Customer Onboarding Guide: Examples and Best Practices

Customer onboarding guide

The most effective way to create profitable, long-term customers for any SaaS business is to successfully guide them through an effective onboarding process. Successfully onboarded customers will remain customers for longer, cost less to support, and are more likely to increase their spending over time. 

To give a clearer idea, we pointed out a few good examples of customer onboarding guides. 

It’s definitely not easy to build and execute a world-class onboarding process, making it flow with zero friction when required and yet requiring some effort from the customer at other times to ensure the right amount of value accrues at the right points in the process.

In this guide, we will show you how to build an onboarding program to ensure your customer achieves their desired outcomes, referring to some real-world examples along the way.  

What is Customer Onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the process of guiding and assisting a newly acquired client to familiarize them with your platform or service. It is a crucial phase that follows a user’s decision to purchase or subscribe to your service, and its main aim is to ensure a smooth transition from acquisition to an active and engaged user.

Why is Customer Onboarding Important?

When thinking about a customer onboarding workflow process design, you should keep two key objectives in mind: ensuring a customer’s ease of usage and a positive experience that will, hopefully, lead to customer satisfaction and retention. Here’s why customer onboarding matters in SaaS:

  • Complexity of SaaS Products
    • SaaS platforms usually have various complex functionalities and features. Effective onboarding should guide users through the given complexities and help them understand how the software works in the shortest time possible to grasp its value quickly.
  • Recurring Payments
    • SaaS operates on subscription models where recurring payments are vital. If onboarding is successful and the users are satisfied, they will most likely renew their subscription plans. This means only one – reduced churn!
  • Time-to-Value
    • Time-to-Value (TTV) is the time it takes your customers to extract value from your platform. They expect quick results, and if you ensure they have them, you automatically shorten their TTV and motivate them to continue using the software.
  • Ongoing Engagement
    • Successful onboarding nurtures continuous engagement. Satisfied users will keep exploring advanced features, which can lead to upselling opportunities.
  • Data Collection
    • The best way to know what your users want is to gather their data. Onboarding not only gives you that opportunity but also aids in product improvement and customization based on the user’s feedback and behavior. (Here is the information on how often Akita syncs data)
  • Competitive Edge
    • Customer loyalty proves that your product is worthy. Superior onboarding will help you create a base of loyal customers who are willing to share their positive experiences with others.
  • Brand Advocacy
    • Related to our previous point, brand advocacy is an important benefit of customer onboarding for SaaS, as satisfied customers will influence others to give your software a chance. This can lead to more conversions and increased market share.
  • Customer Lifetime Value and Revenue Growth
    • Your long-term relationships drive revenue growth, as successful onboarding contributes to higher customer lifetime value (total revenue generated from a customer over the entire course of their relationship with your company).
Trophy, target and a checklist on books

Examples and Best Practices for Onboarding New Customers

Like with everything else in the SaaS realm, customer onboarding demands a strategic approach for the best results. Here are some of the best customer onboarding process examples and practices designed specifically for SaaS customer onboarding:

  • Slack
    • Slack has one of the best customer onboarding examples thanks to its guided setup, concise yet engaging tutorials, and an interactive bot that offers tips and answers questions during the setup. It encourages users to stay engaged by offering a comprehensive resource library and options to start a conversion within the platform. 
  • HubSpot
    • Another successful customer onboarding example comes from HubSpot. They tailor onboarding based on well-defined user profiles and offer them tools and features that they are especially interested in. HubSpot offers various free online certifications and courses that help users understand the platform and derive value from it. 
  • Canva
    • Canva comes with one of the most compelling customer onboarding guide examples, as it encourages users to explore design templates, modify them along the way, and learn how to navigate the platform in an interactive and creative way. Canva’s tutorials on new features are short and clear, which helps users understand their functionalities better and faster. Also, Canva provides access to Design School, which is a resource with various courses and tutorials for users to improve their design skills. 

Now, let’s see the best practices for successful SaaS onboarding:

  1. Customized and concise onboarding
    • Design onboarding pathways based on user personas, focusing on their specific needs, objectives, and preferences. To reduce complexity and friction and speed up the time-to-value, make sure to streamline initial setup processes.
  2. Proper introduction of your software’s valuable features
    • The first step is to welcome your users properly and introduce them to your business. Then, make sure to emphasize the most valuable features that can be easily adopted and understood and align with customers’ objectives. Guide users toward achieving immediate results using your software to keep them active and engaged. 
  3. Guided training
    • Provide interactive tutorials, demos, and guided tours to instruct and educate your users on how to use the software properly and easily. By introducing all the core and later additional features progressively, you are avoiding users feeling overwhelmed by building upon foundational knowledge.
  4. Knowledge bases
    • Offer comprehensive documentation and knowledge bases for self-help. Besides written materials, you can include visual learning resources to cover diverse learning preferences.
  5. Proactive guidance and support
    • Include in-app guidance to assist users as they navigate the platform, and make sure to send targeted notifications or emails to guide them through specific actions or features. To understand your customers better and create a tailored approach for each of them, you should perform customer segmentation. This is how you will segment your customers into different cohorts based on their behavior and take certain actions that fit the group’s needs. 
    • With customer success platforms like Akita, you can streamline your customer data into one place and remain informed about their status, health, and profiles at all times. Segment your customers based on their similar traits and/or combine data like sales activities, chat data, support tickets, etc. You can apply the triggered Akita playbook or intervene manually when the metrics show that a certain user needs some extra attention.
  6. Customer feedback loop
    • Collect and analyze feedback from your customers, and then act on the insights. This is how you’ll understand how they perceive your platform and if there are any pinpoints that need to be addressed to improve the onboarding process.
  7. Onboarding flow optimization
    • Use analytics to understand customer behavior, optimize onboarding flows based on the data, and don’t hesitate to experiment with various onboarding approaches to identify the most effective strategies.
  8. Success milestones
    • Set clear milestones for the users to achieve that indicate that the onboarding has been successfully completed. Make sure to celebrate their achievements within the product to encourage prolonged engagement.
  9. Post-onboarding support
    • Don’t forget to offer ongoing webinars, resources, and advanced training for users to keep them engaged and improve their usage proficiency. Finally, ensure easy access for post-onboarding needs and queries.

What’s the Goal of Your Customer Onboarding Process?

By now, you’ve probably understood the importance of a well-organized onboarding process and its practices, but let’s see what the main objectives of onboarding for SaaS are.

One of the key objectives of onboarding is to enable product adoption by getting customers comfortable with using your product. By welcoming your customers properly and guiding them smoothly through each onboarding phase, you are ensuring customer satisfaction that establishes trust and a sense of accomplishment. When aligning the onboarding process with customer objectives, you are facilitating their success using your software. This all brings us to the vital aspects needed for business growth and sustainability – customer loyalty and higher retention!

Can Customer Success Platforms (CSPs) like Akita Help with Onboarding?

Yes!

CSPs like Akita have the ability to query all of your key customer data and track customer behaviour to understand how a customer’s onboarding experience is progressing. They are also designed to automate activity to directly manage the onboarding process, both assigning tasks to your onboarding team and messaging customers to advise them of progress and next steps.

Below, you can see a customer segment in Akita, configured to show how a specific cohort of customers is doing with respect to their onboarding, i.e., 

  • Customers whose contract started less than a month ago
  • Not classified as being onboarded

The selected columns show:

  • The exact start date
  • Customer login rates
  • Whether specific onboarding goals have been achieved and 
  • The CSMs intuitive feeling about the account
Onboarding guide (Screenshots from Akita)
Onboarding guide (Screenshots from Akita)

Customer Onboarding Guide — Conclusion

In the complex world of customer onboarding, this guide and examples can serve as a compass to an exceptional user experience. Use Akita to segment your customers and emphasize personalization. This is how you can provide clear guidance, continually improve your service, if necessary, and transform your onboarding into a cornerstone of lasting relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you personalize the onboarding experience for customers?

As personalized onboarding involves understanding customer needs, make sure to segment your customers based on personas and tailor the onboarding journey to address their specific needs!

How do you encourage customers to stay engaged during the onboarding process?

Include interactive tutorials, community participation, and pathways for users to explore features.

What metrics should a company track to measure onboarding success?

Key metrics include TTV, adoption and user adoption rates, customer satisfaction scores, feature utilization, and retention rates for the post-onboarding phase.

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