7 min read

Customer Onboarding Process

Customer Onboarding Process

When most people think about the challenges of building a business, they picture the difficulty of acquiring customers, the stress of keeping the books, or the prospect of hiring good people—the kind with excellent training and without sticky fingers.

Unfortunately, many (if not most) folks are missing one of the biggest burdens SaaS companies face today: churn.

Churn is the rate at which existing or new customers stop paying for your service. They either fail to renew or quit during the contract period. It’s essentially the opposite of customer success or retention, and for most businesses, it’s the main thing undercutting their bottom line and ability to increase profits.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right approach to your customer onboarding process, you can ensure a higher success rate when using your software, resulting in greater retention and more profits for you.

To create that awesome onboarding experience, you must first understand what it is and why it’s essential. To that end, this post will guide you through the seven customer onboarding process steps and several critical ways to improve your customer onboarding strategy. Lastly, we’ll look at how you can put training automation to work for you today.

Ready to stop churning and start growing faster than ever before? Read on.

Customer Onboarding Process

What Is Customer Onboarding?

Most people have heard of employee onboarding, which is the process of bringing new users into your system for the first time. You give them a walkthrough of the features, demonstrate desktop and in-app functionality, and help them increase their knowledge base quickly to execute their job description successfully.

It’s not much different from the customer journey. In that case, your initial goal is to meet customer needs quickly by giving a product tour and then answering their FAQs.

However, onboarding shouldn’t stop there. Just as you wouldn’t stop training an employee after Day One, you shouldn’t abandon customers to their fate simply because you’ve gotten them in the door and offered that initial look-see. Actual customer retention only results from support over the entire customer lifecycle.

This is especially true for B2B SaaS.

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Why Is Customer Onboarding Especially Important for B2B SaaS?

Without a customer success team to guide step-by-step user onboarding, you’ll likely lose people sooner rather than later. And the customer onboarding experience is even more critical for SaaS companies that serve B2B customers than for other businesses.

Why? Because your new clients are composed of teams of people rather than individuals (as in the B2C model). That means it only takes one frustrated person to result in customer churn, potentially losing dozens or even hundreds of formerly happy customers.

If you offer software as a service, you must therefore take special care with user onboarding, from kickoff through the entire lifespan of your client’s workflow using your system. The second you fail to meet their pain points, that’s the second they start considering other options.

Hence, remote training is a fundamental aspect of reducing churn – perhaps the most important one of all. Even if you have an excellent, scalable set of modules that guides the user through your system, however, that’s still not enough. You must prepare to stay by their side forever, from the first moment they become your customer.

Top 7 Customer Onboarding Process Steps

First impressions are everything. At every stage of the onboarding process, you have one chance to show your users how important they are to you and how important your product is to them.

In other words, you’ve got to get onboarding right the first time. Here are seven steps to make sure you do.

Customer Onboarding

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself

You can’t help people if you don’t know who they are or what they want. The ideal user experience comes from building detailed personas on which all team members are trained. These should include aspects such as:

  • What integrations do they need? (LinkedIn, Google, et cetera?)

  • How many team members does the client have?

  • What will successful onboarding need to accomplish to help them see improvement in their KPIs right out of the gate?

… and anything else that distinguishes this user from your others. Anyone working with customers must know these personas inside and out to succeed.

Step 2: Setup the Kickoff Call

Your onboarding program should always start with a kickoff call or, if appropriate, an in-person meeting. This is where you share the tailored plan you’ve built for them – either from scratch or based on a template. Allow them to ask questions, set expectations for the success they can expect in a certain period, and tell them what happens next.

Step 3: Guide Customers Through Login, Product Walkthroughs, and First Steps

So, what happens next? The guided login, product walkthrough, and first steps. Using the phone or email, tell customers exactly how to get into your system, set up a new password, and find their dashboard. From there, walk through the main features they’ll need to know and have them complete some basic tasks.

It can help to let prospects set up an account before they even pay for your product. Allow them to interact either during a free trial or on a limited, unpaid basis. That way, you’re training leads before they even become customers.

Step 4: Introduce New Features Slowly

As they build faculty with your product, slowly add more features through your onboarding tool. Help them set up notifications if they want (but don’t automatically turn those on in the first place). From there, gently introduce some use cases, and add more tutorials as they master a previous skill.

Step 5: Use Email to Stay in Touch

After your welcome email, you want to continue with follow-up messages through automation. Place a check-in touchpoint at regular intervals, whether that’s through social media, a customer support call, or a follow-up email.

Step 6: Mark Milestones Along the Way

The best customer training platforms share metrics and milestones with the successful customer. That way, they can see your product’s or CRM’s value without looking for it. Whether you do this through email, pop-up, or another medium, this helps to increase customer satisfaction and generate more loyal customers.

Step 7: Encourage Loyalty and Make Advocacy Easy

It’s easy to think that, by this point, customers are “done” with being onboarded and learning about your product. But you're missing out if you haven’t taught them the best ways to talk about your product to other people.

Make advocacy easy by clearly stating the benefits of your customer loyalty program, offering rewards for bringing new people in the door, and giving people templates for promoting your product on social media or other channels.

onboarding customer success

Ways to Improve Your Customer Onboarding Experience

If you want to increase your average customer lifetime value (CLV), it’s time to put your onboarding checklist in place with the following tips today. That way, you can turn every otherwise-lukewarm customer into an active promoter of your product or service. It’s like turning a user into a member of your sales team, helping to expand the customer base of SaaS companies.

1. Ensure You Have the Right Customer Success Manager

No one can replace a customer success manager for churn-slaying power. Their entire raison d'être is to bridge the all-too-frequent gap between the customer’s purchase of your product and their active use of it. With a customer success manager on board, you can ensure that people get what they need to keep coming back.

That’s assuming you have the right manager, of course. The ideal candidate will possess customer success experience, have knowledge of training internal teams, and understand your company's full thousand-foot view of customer onboarding.

2. Set Clear Expectations Upfront

As mentioned above, setting expectations is critical. The best product walkthrough and tutorials in the world won’t save your bacon if your customer doesn’t feel you’re coming through on your guarantees.

If you want to lower your churn rate, make sure the onboarding journey reflects the promises made in the sales process from the first login. Help your B2B customers set realistic KPIs for:

  • Training time
  • Customer acquisition
  • Revenue growth

… and any other metrics that matter to them.

3. Make Sure Your Product's Value Shines Through

How much perceived product value you offer may determine how quickly you grow and how stable your income is. Not only does perceived value reduce customer churn – because they believe in what they’re getting from you – it leads to more effective word-of-mouth marketing, and it’s hard to understate that importance.

According to Nielsen, “88 percent of global respondents trust recommendations from people they know more than any other channel. Moreover, 50 percent more people trust recommendations than lesser-ranked channels like online banner ads, mobile ads, SMS messages, and SEO ads.”

And according to RR Donnelley, “word of mouth has a higher research-to-purchase ratio (40 percent) than social media (30 percent), online/digital ads (27 percent) or print ads (16 percent).”

The same source says not even influencers can compare to that: “While 82 percent of marketers believe influencers drive consumer purchases, the reality is that just over a quarter (26 percent) of consumers say that influencers make them more likely to purchase new products or services.”

So whatever else you do in your onboarding, make sure you’re always highlighting how you can serve your customer. Show how much you offer both within the customer’s current plan and with cross-sells and upsells, always teaching them how to find success while working with you.

4. Use Data to Measure Success

Of course, you have to find ways to measure that success. That’s where your KPIs come in.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • How many customers do we need each month to grow despite churn?

  • What kind of revenue growth do we need this year?

  • What are our current churn rates, and what would we like them to be?

  • How many customers log in every day?

  • How many customers renew or expand their plans?

  • What ratio of purchasing is due to new versus current customers?

  • What KPIs do you expect your customer success manager to meet?

  • What are your timeframes?

… and so forth. Then share that data with marketing, sales, and customer support to ensure everyone’s on the same page. And make sure to, whatever else you do, automate.

Accelerate Your User Onboarding With Training Automation

And the final step in creating a fantastic onboarding experience? Accelerate the onboarding process – and unload a lot of unpleasant tasks simultaneously – when you automate training.

Many businesses still think that customer training relies on one-to-one or instructor-led training, but that’s not the case. Not only is this hard to scale, but it also requires a lot of human capital. Your real, live people are better put to use elsewhere, working on their core competencies.

Instead, you need automated training that relies on the academy model, naturally leading your users through their learning experience and rewarding them. Certificates and awards, coupled with immediate valuable knowledge, help them feel the value of your product in every task.

Are you curious about how to save time, reduce financial waste, and make your customers happier simultaneously? That’s where user onboarding with training automation comes in, and the Raven360 team would love to tell you all about it. Check out our website or request a demo today!

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