Business Strategy

How to Create a Powerful User Onboarding Experience to Drive Your Sales

Tim Ferguson
May 26, 2021

So you have on-boarded a new customer — congratulations! You have closed a sale and generated revenue for your company. What could be better than that?

You perhaps do not realize that onboarding is the first step in a professional relationship that will hopefully be a long and beneficial one.

For that to happen, however, your customer needs to be introduced to your product in a guided, tailored fashion that helps them understand everything they need to establish you as a brand they can trust.

That is where designing a top-notch customer onboarding experience is critical. The article attempts to educate you on everything you need to know about upgrading your customer’s onboarding experience or creating the process if you do not have one.

But first, let us start with the basics:

We deliver long-term ROI.

Not fake marketing jargon or typical agency BS.

How COVID-19 is affecting customer experiences

The pandemic has compelled us to live and function with minimal human contact. Yet, while tech and SaaS industries adjusted to a certain extent, the banking and insurance industry also felt the maximum ripple effect of social distancing and “working from home.”

The relationships that were once built through face-to-face interaction are now suddenly online. Moreover, improving customer retention by 5% can increase profits from 25-95%. That is why businesses have started the digital transformation of customer onboarding journeys.

Thanks to digital adoption solutions like Userlane, WalkMe, and other Apty alternatives, some have deployed an app incorporating mobile ID scanning technology for easy check-in.

Others now offer e-Signature capability to allow users to sort out their paperwork without visiting a bank branch. Other industries are no exception either.

In a nutshell: customer onboarding matters for retention rates

Retention matters in the long run. There are four main reasons why a customer would opt out of working with you:

  • Your product does not meet their expectations
  • They do not understand how your product works
  • They found a better alternative somewhere else
  • They no longer need your product

A HubSpot study shows that 60% of customers stop using the product because they failed to either see value in it or understand how to use it.

A pie graph showing the "Drive By" reasons in week one of using a product

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The first two situations often end up happening because you did not provide the customer with a sufficiently helpful user onboarding experience.

Moreover, 20% of customers on average are lost by a business every year due to the lack of a cordial relationship.

Customer retention in the long-term depends mainly on how you treat them in the initial week or so after they sign up. Clearly, just sending them an email with their user ID and password is not enough. You have to tell them what their next step should be. You have to nudge them.

image showing a creative brief in creating a marketing video

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As you refine your onboarding strategy and keep monitoring how customers respond, you will ultimately be able to make predictions about how long a customer will stick on based on what they do or do not do during that critical first week.

Be sure, therefore, to not give them a reason to think you do not value their signing on. That brings us to the next section of the article:

What your customer onboarding flow should focus on

Like any other business initiative, launching a customer onboarding flow should start with a well-planned strategy. A good place to start is by placing yourself in your customer’s shoes and figuring out:

  • What their goals are
  • What they hope to achieve through the product use
  • What their ideal results look like
  • What metrics they measure success by

This will give you an idea of how many steps you will require in the onboarding process and the number of screens and sessions you will need to explain each step in detail.

A quick checklist for customer onboarding

Here is a five-point checklist for you to keep in mind when designing the onboarding process to ensure that you add value at every stage.

1. Have a clear primary goal in mind

There should be one clear takeaway that all your customers get when they use your product. Irrespective of your industry niche, decide how you can guide your customer to that first, most important takeaway as quickly as possible.

2. Establish secondary goals

These are other takeaways in addition to the primary ones that keep your customer hooked to your product over time. Can they unlock additional features as they use your product?

3. Identify the pain points your customers are experiencing

Schedule calls with your current customers to ask them what problems or obstacles they face when using your product. For example, perhaps the information guides are too complex or have too many features your solution offers.

In addition, monitor what is being said about your product online, as you may get franker insights than when customers directly talk to you. Make use of social monitoring tools like TalkWalker, SproutSocial and Digimind for the job.

4. Map out a way to address these pain points

Have a plan of action that includes how-to videos, downloadable tutorials, live demos, or webinars. In addition, ensure that your customers know the channels through which they can reach you. An unapproachable company does not have happy customers.

Best practices for customer onboarding

1. Make a personalized checklist after the first call

During your first interaction with your new customer, pay close attention to how they communicate and the areas they understand easily versus the areas they are having some trouble with. This will explain what to focus on during the onboarding process and how to package the information such that your customer grasps it without any hassle.

Trello is a digital project management platform with one USP: to help users manage everyday projects easily and quickly. Its welcome board shows new users exactly how the product has to be used.

screenshot showing Trello's dashboard

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2. Use as much visual input as possible

Most people tend to grasp visually presented facts much quicker than blocks of text. Therefore, design your onboarding process to be visually attractive and interactive, including video walkthroughs and guided interaction with your tool or product.

You can also add small pop quizzes along the way to make sure your customer has understood each new concept as it comes.

3. Do not present too much information at one go

Big chunks of detail will overwhelm your customer and make it harder for them to remember what you’re sharing. So instead, break up your onboarding tutorials into smaller bits of information and add handy FAQs, summary boxes, and downloadable checklists wherever necessary so your customer can refer back as they need to.

Bird, an electric scooter app, educates new users in only four steps to use the app. Using Bird cannot be simpler than that.

image showing instructions on how to use a scooter

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4. Pick a customer onboarding software

Using onboarding software makes the creation and dissemination of videos and guides so much easier. It also offers a clean, uniform template so that all of your onboarding content looks consistent and reduces the need for you to keep sending emails.

Plus, you can integrate your onboarding software with your CRM and marketing automation tools so that you can keep tabs on how far each customer has gotten through the onboarding process.

Have a ‘what next’ in place for after the onboarding

Once the onboarding process is complete, please ensure your customer knows that they can always reach out to you if they need help at any time.

Stay top-of-mind for them by sharing a weekly or monthly newsletter with company updates, blog posts, or any other content they might find helpful. Upgrade your marketing game to stay connected with them.

You should also have scheduled check-ins where you ask your customers about how things are going and offer extra training should they need it. Customer service is one never-ending cycle.