Definition – What is Customer Onboarding?

POST on Customer Success by Amit

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Customer onboarding is a term typically used to describe the process users go through, from the start of their journey to become a customer and beyond. It encompasses a variety of interactions and engagements with your brand, typically created to enhance the customer experience and influence the ongoing relationship your customer has with your brand and product.

If there’s one reason we have done better than of our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word of mouth is so very, very powerful.Jeff Bezos

Why Customer Onboarding is Important

Customer onboarding has become a staple of the SaaS business model and fits well into any subscription-based business where there are recurring engagement and revenue generation. It’s not necessarily limited to that type of business though.

Since customer onboarding focuses on improving the customer experience and fostering relationships, it can be applied to any business in which you want to improve the lifetime value of your customer. That includes retail and e-commerce for repeat sales.

For any business, solid customer onboarding warms the customer to your brand. It provides beneficial information and engagement to ensure the customer derives the most success from their purchase.

When the customer is still in the middle of the buying cycle, the primary focus for many brands is using content marketing and direct engagement for the purpose of lead nurturing. Once you get past the conversion point, that engagement and content marketing changes shape to become the onboarding process.

Responsibility for onboarding and tracking progress may change hands, and the type of content or engagement may change, but the end goal remains largely the same.

Benefits of Successful Customer Onboarding

The heart of customer onboarding is customer service. However, a successful customer onboarding process goes way beyond delighting your customers. Here are a few of the key benefits of maintaining a strategic onboarding process.

Revenue

Properly onboarded customers are going to stick with your product or service and continue to do business with you. A better lead nurturing and onboarding process ensures you close more deals. Smart engagement and content at this stage can help reduce your customer acquisition costs while improving overall conversions.

Recurring Business

Once you’ve acquired a customer, it can be a significant loss to lose recurring revenue. Customers who go through a solid onboarding process are more likely to stick around, improving their lifetime value. That makes them an incredibly valuable asset to your business.

The Gartner Group says that 80% of a company’s future revenue can come from 20% of existing customers. That’s a huge opportunity for your business. But, research shows that most B2B companies allocate only 20% of their marketing efforts towards customer retention.

Focus on improving onboarding to boost customer retention and recurring business.

Word of Mouth

When your customers are successful with your product or service and are thrilled with the service you provide, they’re far more likely to talk to their contacts about you. According to Nielsen, more than 92% of consumers base their purchase decisions on peer reviews, so word-of-mouth marketing and referrals can drive serious revenue for your business.

Consider also that according to McKinsey & Company, as much as 50% of purchases are influenced by the recommendation of another.

Reduction in Customer Service Load

Beyond delighting your customers, onboarding can effectively reduce overhead costs. When your customers are better educated on how to succeed with your product or service, they’re less likely to encounter issues in the early period of adoption.

Who is Responsible for Customer Onboarding

Customer onboarding doesn’t really rest on the shoulders of any individual department or team member. While you may have someone in leadership who owns and is accountable for onboarding, you’re likely to have multiple teams involved to ensure the greatest customer success.

This could include:

  • Marketing to develop content in various media and channels
  • Customer service to provide insight into frequent problems and questions that can be addressed for future customers in the onboarding process
  • Technical support, providing advanced documentation, training, and knowledgebase information to make the customer’s self-support process much smoother
  • Sales and account management to lead the customer through onboarding, holding their hand in the early stages through completion
  • Analysts to review red flag metrics and at-risk customers, turning up key problem points in onboarding to make process improvements

Components of Customer Onboarding

There’s no single way to onboard a customer and encourage more successful adoption and retention. You’ll ultimately find the channels and resources the work best to educate your customers and reduce customer churn.

Here are some key elements of customer onboarding for SaaS businesses and other models, as identified by ChartMogul.

Optin Form

Onboarding begins the moment a customer converts. That might seem obvious, but the signup form is the first touch point that will leave an impression on your customer. You don’t want that to be a negative impression, so tighten up the process.

Use positive reinforcement and minimize the details you need to sign the customer up. To streamline the process, consider implementing social signup buttons. If you do need more information to specialize support efforts and onboarding, then use secondary forms for additional info.

Welcome Emails

Signup forms are synonymous with welcome emails, and most customers expect some kind of greeting when they come onboard. This is your first contact with the customer once they create their account, so you need to make it count.

Keep it simple, you don’t want to overload them with information. Include simple links to information and resources to help further engage them – if needed. This is a prime opportunity to introduce them to your relationship-building blog content and resource hubs.

Most importantly, don’t forget to thank them.

Educational Emails

You don’t want to just spam your customers with promotional content. To give them the best chance of success, continue to feed them regular educational emails. These drip campaigns are small, and often used to introduce your customer to a single idea per email.

Drip campaigns are small, and consistent. Your goal isn’t to show off features and products in great detail, but instead to entice customers to try out some new feature or component.

The First Login

The first point of access for customers is a crucial one. New customers in your store, or new app users, will have a bit of a learning curve figuring out where to go and what to do. Use this opportunity to provide them with optional demos or breadcrumbs that can help them quickly learn the most critical areas – or find the most in demand products.

Product Tutorials

Deeper product tutorials can be introduced via educational emails, introduction screens for new users, and as resources within your knowledgebase. Tutorials are a smart onboarding components, especially if you have a feature-rich product or complex UI.

Documentation

Documentation is the lifeblood of good customer onboarding. In many cases, customers will try to self-education and troubleshoot their own issues before reaching out for support and assistance. This makes good documentation critical.

Hopefully, your customers won’t ever need it. But if they do, plenty of documentation that is well-maintained and current makes for terrific support and happy customers.

Mailchimp has a terrific knowledge base as an example of this.

Much of the onboarding process can be automated today. Customers expect a certain level of automation, and that’s fine. Never disregard the power and impact of maintaining a human connection. A single follow up call and a quick chat with your customer makes them feel valued, because someone took the time to reach out to them.

Likewise, it’s beneficial for both you and the customer. They get additional support if needed, and your team can gather feedback to make further improvements to your onboarding process and products.

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