done a great job at it. Its super simple in-app message is a hit among its customers. It helps buyers find discounts, coupons and guides them on how various other things.

In-app help widgets for customer onboarding

6. Create Product Tutorials

Tutorials are a tremendous source of learning for new employees. They instruct new customers on how to use your products and realize the results they desire. For instance, a business that sells software products can create a tutorial to guide users through the set-up or installation process.

In the same way, a company that sells equipment can create tutorials showing customers how to set up the equipment. Product tutorials should outline the step-by-step process in a precise manner. They should be brief and easy to understand. 

Mint is one of the companies that has nailed the art of creating product tutorials. Its money management application has developed a step-by-step process that enables new customers to sign up and start managing their money with ease. Look at its product tutorial process for new customers below:

Product Tutorials for Customer Onboarding Source: Neil Patel

7. Provide Top-Notch Support 

Customer onboarding is about supporting new customers, so they get acquainted with your offerings and start achieving value from them in less time. 

Most customers prefer to resolve their issues by themselves or have the brand they buy from address those issues. Different customers have different requirements. While some prefer the empowering and convenient self-service route, others like to have little or complete human assistance. 

An ideal approach is to deliver a 360-degree experience that considers self-service-loving customers and those who prefer human assistance. You can create a customer support portal with knowledge base software, install live chat on your website or even use a help desk to help customers raise tickets for unresolved issues.

Let’s learn how these help in creating the best user onboarding experience. 

✅ Customer Support Knowledge Base

It is a self-service help center comprising valuable information customers need to successfully use your product or services. The portal helps them stay updated and resolve issues independently, without seeking help from your support staff. Implementing a knowledge base can bolster your customer onboarding by: 

  • Empowering customers to resolve issues by themselves. 
  • Providing round the clock support to customers 

Read More: Effective Tips to Promote Your Self-Service Platform Among Customers

✅ Live Chat

Customers like to self-serve but only till the time it doesn’t get frustrating. They need quick additional assistance, especially when self-service doesn’t work or when they face a complex issue. That’s where live chat software comes in.  It enables customers to chat directly with your support staff and get prompt answers. 

If you have a chatbot, it acts as a cherry on top. The experience gets much better. When it comes to customer onboarding, live chat can elevate the experience by:

  • Providing personalized support to customers  
  • Addressing customer issues within seconds of submitting queries. This means customers are not kept waiting for long hours for their problems to be solved 
  • Facilitating 24×7 access to support

Watch this video to learn everything about live chat.

✅ Ticketing System

Some customers prefer to use different communication channels such as emails, calls, or social media to seek help from the brands they follow or buy from. With a ticketing system, customers can raise a ticket and get quick solutions for the issues they confront. 

You can manage these requests at one central location using a ticketing tool. Bring all your customer questions on a single platform and allow your support team to work on them together. 

A ticketing system can improve customer onboarding by: 

  • Managing all tickets at a central location and ensuring that no customer issue falls through the cracks.  
  • Routing tickets to relevant divisions for fast resolution 
  • Help teams collaborate and close tickets faster.

Employe all three – a self-service knowledge base, live chat, and help desk, in your customer onboarding process flow and let the magic happen.

8. Create Interactive Product Walk-Throughs

An essential aspect of the customer onboarding process is to help new customers learn how to use your product and derive real value from it. What can be a better way to do this than let customers learn to use the product on their own. 

Interactive walkthroughs appear as customers complete one task and proceed further. They show them how to accomplish the next step. These walkthroughs will have contextual help in the form of tips, directing users in the right direction.

Walkthroughs are great if you want customers to learn by doing. 

Read More: A Step-by-step Guide to Provide Exceptional Customer Support

9. Customer Check-Ins and Celebrations

During the onboarding process, check on new customers to see the progress they have made, the areas they are getting stuck in, and whether they are heading in the right direction.  Make them feel that you are concerned about their progress and extend help as and when needed.  

When they accomplish milestones, celebrate their wins. Acknowledge the fact they are one step closer to achieve their goals. You can do that by sending them regular congratulatory emails, calls, or in-app notifications. 

Customer Onboarding Checklist – Welcome New Customers With Confidence

As you acquire more customers, you will have to onboard them too. Creating a customer onboarding process can be cumbersome, and some things might slip through the cracks. 

This checklist highlights the top few things you should keep in mind to give your customers a warm and welcoming experience. 

  1. Create automated email triggers to welcome customers
  2. Share follow-up emails to check up on your new customers
  3. Build a self-service portal for seamless onboarding
  4. Employe tools like live chat and help desk to deliver a 360-degree support experience
  5. Use a generous number of videos in all the support solutions you provide
  6. Make the onboarding process skippable. Some of your new customers might have used a similar product in the past. 
  7. Deliver 24×7 support
  8. Share surveys to capture customer feedback and improve the onboarding experience

It’s finally time to see customer onboarding in action. 

Top 5 Customer Onboarding Examples

Let’s look at the five brands that are nailing customer onboarding, giving their patrons a one-of-a-kind experience.

1. Netflix

Netflix users need little instruction on how to navigate the platform and get what they need. The OTT platform is already user-friendly. On top of that, its seamless onboarding makes the customer experience unbeatable.  

Strong CTAs and a complete walkthrough of how to set up an account and make the most of Netflix provide users heightened convenience. Users can also personalize what they want to see, and once their home page is set, they don’t need guidance anymore since the portal is extremely simple to use.

Netflix

Source: Netflix

2. Slack

Slack takes the ‘learn by doing’ approach when it comes to customer onboarding. On signing up to Slack, the Slack bot shows new users the steps they should take to use the platform. The process is such that users can learn and execute the steps simultaneously. 

Slack customer onboarding exampleSource: Slack

3. Canva

Think personalized onboarding, and Canva takes the first spot. It first asks its users how they want to use the platform and then directs them to a tutorial that teaches them exactly what they want to do. This gives its users a personalized onboarding experience that’s tailored to their goals.

Canva Customer onboarding exampleSource: Canva

4. Zapier

Zapier is known for its customer-first approach. Its onboarding process is quite comprehensive, including regular follow-up emails, help documentation, CTAs, videos, and much more. The all-in-one system of giving customers everything they need proves immensely helpful in onboarding. 

Zapier Customer onboarding process exampleSource: Zapier

5. Pinterest

Pinterest is one of the best user onboarding examples. As soon as new users sign up, they are shown a range of categories to choose from. Once they select their favorite topics, Pinterest shows them targeted content based on their interests. Besides, Pinterest encourages its users to try its other features like – saving a pin for later and getting its mobile application. 

Pinterest Customer onboarding exampleSource: Pinterest

Turn Your Customers Into Brand Loyals

You don’t win when you acquire a new customer. You win when the same customer stays with you for a long, long time. Because that proves the customer’s loyalty to your brand and your loyalty to him or her. A mutually-benefiting long-term relationship. 

Without loyal customers, your business stands on sand. It can break anytime, without your realizing it. 

Customer onboarding is critical to customer success and retention. The more special they feel since the start, the more they start trusting you, and the longer they stick to your brand. Onboarding provides you the golden opportunity to know your customers and give them the experience of a lifetime. 

For a successful onboarding, remember to set the right expectations, give a warm welcome to new customers, provide support via walkthroughs and in-app messages, and most importantly, deliver an around-the-clock support experience. 

Master customer onboarding to turn first-time customers into repeat buyers and brand loyals.

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About the author

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and Apruve. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted. You can catch up with Brayn on Twitter and LinkedIn.