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The customer onboarding experience is how you take a new customer from the sales process to delivering what was sold to them. Customer onboarding is one of the most important things that your business does because it signals to your customers whether they’ve made the right decision in working with you. A poor onboarding experience can cost you new customers while a good one can lock in customers for a long time.
What Is Customer Onboarding?
Customer onboarding is the process that a new customer goes through in order to start using a product or service that they’ve agreed to purchase. It covers the entire journey from the moment the sales team convinces them to move forward until they are fully integrated into using what your business has to offer.
A smooth customer onboarding process helps a customer understand your product and how you’ll solve their problems and teaches them how to get the job done. The right process prevents customers from churning due to either not understanding how to use the product or the value they are going to receive from it. While many companies choose to conduct their onboarding manually, it is worth noting that there are many specialized software solutions that can help streamline onboarding for business users.
Why Is Customer Onboarding Important?
The customer onboarding process is important because it solidifies the customer’s beliefs that you are the right company to work with in order to solve their problems. Customers never feel better about your product than they do when the sales team has convinced them to move forward. Once that happens, it’s important to solidify that feeling by providing a smooth and easy transition into using your product and getting the most out of it. The right customer onboarding process will:
- Be easy: No one wants a complicated process or product to use. If it’s too complicated or you don’t simplify it enough for them, then they are more likely to churn.
- Show value: The right customer onboarding process shows the value of the product by enabling customers to see that value firsthand.
- Keep customers engaged: Once the sales team has done its job, it’s important to keep those customers engaged with using the product and wanting to pay for it.
- Be communicative: If customers don’t feel like they can communicate with real team members to get their questions answered or to better understand how to use the product, then they are more likely to churn quickly.
Without a proper customer onboarding process, your sales team could end up working in vain because your customers could churn. Even the easiest-to-use products need a solid customer onboarding process to solidify their relationships with customers who will stick with the product for the long haul.
The Customer Onboarding Process In 8 Steps
The customer onboarding process should help newly acquired customers become familiar with all of the features and capabilities of your product. It’s a shame to lose a customer because they want a specific feature that your product has but they just didn’t know about it. The flow of your onboarding process is going to depend on two key things: your product and the needs of your customers.
You don’t want to create a process and require your onboarding specialists or account managers to stick strictly to the same process for everyone. While it’s important to have an outline that they can go off of and information for your entire product, each customer is unique. Every unique customer is going to progress at their own pace and have different priorities based on the time you can spend with them.
Generally, each customer onboarding process is going to have certain elements that are available to you to use for each customer. Each element helps the customer progress in both their excitement for the product as well as their knowledge of it.
Here is the general process of customer onboarding in eight steps:
1. Automated Welcome Email
The minute that a customer decides to sign up for your product, whether they are signed up by a salesperson on your team or they did it on their own, they should receive a welcome message. This message is just meant to give them immediate validation that they’ve paid for something and provide specifics on the next step in your onboarding process, as well as when they can expect to receive that next step.
2. Customized Greeting
Within 24 hours of the customer signing up, if possible, the new customer should receive a separate greeting message that is customized to them and comes from their onboarding specialist. The message should congratulate and thank the customer for signing up and outline the entire onboarding process that they can expect.
This message should be clear about how to contact the specialist as well as other important details of where they can find any help that they may need. The last thing that the message should have is a way to schedule the first onboarding meeting. This is important because you want to have that meeting scheduled before the customer decides to do too much on their own so that you can help them through any issues.
3. Product Customization and Setup
Within the first few days, an onboarding specialist should not only walk the customer through how to use the product but they should set up any customizations that the customer needs. This gives the customer an immediate idea of what to do to get started and makes the product their own from the beginning instead of them trying to force the generic product into their processes. There will likely be a lot of steps in this process that you should just communicate with the customer from the beginning.
4. Onboarding Tasks
Every new customer should receive onboarding tasks that will help set them up for success. As they complete each of these tasks, they should be able to mark them off to show progress towards being completely onboarded and ready to freely use the product. This gives them a sense of accomplishment, which is a good feeling to be associated with your product.
5. Product Walkthrough or Automated Feature Callouts
As new customers start to navigate through your product, it’s important to show them all of the great features you have to offer. This likely can’t be done on the onboarding calls or during any meetings as there is likely too much to cover for the time the customer has to give to you. However, your product can highlight these features as the new customer starts to navigate around the product, bringing on additional insight without it being forced from your team.
6. Provide a Knowledge Base
Every customer should have access to detailed information that can answer their questions about the product when you’re not available. You can’t possibly be available at all times so it’s important to make sure they can find information and learn more about your product in their own free time, or whenever they decide to start using the product.
When your customers complete a part of the onboarding process or use your product in a new way for the first time, they should be rewarded. This can be done in a number of ways, from just giving them a high-five message that pops up in the product to actually sending them a physical reward they can put on their desks. Make this part specific to your business and culture, and something that lets your customers know they did something right.
8. Scheduled Check-Ins
Every customer onboarding process needs to have regular check-ins scheduled with the onboarding specialist for a minimum of a month. You can make them frequent for a week or two and then hold them less frequently over a 90-day period as well. This is something you will likely have to find the right rhythm for over time as you onboard your customers as everyone’s will be different.
Customer Onboarding Examples
There is no set customer onboarding experience that is going to work across every industry or even for every business within a single industry. Here are a few different brief examples to show how a customer onboarding process can work, regardless of the size of your company or type of product that you offer.
Grammarly is an online tool that checks your spelling and grammar as you write, or in bulk with previously written content. Anyone can sign up for Grammarly online without having to talk to a sales representative, which can make its customer onboarding process a bit difficult. Grammarly, however, lets you onboard at your own pace.
As you start to use Grammarly, you’ll receive tooltips and notifications that show you what you’re seeing from the product and how each feature helps you become a better writer. It’s not invasive and provides a very simple onboarding experience that immediately gives users the ability to get into the product, use the product and understand how the product benefits them.
Duolingo is a tech company that helps users learn a new language. Its onboarding process involves two different processes, a soft onboarding and a more direct onboarding after the full account sign-up. At first, users can just provide answers to a few questions to get access to the first lesson. This enables the company to learn something about the user without slowing down the process.
The app then routinely asks the user if they want to sign up for a full account. Once they sign up, the customer receives regular emails about how to best learn a language and to check in on their progress. Users tell Duolingo how much time they want to dedicate to learning a new language and the app and emails check in to help make sure they stay on pace to keep learning. This helps keep customers using the app.
Slack is a very popular tool that many people use to communicate with their teams or to join interesting communities that they can learn from. Slack is free to start using so its onboarding experience has to be something that doesn’t involve members of its team. Slack has chosen to use intuitive product overlays to call out specific features and to show customers how to use its product from within the product.
When you use Slack for the first time, you’ll get an introduction to what the basics are and how the basic functions of the product can be used. As you continue to use the product, you start to get notifications and more advanced features continue to be introduced over time. The company also provides a knowledge base to refer to, as well as an account manager if you decide to sign up for a business account.
How To Create a Customer Onboarding Strategy in 5 Steps
Creating the right customer onboarding process is going to vary by business but there is a process you can follow to make sure you develop the right onboarding process for your customers. This involves taking a look at your product and really understanding what your customers need.
Here are some general steps you may want to include in your onboarding checklist:
1. Consider How Customers Sign Up
It’s important to understand where your customers are when they decide to sign up for the process. This depends on your sign-up flow and whether they are signing up through your website or app instead of speaking to someone directly. If the customer is signing up during a demo, the onboarding process is going to look drastically different than it would if they fill out a sign-up form online.
2. Create the First Welcome Message
Making sure your customers receive a welcome message is an important step in the onboarding process. This could be anything from an in-app message to an email but it has to be something that engages your customers immediately.
3. Decide How Customers Should First Interact With Your Product
The first interaction with your product is very important, affecting whether your customers will convert long term. If it’s a bad experience, then your customers may churn very quickly. You should make sure they see the value in the product right away.
4. Determine How Customers Will Learn About Product Features
Whether your product interface points out the features or you have a full onboarding meeting to show off the features, your process should include a step-by-step integration process. Your customers should be able to understand what features are available in a natural way that occurs quickly.
5. Outline Process Communication
Make sure you know how customers are going to be communicated with and how you’ll check in on each customer’s progress individually. This is a very important piece of the puzzle to ensure customers do not churn and that they continue to use the product and see the value in the entire offering that you provide.
The rest of the process is going to depend on your business and what your customers need. Make sure you’re flexible enough to identify new ways that you can give your customers what they want so that you avoid churn and help your customers get the value that you’re providing.
Customer onboarding is one of the most important processes you will create at your business. It involves taking a customer from the sales process into becoming a regular customer by helping them understand how to use your product and how your product or service can benefit them. It’s a key step in preventing churn and in locking customers into a sense of long-term loyalty. Of course the onboarding process will vary from business to business, so it’s important to tailor your customer onboarding to your industry, product and customers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How would I onboard a new customer?
The best way to onboard a new customer is going to depend on your business. A software company or a service provider is going to bring widely different processes for onboarding customers. Generally speaking, you can best onboard your customers by providing clear expectations, providing a full step-by-step process and communicating with your customers on their needs throughout the entire process.
Who handles customer onboarding?
Customer onboarding is handled by someone different at every company but most often it is handled by account managers or onboarding specialists who are going to field support inquiries. The larger the business and more complex the product, the more likely it is that your business will need onboarding specialists who specialize in just this practice.
What is a customer onboarding platform?
A customer onboarding platform is a software tool that helps onboard customers efficiently. It provides all of the information and details the customer is going to need in a single place while walking them through each step of the onboarding process. It’s a tool to make it easy to onboard on their own or with help and provides resources to check whenever they are needed.
New Customer Onboarding Checklist
Record the customer's information. Research the customer and their company. Ask all the right questions. Create a custom checklist for the customer. Offer proactive and reactive support.
- Schedule an Onboarding Meeting. ...
- Review Roles and Responsibilities. ...
- Discuss Desired Outcomes. ...
- Anticipate Roadblocks and Plan Ahead. ...
- Ask for Feedback. ...
- Take Notes and Follow Up.
According to Dr. Talya Bauer from the SHRM Foundation, successful onboarding involves proactively covering The Four C's. This stands for compliance, clarification, culture, and connection.What are the first steps in the client onboarding workflow? ›
- Identify customer pains and solutions. ...
- Define big-picture campaign goals. ...
- Agree on mutual deliverables. ...
- Gather details. ...
- Send a welcome packet. ...
- Schedule a discovery call. ...
- Collect information about their internal process. ...
- Ask for the client's definition of success.
These have since evolved into the 5 “C's” of Onboarding: Compliance, Clarification, Confidence, Connection, and Culture.What are the 6 C's onboarding? ›
The 6 C's are: Compliance, Clarification, Confidence, Connection, Culture, and Checkback. This framework will help you create an onboarding process that sets your new hires up for success and helps your organization retain top talent.What is the key to successful onboarding? ›
- Create a Process. ...
- Take a Multimodal Approach. ...
- Seek and Incorporate Feedback. ...
- Give a Realistic Idea of the Job. ...
- Set a Comfortable Pace. ...
- Explain the Jargon and Culture. ...
- Get Involved.
- Set clear expectations around your agency and what will be delivered. ...
- Design and send a client onboarding questionnaire. ...
- Create a service level agreement (SLA) ...
- Host a project kickoff meeting. ...
- Schedule a post-kickoff internal meeting. ...
- Plan routine follow-ups.
- Customer churn.
- Low feature adoption.
- Not understanding how customers interact with onboarding.
- Treating all your customers the same.
- Slow onboarding process.
- Overloaded customer support teams.
The onboarding flow is the sequence of steps that new or existing users take when they open your product. An example of a flow includes a welcome page, two informational splash screens, and a login and registration page. The mobile app onboarding flow can differ from the flow on a desktop.
- Onboarding Key 1: Connection. Interpersonal relationships are vital to new employees. ...
- Onboarding Key 2: Culture. Every organization has a unique culture. ...
- Onboarding Key 3: Communication. Communication can be a sticking point at any level of an organization.
Phase 1: Pre-Onboarding. Phase 2: Welcoming New Hires. Phase 3: Job-Specific Training. Phase 4: Ease of Transition to the New Hire's New Role.What is the first step in onboarding? ›
1. Prepare for the new employee. A great way to prime your team for the new hire is to do a little pre-onboarding. Send your new employee an email they can voluntarily readand to let them know you're excited to welcome them to the team, and provide a brief overview of how their first day will go.What is another word for onboarding? ›
Also known as organizational socialization, onboarding is an important part of helping employees understand their new position and job requirements.What is a SWOT analysis for onboarding? ›
The purpose of a SWOT analysis in the business planning process is to make sure you've identified all the possible strengths , weaknesses , opportunities and threats to your business. The new hire onboarding process should be no different. Some aspects of the SWOT analysis are designed to act upon.How do you write an onboarding checklist? ›
The onboarding checklist should include the recruitment process, new employee orientation, introduction of all aspects of the role to the employee, job training, goal-setting, introduction to company culture, meeting other employees and a serve as a guide to help the new hire get adjusted quickly and become a ...What makes a strong onboarding process? ›
The five Cs of employee onboarding can make new hires feel welcome, valued and comfortable at their new jobs. These include compliance, clarification, confidence, connection and culture. Companies that incorporate them tend to enjoy greater onboarding success than those that do not.How do you structure onboarding? ›
- Assess the needs of the role. ...
- Separate the checklist into sections. ...
- Create a checklist of pre-hire items. ...
- Determine the tasks for their first day. ...
- Designate responsibilities for their first week. ...
- Check in with them after their first month.
In general terms, your onboarding program should have the following goals or objectives: Help new employee learn the company's mission, vision, strategic goals, and priorities. Help new employee understand performance expectations for new job. Help new employee reach those performance expectations.What is the fundamental goal of onboarding? ›
Onboarding helps the new hire identify and understand their specific roles and responsibilities within the organization.
Customer onboarding is the first stage of the customer journey once they begin using a product or service. This stage of the customer journey often defines their relationship with a product or brand. It is vital to make this experience as positive as possible.What is an example of customer onboarding process? ›
Examples of customer onboarding processes
Live and animated tutorials and walk-throughs. Surveys to understand how your customer plans to use your solution. Automated welcome emails. Automated check ins.
A good onboarding process will: Keep your customers engaged. Helping them clearly understand and experience the value they'll get from your product will mean they start using it successfully, but more importantly, it'll give them a reason to log back in and use your product again and again. Improve trial conversions.What is the problem in customer onboarding? ›
FAQs about customer onboarding challenges
Although there are many different customer onboarding challenges businesses face, some of the most common are: Customer churn. Low feature adoption. Not understanding how customers interact with onboarding.
There are three keys to a successful strategic onboarding program: people, culture, and milestones and tasks. A consistent, and repeatable onboarding process requires few adjustments and benefits all stakeholders involved. Plus, you're more prepared to set your new hire up for long-term success.