Customer Onboarding: From First Impression to Lifelong Loyalty
July 3, 2023
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Imagine this: implementing a single process that enables 68 percent of your customers to use your product or service more effectively, 56 percent to use more of the features and functionality, and 87 percent to use your product or service more independently, with fewer calls to customer support.
That’s precisely what a strong customer onboarding process can do for your organization. Not surprisingly, increased product adoption drives higher retention, revenue, and profit.
But creating an effective customer onboarding process isn’t always easy. You must ensure you have the right resources and training to provide the maximum benefit for your customers.
Discover how to create a customer onboarding program that helps users adopt your product quickly and keeps them around for years to come.
In this post:
What is customer onboarding?
Customer onboarding is the process of getting new customers set up with your product or service.
For example, when it comes to software, user onboarding includes:
- Setting up logins
- Configuring the software to meet the customer’s needs, including setting up dashboards and reporting
- Helping the customer teams understand how to use the software in their day-to-day work
- Showcasing advanced capabilities of the platform
- Setting up and testing key integrations
- Answering questions as they arise
Implementation of onboarding activities can be done in several different ways. For companies with fewer customers, there might be an individual customer success representative assigned to each customer. However, as you scale, moving to a one-to-many customer education process makes sense
It’s essential that onboarding deliver early wins for your customers. Onboarding expert Donna Weber, in an interview with Grit Daily, points out that the majority of customers will abandon a product or service within 90 days if they don’t see the value of the solution.
Customer onboarding example
Qualified is a pipeline generation platform for revenue teams that use Salesforce. They needed to create and implement a better customer onboarding and education process quickly—the initial goal was to be live in less than 30 days.
To accomplish this, Qualified needed an easy-to-use platform to create their customer academy, Qualified University, and WorkRamp’s Customer Learning Cloud was a perfect fit. Qualified was able to scale customer education and train customers in an engaging way.
They found that trained customers were more than 2x as likely to renew and were more effective at using the platform to grow their pipeline.
Why is customer onboarding important?
Investing in customer onboarding drives significant results for your business. It can help reduce customer churn, increase revenue and profitability, and serve more customers without significantly increasing your headcount.
Better adoption rates
Customers start to see the value of your product or service after implementation, so it’s vital to encourage and help them consistently use the solution. Low levels of adoption indicate a risk that the customer will not renew and may be looking to consider a competitor.
Fortunately, the right customer onboarding process can help increase post-purchase adoption and show the buyer the value of your solution. The better customers use your product or service, the more benefits they’ll see. Those benefits will help increase customer loyalty and retention, which improves your bottom line.
Lower customer churn
In Donna Weber’s interview with Grit Daily, she notes that more than half of customer churn is related to poor onboarding and customer service, costing companies an incredible $136 billion per year.
The best way to lower churn is to focus on the first 90 days a customer is with you—help them set up your solution, customize it for their needs, and begin using it regularly. From there, help customers see the additional value by providing ongoing customer education on advanced features that can make your buyers’ lives even easier.
Improved customer satisfaction
When someone buys your product or service, it’s because they think they will get value from it— and the sooner, the better. An excellent onboarding process delivers on that promise.
Customer onboarding should be proactive rather than reactive. You don’t want to wait until a customer has a problem to interact with them.
Instead, help them implement your product or service, showcase the improved efficiencies and results, and help them access advanced features that can bring even more value.
Why does this matter? Even after a purchase, buyers are questioning their decision. When you provide onboarding that helps them immediately experience value, it reinforces their purchase decision.
An excellent onboarding process makes customers more effective at using your product or service, dramatically increasing customer satisfaction. This not only improves the likelihood of renewal but makes the customer an advocate who recommends your product or service to others.
Creating an excellent onboarding experience improves your organization’s revenue in multiple ways. Onboarding directly impacts customer retention, which is a significant predictor of revenue, profitability, and business growth.
On top of that, you’ll have lower customer acquisition costs because satisfied customers will recommend you to others, which gives you free marketing. You won’t have to pay as much to build your brand presence because your happy customers will be helping to create that atmosphere both online and in person.
“We want customers to market for us; they should be shouting from the rooftops about our product. Customer education is a type of marketing we can’t pay for. Your program can drive product adoption and build awareness.”
–Tony Vaughn, Former Customer Education Director, Qualified
Finally, 63 percent of customers say the onboarding process is critical to subscribing to a product or service, and 74 percent of potential customers will choose a different solution if they feel the onboarding process will be too complicated.
Having a reputation for an easy and helpful onboarding process will help you win more customers.
What is the customer onboarding process?
How do you design a best-in-class customer onboarding experience?
By using the best practices that many companies have found successful, you can empower your customers to succeed and show them immediate value as they implement your solution.
Signing up (closing the deal)
The first step in onboarding is getting the customer signed up after they buy your product or service. This includes signing up for a free trial if you offer one—the customer experience during the trial should be designed to turn them into a paying customer.
The onboarding process starts with a clear transition from the sales rep to the customer care team. Once that introduction is made and the customer success team understands why the user bought your product or service, you can begin helping them see the value of your solution.
Best practices for this stage include:
- Ensuring the customer knows who their internal contact(s) are and how to quickly and easily reach them
- Making the sign-up process quick and easy
- Staying focused on the emotions behind the buying decision to reinforce their good decision and avoid buyer’s remorse
The welcome comes directly from the customer success team after the handoff. It should start by thanking the customer for their purchase and reinforcing the value of your product or service.
This can be an automated email or an intro call, and it should encourage the customer to take the next step—setting up their account and starting to use your product or service.
If there’s any delay in the customer activating their account, be sure to follow up quickly. You can offer quick-start guides or a brief Zoom call to help them get started. If there’s a concern, your team can answer questions and address objections by reminding them of the problems they’re trying to solve and why your product is the best solution.
Best practices for welcome outreach include:
- Highlighting the specific benefits of your product or service that will help the customer solve their pressing problem
- Sharing resources to help them get started
- A clear call to action and/or button to take them directly to the product or service so they can get started
- Continuing to focus on the emotions behind the buying decision to avoid buyer’s remorse
First use of the product or service
Now it’s time for the rubber to meet the road—the customer will start using the product or service to address the business problem they’re facing.
You can simplify this by offering an embedded tutorial, get-started guide, or easy-to-understand migration process. This should also include instructions on using various integrations that are important to the customer.
Best practices for the first-use include:
- Making it clear what steps they should take to get started—no guessing!
- Creating a quick win upfront to reinforce the value of your solution
- Having a clear step-by-step pathway that the customer follows to fully integrate your solution into their business workflow
- Breaking things into small steps so the customer doesn’t feel overwhelmed
New customer education
Once the buyer is up and running with your product, it’s time to leverage your customer education resources.
You can create a new user course and additional advanced training that lets buyers get additional value from your product or service once they’re comfortable with the basics.
Matillion was using live customer training but found that this approach couldn’t scale to match its growth. Instead, they used WorkRamp to create a customer academy, which resulted in over 5,000-course completions in two years.
Best practices for new customer education include:
- Having a platform that makes it easy to create engaging, scalable training
- Creating more quick wins as they go through the implementation process
- Providing support if customers get stuck
- Breaking the training into smaller pieces (microlearning) to make it less overwhelming (and so that users can skip what they don’t need)
- Making it easy to start and stop training and save progress so users can learn when it’s most convenient for them
Create customer certifications for advanced training
Certifications incentivize your customers to learn more and get more value from your product or service. They can also help customers see your product’s additional benefits and use cases.
Customer certifications can come with badges for users to proudly display on their website or social media, which helps boost awareness and makes customers advocates for your brand.
Best practices for customer certifications include:
- Having the certification cater to a variety of learning styles
- Focusing content around the features and benefits customers find most valuable
- Including a clear reward for finishing
- Keeping modules short and making it easy for users to start and stop the training as needed
Additional best practices for a great customer onboarding experience
Beyond the tips we’ve shared, there are also some customer onboarding best practices.
These will help you create a high-quality onboarding experience for new customers to decrease churn, increase revenue, and attract new users.
Choose the right onboarding software
Your onboarding process will go more smoothly if you use the right platform.
WorkRamp offers an all-in-one solution that allows you to easily create and scale customer education, employee onboarding, learning and development, sales enablement, and partner education.
The right foundation for onboarding will make everything else much easier and save you significant time and money.
Provide a clear customer path through onboarding
No one likes being confused or feeling lost, especially new customers. A clear path through the onboarding process is essential, whether a checklist, an automated setup wizard, or a series of emails helping the customer get started step-by-step.
If your customers feel uncertain about how to start using your solution, they may reach out for help or abandon your product or service in favor of something easier.
Use personalized automation
Automated processes are an important part of scaling your onboarding system but can’t be one-size-fits-all. Instead, make sure you tailor something like a welcome email series to fit your customers’ needs.
For example, you might segment your new customer lists based on the feature they’re most likely to benefit from and then have the welcome emails focus on that value and other related features.
Never lose track of the buying emotion
While sales reps are often excellent at honing in on customer problems and presenting your solution, customer success employees often focus on implementation, and the customer can start to wonder if they made the right decision.
Unfortunately, losing touch with the emotion behind the sale can mean losing the customer to buyer’s remorse.
Ensure that your customer success team (and any automated onboarding communication) consistently point to the reasons and emotions underlying the purchase and reinforce the buyer’s decision.
Offer training that caters to a variety of learning styles
When you create new customer training and certification programs, make sure you address a variety of learning styles. This will help to make training more engaging and effective.
Having an online learning platform that combines written text, audio, video, quizzes, and step-by-step walkthroughs can help you engage learners and keep things fun while showcasing the value of your product or service.
Measure customer onboarding success
Finally, it’s vital to measure the success of your customer onboarding program. Keep track of how many customers begin and complete each step. If you notice a drop-off at a certain point, work to create a more seamless transition and incentivize the customer to take that step.
Customer feedback will help you pinpoint where your onboarding process is working well and where it can be improved. You can also correlate customer onboarding with business results, including customer retention, improved recurring revenue, repeat business, and more, to showcase the benefit it has for your organization.
Improve customer onboarding with the Learning Cloud
Laying the right foundation for customer onboarding can help you get better results while saving time and money. The Learning Cloud can help you create engaging training courses and increase product adoption.
An all-in-one LMS allows you to have a first-class onboarding program and improve your learning and development, new hire training, sales enablement, and partner education.
Ready to get started? Contact us to schedule a free, personalized demo.
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Anna SpoonerWorkRamp Contributor
Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action.
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