Why You Must Make Customer Onboarding a Top Priority

Good customer onboarding can dramatically improve customer retention and satisfaction. It’s about making it easier for customers to use your product.

Daniel Ternyak
January 29, 2023

As the saying goes, "You only get one chance to make a first impression."

It's one thing to convince a prospect to sign up for a SaaS trial. It's quite another to provide a quality onboarding experience that reduces frustration and churn. Customer onboarding must be a top priority for any business aiming to turn new customers into a lasting base of loyal clients.

For many customers, onboarding is the part of the customer journey where they decide if your company truly lives up to its promises. Quality onboarding can dramatically improve customer retention and satisfaction.

Client onboarding is all about reducing friction a new client might experience as they start to use your product or service. By taking steps to ease the transition for new users, you will improve the overall customer experience and make them far more likely to stay with you long-term.

What Is Customer Onboarding?

customer onboarding: Smiling woman waving her hand during a video conference

Customer onboarding is a series of processes that help guide new customers as they start to use your product or service. In fact, research from Wyzowl reveals that 63% of customers look at the level of onboarding support they would receive after purchase as an important part of their buying decision.

Whether you offer financial services, a CRM tool, or automation of warehouse tracking, it takes time for first-time users to adapt to your SaaS tools. 

Customer onboarding proactively offers support during this initial phase to address pain points and questions that might come up as they start using your services. This way, you can head off potential frustrations before they happen. It’s also how your team helps new clients understand how to get the most out of your software. 

Successful customer onboarding leads to a healthy ongoing relationship with your clients. While follow-up support may sometimes be needed, the client will, for the most part, be able to get by without additional help. Strong customer onboarding will reduce churn and lighten the load on your customer service team.

Quality support during the initial onboarding phase ultimately leads to a better customer relationship that greatly increases the lifetime value of each client. In many cases, a strong customer onboarding strategy will even help you gain more referrals from your existing clients.

How to Develop an Effective Customer Onboarding Process

customer onboarding: Smiling man wearing a headset while looking at his monitor

Customer onboarding strategies are usually defined as either "high touch" or "low touch," depending on the complexity of your product or service and the needs of your customers.

Regardless of the specific strategies you use, you should always start by knowing your customers and establishing clear expectations before they sign up or place an order. When you know your customers and clearly communicate what your business offers, they will be far more likely to have a positive experience.

Low-Touch Strategies

Low-touch onboarding is best for products or services that don't require extensive explanations or tutorials. A low-touch strategy can be almost entirely automated. Common low-touch strategies include:

  • A welcome email: This email is sent automatically after a customer begins their software trial. It may offer basic instructions on how to set up an account and start using the software or direct the customer to additional resources.
  • Online knowledge base: A knowledge base serves as an easily searchable resource covering common user questions. An effective knowledge base should provide in-depth tutorials and explanations for different software features. This could also include webinars or videos.
  • Customer success stories: Case studies can further illustrate the usefulness of your product or service. Providing access to these materials as part of a digital knowledge base can help clients better understand your software's use cases.

Netflix offers a great example of successful low-touch onboarding. A welcome message takes users to the website or app, where a series of questions about their viewing preferences allows for rapid setup of a customized interface. Slack is another good example, as it uses a chatbot to walk users through account setup and provide a virtual "tour" of the app.

High-Touch Strategies

High-touch strategies involve more contact between the customer and your support team. These strategies are most often used for software that is more complicated or needs to be uniquely configured for each customer. A more involved customer onboarding process is usually necessary when you need to collect additional data from the client, link with third-party software, or when service delivery occurs in multiple phases.

High-touch strategies will typically include many of the elements in a low-touch strategy but go deeper to enhance user onboarding. For example, rather than directing new clients to an online tutorial, your welcome email could encourage them to schedule a meeting with an onboarding specialist. During this meeting, your staff would provide step-by-step instructions to help clients get their software up and running.

For high touch onboarding, live support is crucial. Your team should be readily available across multiple contact channels — email, phone, video chat, and so on. Some clients may benefit from follow-up calls to check how things are going and address any issues.

During these conversations, staff should continue to highlight features and benefits that address the client's pain points. Making your software truly useful will convert trial subscriptions into lasting customers.

How to Measure the Success of Your Onboarding Experience

Teammates having a meeting

The end goal of customer onboarding is to reduce customer churn and increase client satisfaction. No surprise, then, that research has shown that improving the onboarding process can have a direct impact on your bottom line. However, this is just one method for measuring onboarding success.

One metric for success is how much time it takes customers to get through the onboarding process. Another is how quickly your team responds to questions and complaints. Ideally, your team should be constantly improving their support options so customers move through this process quicker. This is especially true when offering free trials of SaaS software, as you typically only get revenue after onboarding is complete.

By tracking a customer's progress and engagement inside your software (including how they use your onboarding materials), you can identify weaknesses in your processes. For example, if customers frequently need to call for support even after reading a knowledge base article, the tutorial in question likely needs to be adjusted.

Finally, remember that customer onboarding is an ongoing process. Each time you introduce a new product or feature, you will need to help new and existing customers learn how to use it. App or email notifications can alert users to such changes so they can continue to make the most of your software.

Improve the Customer Onboarding Experience With ServiceBell

Smiling woman using her laptop

If you need help improving your customer onboarding process, check out ServiceBell, live video chat integration. This tool gives you powerful customer support functionality that helps clients at any stage of their onboarding journey.

Speaking with a living, breathing person dramatically improves the user experience by helping provide personalized, insightful, and accurate information in real time. You can watch customer satisfaction go up while your churn rate drops. 

Sign up for a free trial today and see for yourself how video chat can help you transform the customer onboarding experience for your team.