The art of first experiences: How to design a great onboarding experience
One of my previous articles described four phases of an example customer lifecycle using your product or service. This topic deserves much more attention. In four articles, I will discuss each of the phases separately and give you some tips and advice that you can pay attention to when designing user experiences.
Today’s article will be devoted to the first, and by many, considered the essential phase of customer introduction to the company, commonly known as onboarding.
Experiences of the first steps
As you already know from the previous article, onboarding is the first moment the CS team has contact with the client. Most often, it starts when the customer makes a purchase. Still, especially in the high-touch model, CSM can participate in pre-sales activities, where he has already had the opportunity to meet the customer. The first days or weeks of a new customer’s relationship with your business are crucial. It is an opportunity to set expectations, build trust and create the basis for long and fruitful cooperation. Creating a unique go-to-market experience that leaves a lasting impression is essential.
From my experience, you should focus on a few areas that will turn these first contacts into a great experience that will allow you to build a long-term relationship with the client and give you a solid foundation for later work.
Define goals and expectations
The first step, preferably with the client, is defining goals and expectations. I encourage you to take the form of a Success Plan, but any other format will also work for you. The customer must always know what benefits he derives from using your product. Even the best relationships and atmosphere will not help if the customer does not see the value and effects of using your solution. Setting goals will also help you determine which product elements are most important to the customer and where to focus your attention. When defining goals, the Customer Journey is instrumental. Thanks to it, you can see what interactions and when the client enters with you, what you can do to speed up some stages, and where your additional commitment will be required.
Establish a personal relationship
You represent the company and your team, but each client wants to feel individual treatment. I realise that it is difficult to do in low-touch models with hundreds or thousands of customers, but at the very end, you talk to customers, and they will remember you. Design a unique customer introduction; there may be a better form than just email. Introduce the team that will be responsible for the success of users. According to research conducted by Motista, a customer emotionally connected to the brand will have a 306% higher Lifetime Value (LTV), stay with the brand longer (5.1 years vs 3.4 years) and will be much more likely to recommend it (71% vs 45%).
I described it in detail in the article about implementing the Omnichannel strategy. One crucial element in creating an exceptional experience is clear and consistent communication. Customers must know what to expect at each implementation stage and the next steps. Communicating with customers clearly and understandably is essential, avoiding complex technical language. It is also worth ensuring consistent communication across all channels, including email, chat, phone and social media platforms.
Diversify sources of knowledge
Only sometimes the CS team will be available. Providing learning resources is another critical component of a unique implementation experience. Customers will need support in better understanding the product or service to take full advantage of it. It is worth using different channels so that everyone can find something for themselves. Some examples of learning resources you can use are:
Video tutorials (solutions such as Loom, and if you are looking for something cost-free, you can record animated gifs)
Tutorials built into the product (e.g. Pendo solution can be used)
Knowledge Base Articles
Webinars or live training sessions (or recordings of those sessions available for playback)
Documentation (e.g. whitepapers) and case studies
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback
Feedback is a tremendous support for both you and the product team. You can use feedback to suggest changes in the product and analyse which functionalities work well and which need improvement. Such information will allow you to identify the client’s problems, and a good CS will conclude them. New functionalities are only sometimes required to address them! Sometimes an additional training session or sending documentation can solve the problem, but you will only know about it if you ask for feedback.
Good metrics, a measure of success
I would only be myself if I mentioned the metrics you can measure your work. I’ve written a separate article if you want to know more about a particular piece. Now I’ll be sure to give you some examples I use that should work great for you.
Time to activation: How long can customers fully activate and start using your product or service?
NPS (Net Promoter Score): How likely will your customers recommend your business to others?
Churn rate: How many customers stop using your product or service during the onboarding process
Customer satisfaction (CSAT): How satisfied are your customers with onboarding?
Conversion rate: How many customers convert from trial or onboarding to paying customers?
The Final Word
For me, onboarding is the most critical stage in the entire life cycle. These first days and weeks can decide how long users will stay with us and whether they will want to expand to open up to more products of our company. An excellent summary will be a quote from the HubSpot blog.
Onboarding in SaaS is about helping customers achieve the desired results with the product. It is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that evolves with customers’ needs and goals.
Below are some suggestions for books and additional articles for those who want to dive deeper into the subject:
“Customer Success: How innovative companies are reducing churn and growing recurring revenue”, Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman, Lincoln Murphy. The book offers a comprehensive guide to customer success, including best introduction, maintenance, and growth practices.
Article “10 SaaS Onboarding Best Practices for Customer Success” HubSpot. The article discusses the importance of onboarding in the SaaS industry and outlines ten best practices to follow to succeed
“Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions” Donna Weber. A book that guides designing and implementing effective onboarding programs for new clients.