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Customer Onboarding: Why It Matters, Best Practices, and Examples
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Transform Your Gmail Into A Helpdesk

Customer Onboarding: Why It Matters, Best Practices, and Examples

Feb 07, 2024
    |    
10 min read
    |    
Hiver HQ
Ronia Reji

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Acquiring new customers for any business is no easy feat, especially considering the highly competitive business landscape.

Adding to this challenge is the fact that the very first interaction a user has with your brand or product decides whether or not your hard won customer will continue to thrive within the ecosystem of your business.

This is where the importance of an effective customer onboarding process comes in.

Customer onboarding is a crucial part of the user journey. It goes beyond the initial sale and helps customers unlock the value of your product or service. If done right, it can also turn your customers into loyal and enthusiastic advocates for your brand.

In this comprehensive guide, we go into detail about the importance of customer onboarding. We also cover:

  • The customer onboarding checklist
  • Best practices in customer onboarding
  • Examples of effective customer onboarding
  • How to measure the success of your customer onboarding
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Table of Contents

What is Customer Onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the process by which a company or organization introduces and integrates new customers or users into their products, services, or systems. It is a critical phase in the customer journey that aims to ensure a smooth and positive transition from the initial acquisition or purchase to becoming an engaged and satisfied customer. 

Customer onboarding involves getting customers oriented to your product or service, educating them to leverage your solution to its maximum potential and deriving value from their purchases. It also involves delivering timely support to ensure all customer queries are resolved promptly.

You Might Also Like: Customer Onboarding in SaaS: Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Why is Customer Onboarding Important?

Customer onboarding is important for a number of reasons. Here are some of them.

  • First Impressions: It sets the tone for the entire customer experience. A smooth and positive onboarding process leaves a lasting impression, making customers feel valued and confident in their choice of product or service.
  • Maximizing Value: Onboarding helps customers understand how to use the product or service effectively, ensuring they can derive maximum value from it. When customers experience value early on, they are more likely to remain engaged and continue using the offering.
  • Reducing Churn: Effective onboarding can significantly reduce customer churn rates. By addressing early frustrations and helping customers overcome initial hurdles, it decreases the likelihood of customers canceling or discontinuing their relationship with the company.
  • Customer Satisfaction: When customers receive adequate support and guidance during onboarding, they are more likely to be satisfied with their purchase. This improves customer loyalty and increases word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Product Adoption: Onboarding accelerates the adoption of new features or updates, ensuring that customers are aware of and comfortable using the latest capabilities. This can lead to increased usage and potentially higher revenue for the company.
  • Cross-Selling and Upselling: It provides opportunities to introduce customers to additional features or higher-tier offerings, increasing revenue potential. An effective onboarding process can help identify and promote relevant upsell opportunities.

The Customer Onboarding Checklist

Creating a customer onboarding checklist is a crucial step to ensure a smooth and effective onboarding process. While the specific items on the checklist may vary depending on your industry and business, here’s a general customer onboarding checklist to get you started:

Pre-Onboarding:

  1. Define Goals: Clearly outline the objectives and expected outcomes of the onboarding process.
  2. Assign Responsibilities: Designate team members responsible for different aspects of the onboarding process, including customer support, training, and documentation.
  3. Gather Customer Information: Collect relevant customer information, such as contact details, preferences, and purchase history.
  4. Set Expectations: Communicate what customers can expect during the onboarding process, including timelines and key milestones.

Onboarding Process:

  1. Welcome Email or Call: Send a personalized welcome email or make a phone call to greet the customer and provide initial instructions.
  2. User Account Setup: If applicable, guide customers through the process of setting up their accounts or profiles.
  3. Product or Service Orientation: Provide an overview of the product or service, highlighting key features and benefits.
  4. Training and Tutorials: Offer training sessions, video tutorials, or written guides to help customers learn how to use the product effectively.
  5. Technical Support: Ensure that customers have access to technical support or a helpdesk for assistance with any issues or questions.
  6. Customization: If applicable, assist customers in customizing the product or service to meet their specific needs.
  7. Data Migration: If relevant, help customers migrate their data or information from previous systems to your platform.
  8. Feedback Collection: Encourage customers to provide feedback on their onboarding experience and the product/service itself.

Post-Onboarding:

  1. Follow-Up Communication: Schedule follow-up emails or calls to check in on customers’ progress and address any concerns.
  2. Advanced Training: Offer advanced training sessions or resources for customers who want to explore more advanced features.
  3. Cross-Selling/Upselling: Identify opportunities to introduce additional products or services that may benefit the customer.
  4. Monitoring and Measurement: Continuously track customer engagement, adoption rates, and feedback to gauge the success of the onboarding process.
  5. Documentation: Maintain updated documentation and resources, such as FAQs and user guides, for ongoing customer reference.

Best Practices to Follow When Onboarding New Customers

Implementing best practices for customer onboarding is essential to ensuring a smooth and successful transition for your customers. Here are some key best practices to consider.

1. Offer Multiple Communication Channels

Provide various channels for customer support and assistance, such as live chat, email, phone support, or in-app messaging, to accommodate different customer preferences.

For instance, Hiver, a powerful help desk allows your account managers to engage with customers across multiple channels such as email, live chat, WhatsApp, and phone. This way you can cater to the diverse communication preferences of your customer base, making them more comfortable and engaged during the onboarding process.

Hiver's Interface
Hiver’s Interface

2. Understand Your Customer’s Journey

Map out the customer’s journey from the moment they express interest in your product or service to their first successful use and beyond. This allows businesses to tailor the onboarding experience to the individual needs, preferences, and pain points of each customer. Personalized onboarding is more engaging and effective, as it aligns with the customer’s unique context.

For instance, let’s take the same example of a company selling a project management tool. On mapping the customer journey, the CX team finds that new users struggle with task assignment and collaboration during onboarding. 

Recognizing this pain point, they create targeted tutorials and provide in-app assistance focused on these specific challenges. As a result, new customers experience a smoother onboarding process, faster task assignment, and improved collaboration, leading to higher satisfaction and product adoption.

3. Personalize the Experience

Tailor the onboarding process to each customer’s needs, preferences, and goals. Use customer data and insights to provide a personalized experience that resonates with them.

Say you’re selling a project management tool that caters to different functions like marketing, IT, software development, etc. You will need to personalize the onboarding process for each of these functions so that it remains relevant to their requirements.

For instance, onboarding emails for marketing professionals should emphasize how the tool can streamline campaign planning, social media scheduling, and analytics tracking. Similarly, for software developers, the messaging highlights features related to bug tracking, code repository integration, and agile project management. 

You Might Also Like: How to Deliver Personalized Customer Service: 5 Tips to Try

4. Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations in customer onboarding is essential because it establishes a foundation of trust and transparency from the outset of the customer’s journey. 

When customers know what to expect regarding timelines, milestones, and the value they will receive, they are more likely to feel confident and satisfied with their choice. Clear expectations reduce uncertainty, minimize potential disappointments, and lead to a smoother onboarding process, ultimately fostering positive customer experiences and long-term loyalty.

For instance, say a new customer has signed up for a free trial of a project management tool. During the onboarding process, the company sets clear expectations by sending an automated welcome email to the customer. In the email, they outline what the customer can expect during the trial period, including:

– A guided tour of the software’s key features in the first week
– Access to customer support via chat or email within one business day for any questions or issues
– Reminders about upcoming webinars and tutorials to help the customer get the most out of the trial

5. Provide Comprehensive Documentation

Offer easy-to-access documentation, user guides, FAQs, and video tutorials to help customers learn about your product or service at their own pace.

Allowing them to find answers to their questions and solutions to their issues independently reduces their reliance on customer support and improves their overall experience.

For instance, Hiver’s Knowledge Base serves as a self-service resource hub where customers can find answers to common questions, troubleshooting guides, and step-by-step tutorials. This enables customers to quickly access the information they need without waiting for support, promoting a sense of independence and efficiency during onboarding.

Hiver's Knowledge Base
Hiver’s Knowledge Base

6. On-Demand Help

On-demand help such as in-app assistance provides customers with instant access to support and guidance when they need it most. It allows them to resolve questions, issues, or roadblocks in real-time, reducing frustration and delays during onboarding.

On-demand help also significantly enhances customer engagement by providing timely and context-sensitive support directly within the product or service interface. It anticipates and addresses user questions or challenges at the moment of need, ensuring a seamless and uninterrupted user experience.

This proactive approach not only resolves issues promptly but also empowers users, fosters a sense of confidence, and encourages continued exploration and utilization of the product, ultimately deepening their engagement and loyalty.

7. Gather Customer Feedback

Feedback provides insights into customers’ experiences during onboarding, highlighting areas where they may face challenges, confusion, or frustration. This information is invaluable for identifying and rectifying pain points, streamlining the process, and ensuring a smoother onboarding journey.

For instance, Hiver’s CSAT survey allows you to gather customer feedback with simple surveys that can be inserted into your emails with a single click. It enables businesses to gather immediate feedback from customers during the onboarding process. This real-time feedback allows companies to gauge customer satisfaction at critical milestones and address any concerns promptly.

8. Measure Success Metrics

Success metrics provide an objective way to assess the effectiveness of the onboarding process. They help businesses determine whether customers are achieving their desired outcomes and whether onboarding efforts are meeting predefined goals.

Aside from this, success metrics can help identify early warning signs of potential churn. When customers are not progressing as expected during onboarding, businesses can intervene and address issues promptly, reducing the risk of abandonment.

Key success metrics in customer onboarding can vary depending on the nature of the business, the product or service offered, and the specific goals of the onboarding process. 

However, here are some common success metrics that businesses often track during customer onboarding.

  • Time to First Value (TTFV): This metric measures how quickly a customer realizes tangible value from your product or service after onboarding. A shorter TTFV indicates a more effective onboarding process.
  • Activation Rate: Activation rate tracks the percentage of customers who complete specific onboarding tasks or reach predefined milestones. It measures the extent to which customers are engaging with your product’s core features.
  • User Engagement: Monitoring user engagement metrics such as logins, feature usage, and time spent in the product during the onboarding phase can provide insights into how actively customers are exploring and adopting your offering.
  • Feature Adoption: Success can be tied to how many key features or functionalities customers have adopted during onboarding. This metric helps ensure that customers are leveraging the full potential of your product.
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): CSAT surveys assess customer satisfaction levels during onboarding. It measures the customer’s perception of their onboarding experience and overall satisfaction with your product or service.
  • Product Usage Patterns: Analyzing how customers use the product after onboarding can reveal whether they are following expected usage patterns and whether additional guidance is needed.
  • Time to Proficiency: This metric measures how long it takes for customers to become proficient users of your product or service. A shorter time to proficiency indicates effective onboarding.

Examples of Effective Customer Onboarding

Here are a few examples of companies known for their successful customer onboarding processes.

Netflix

Netflix’s onboarding process is known for its simplicity and personalization.

Netflix's Onboarding Email
Netflix’s Onboarding Email

Users can get started in 3 simple steps. All they have to do is sign up with their details and then choose a plan that suits their requirements. Once they are signed in, Netflix asks users to choose their favorite shows and movies from a list.

Based on this input, Netflix recommends content that aligns with the user’s taste. The guided and tailored approach ensures users quickly find content they enjoy, leading to higher engagement and retention.

Duolingo

Duolingo, a language learning app, offers an engaging onboarding experience.

Duolingo's goal oriented onboarding process
Duolingo’s goal oriented onboarding process

The onboarding process starts by compelling users to set a learning goal for the language of their choice. They ask questions like “Why are you learning a language” to gauge the user’s motivation behind signing up for the app.

The app then uses gamification elements to make language learning fun and accessible. Users are guided through their first lessons, earning rewards and progress indicators along the way. The gradual difficulty increase keeps learners engaged and motivated.

Trello

Trello, a project management tool, simplifies onboarding with a visual and interactive approach. Users are introduced to boards, cards, and lists through an interactive tutorial.

Trello's interactive onboarding process
Trello’s interactive onboarding process

Trello’s onboarding process encourages users to create their first project board, allowing them to experience the product’s utility immediately.

AirBnb

Airbnb’s onboarding process focuses on building trust and familiarity. New hosts and guests are guided through creating listings, setting preferences, and understanding the platform’s safety features.

Once this is done Airbnb guides users through setting their preferences, such as location, travel dates, and the type of accommodations they’re interested in. This customization allows Airbnb to provide users with tailored recommendations and search results.

Dropbox

Dropbox’s onboarding process is known for its simplicity and user-friendliness. It guides users through the platform with clear and intuitive steps, making it easy for even non-technical users to get started quickly. The platform employs interactive tutorials that introduce users to core features, such as uploading files, creating folders, and sharing content.

Dropbox's onboarding process
Dropbox’s onboarding process

These tutorials are hands-on, allowing users to practice while learning, which enhances comprehension and retention.

Aside from this, Dropbox ensures that users can experience value immediately after onboarding. By encouraging users to upload their first file and create their first folder, Dropbox demonstrates the platform’s utility right from the start.

Conclusion

Customer onboarding is a critical process that can greatly influence the success and long-term satisfaction of your customers. By providing a seamless and informative onboarding experience, you can set the stage for a positive customer journey, higher retention rates, and increased revenue.

It is a dynamic and evolving process that requires careful attention to customer needs and feedback. By prioritizing the onboarding experience, you can build strong relationships with your customers from the very beginning and pave the way for their long-term success and loyalty

If you’d like to explore how Hiver can help you streamline your customer onboarding process, sign up for our free 7 day trial and take it for a spin!

An engineer by qualification and a marketer by profession, Ronia loves to create research oriented, educational content for her audience. Her expertise lies in helping teams manage business communication effortlessly by diving into common questions, industry trends, and more. When not working you can find her catching up on Netflix or spending time with her dogs.

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