Over 90% of customers feel that companies could do better when it comes to onboarding new users. More than half of consumers have returned a product because they didn’t fully understand how to use it.
In the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry, onboarding is the most critical moment in a customer journey. It can make or break the relationship between a company and its users.
SaaS onboarding refers to the process of introducing new customers to a product and helping them become proficient in using it. Any reduced time to value (TTV) for new customers can lead to more satisfied users, increased retention, and higher customer lifetime values (CLV).
How do you generate a successful SaaS onboarding strategy? Below, we’ll examine ten best practices you can adopt to ensure your users have a smooth transition into their new software.
Here’s a quick rundown:
- Set clear goals and expectations
- Create a personalized experience
- Provide ample training and support
- Simplify the process
- Use automation and technology to your advantage
- Communicate regularly and proactively
- Foster a culture of customer success
- Collect and act on customer feedback
- Measure and analyze onboarding metrics
- Stay up-to-date on trends
- SaaS Onboarding Checklist
For a more detailed look at each one, let’s dive in!
There should be zero ambiguity regarding what your users will achieve in onboarding. Setting clear goals and expectations helps keep everyone on track and ensures new customers get up to speed faster.
Create a Timeline
To establish clear expectations, there should be a timeline for the onboarding process. This could describe what users will learn and when or lay out a step-by-step guide to help them become proficient in the software.
The idea is to have users know where they are headed and why it’s important to do it in the order you have specified.
Your users should understand what milestones they should be reaching at different points in the onboarding process. This way, they can track their progress and know when to expect certain outcomes.
You should also make it a point to celebrate progress with users. Showing that you appreciate their efforts and helping them stay motivated will go a long way in creating successful onboarding experiences.
The more personal your onboarding experience is, the better. You should strive to tailor each user’s journey to their individual needs and interests.
This isn’t just about making your customers feel special – it’s also about helping them achieve their goals faster and with less effort.
Ramli John, author of Product-Led Onboarding: How to Turn Users into Lifelong Customers, calls it the Disneyland Strategy.
A couple on their honeymoon or a ten-year-old Marvel superfan would expect a very different experience from the magic kingdom, and you should strive to give your customers the same level of personalization.
Instead of generating a linear onboarding path, you should offer users different ways to accomplish the same goal.
One of the most powerful tools in this customization is online education. Video tutorials and step-by-step guides can help new users quickly understand and start using your product. Packaging these videos into online courses where customers can
Depending on the complexity of your product, you may want to offer different levels of instruction, from basic introductions to advanced courses. This way, you’ll make sure that every customer can learn at their own pace.
They can also dive deeper and deeper into specific use cases or features while avoiding others because they know they don’t need them.
Sometimes, you’ll encounter customer pain points you didn’t expect. When this happens, you should be ready to provide support.
This can be done through various means.
Customer Success Teams
Customer success is more than just providing support when something goes wrong. It’s about ensuring your customers get the most out of their products.
This is where customer success teams come in handy. By having a dedicated team, you can ensure that every customer has access to someone who knows your product inside and out and can provide personalized advice for them.
Your team can track usage data through regular check-ins and uncover valuable insights about how customers use your product. This information will enable you to identify opportunities for improvement and adjust the onboarding experience accordingly.
Live chat is a great way to provide support in real time. When customers have questions or run into issues, they can get help immediately instead of waiting for an email reply or phone call.
This also lets you quickly identify and address customer pain points before they become bigger problems.
With technology reaching a point where automated chatbots and AI-powered customer service are becoming more common, you can reduce the workload on your team while still providing excellent support.
A knowledge base is a great way to provide users with self-service support. Your team can create detailed walkthroughs and articles that help customers find answers quickly.
This reduces the workload on your customer success team and helps new users become more proficient in using the product faster.
An added benefit of a comprehensive knowledge base is that prospective customers can better understand your product before they commit to it.
Keep it simple, stupid!
When it comes to onboarding, the simpler, the better. If your customers have to jump through too many hoops just to get started with your product, chances are they’ll give up before they even really start using it.
You should strive to make sure that each step of the onboarding process is as straightforward as possible. This means reducing unnecessary hurdles and making sure that users understand what they need to do at every stage for them to progress.
Here are some things to consider when trying to simplify your onboarding process:
- Offer tutorials or video walkthroughs for complex steps
- Provide clear guidance at every stage
- Reduce the number of clicks required to complete each step.
- Make sure that all content is easy to understand
- Include different language or accessibility options
By reducing complexity, while still providing strong results, you can ensure that your users get the most out of their experience.
With the rise of cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, SaaS companies can now automate certain aspects of onboarding. This allows them to provide a more consistent experience for their users and the ability to scale without adding more resources.
Here are five SaaS onboarding software solutions to make your process more efficient.
Customer education is a critical component of onboarding, and Thinkific Plus makes it easy to create engaging online courses. The platform allows you to track user progress, set up quizzes and surveys, offer discounts on course materials, and more.
With plenty of satisfied customers shouting its praises, Thinkific Plus is quickly becoming one of the go-to options for B2B SaaS onboarding.
This no-code platform allows you to create interactive onboarding experiences for your customers. You can customize the process with step-by-step guidance, live chat support, and more.
AI-enhanced analytics and reporting capabilities are also included, so you can track and measure the success of your onboarding efforts.
Userpilot builds on top of existing products and helps boost onboarding success with automated tip triggers that appear in an app or website to give users the help they need. It also allows you to create custom SaaS onboarding flows and track user engagement with analytics.
Self-service is one of the key features here, so users can get up to speed quickly without contacting customer support.
Generate net promoter score (NPS) surveys and help users find answers to common questions with UserGuiding. The platform also provides interactive checklists to help users complete their onboarding journey.
This powerful SaaS onboarding tool reduces the number of support tickets and drops churn rates.
Customer Success Box
With AI-driven customer success software, you can provide personalized onboarding experiences tailored to each customer’s needs.
Customer Success Box offers a range of features, such as automated user segmentation and journey tracking, custom recommendations, and insights into product adoption. You also get access to powerful analytics tools that make it easy to identify opportunities for improvement
Don’t wait around with your fingers crossed, hoping your SaaS customer onboarding process will go well. You should actively communicate with your customers and keep them apprised of their progress.
Provide users with regular updates about their onboarding experience and any relevant information about the product or service they’re using.
Make sure to respond promptly to customer inquiries and offer personalized advice on how to get the most out of a particular feature or function. This will help build trust between you and your customers, increasing the likelihood that they’ll stick around for the long haul.
Here’s a list of questions that you should always know the answer to:
- How long did it take for customers to complete onboarding?
- What were the most common issues they encountered?
- What actions can be taken to improve their experience in the future?
- How did customers feel about the onboarding process overall?
- What features do customers use the most?
If you ever find yourself unable to answer these questions, then it’s time to take a closer look at your SaaS onboarding process.
Customer success is more than just a buzzword – it’s the foundation of a successful SaaS business. Your SaaS customer onboarding process should reflect your commitment to helping them achieve their goals as quickly and easily as possible.
Creating a Customer Success Journey Map
The first step in fostering a customer success culture is to create a customer success journey map. This document will outline the stages your customers will move through, from awareness to adoption and beyond.
Here are the stages of the customer success journey:
- Awareness: This is the first stage of the customer journey. At this point, customers are just beginning to become aware of your product and its capabilities.
- Comparison: Eventually, they will evaluate whether or not your product is the right fit for them. They’ll compare it to other solutions – some they may already be using – and decide if it’s worth their time and money.
- Consideration: This is the stage when customers are actively considering a purchase. They’ll be looking for information about pricing, features, testimonials, and more.
- Conversion: After considering all the options, the conversion process is when a customer signs up for the service. They’ll be looking for an easy and secure checkout process and payment options that best suit their needs.
- Adoption: In this stage, customers will be actively using your product. Your goal should be to help them get up and running quickly and easily so they can start seeing results from it as soon as possible.
- Retention: At this point, customers have become comfortable with your product and are beginning to use it regularly. This is when you can focus on deepening engagement and developing loyalty.
- Advocacy: The last stage of the customer success journey is advocacy. Your customers will be so satisfied that they’ll start recommending your product to their peers.
By mapping out each step in the process, you’ll be able to identify areas where improvement is needed and create a plan for how to get there. You can also use this map as a starting point for building an onboarding process that will drive users through each stage and hopefully convert them into long-term customers.
Supporting Customers Through Their Journey
Once you’ve mapped out the customer success journey, you’ll need to implement a system for supporting customers through each stage. Your approach should be tailored to the needs of your users and should focus on providing timely assistance and support when they need it most.
You can do this by offering live chat, email, or phone support and setting up an FAQ page that addresses common questions or issues. You might also consider creating tutorials or guides to help customers quickly understand how to use your product.
Most importantly, you must be truly invested in helping customers succeed, not just upselling them. Don’t be a used car salesman – be an ally and mentor.
During the onboarding process, feedback should be treated like gold.
Listening to customer feedback helps you improve your product and onboarding process and shows customers that their opinions matter. This can help create a strong foundation of trust between them and your company.
You should try to get real-time user feedback as soon as possible by using surveys, NPS scores, or other methods. Once you have the data, take actionable steps to address any issues preventing users from succeeding with your product.
Amplify Good Ideas
If a customer has a great idea for improving your product or onboarding process, make sure you amplify it.
Share the feedback internally with your team and brainstorm ways to implement it. You can also use this as an opportunity to reach out to the customer who provided the insight and thank them, or give them a shoutout on social media.
This will show you are listening and may even bump them along their journey toward becoming advocates.
Without data, it’s nearly impossible to understand what works and doesn’t work in your onboarding process. You should analyze every step of the journey, from signup to activation and beyond.
Here are five key performance indicators (KPIs) to focus on:
Signup to Activation Rate
This metric measures how many users start using your product after signing up. A high signup-to-activation rate indicates that you’re doing a good job onboarding and engaging customers with the product.
Especially for SaaS companies that offer a free trial, this metric is key to measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and pricing plans.
Time to First Value
Customers want to see value – and fast. Enter, Time to Value.
This metric measures the amount of time it takes for customers to achieve their goals with your product. The faster they reach that point, the more likely they will stick around and become loyal users.
Remember that you should always strive to reduce the time customers take to achieve their goals.
All your onboarding work is for naught if users don’t stick around. Your saas customer retention rate measures the percentage of customers who continue using your product after a certain period.
High retention rates indicate successful onboarding and user engagement with your product, while low retention rates suggest areas needing improvement.
Are users taking advantage of all your product’s features or just dipping their toes in the water?
Feature usage tracking lets you monitor how users interact with your product. If you see that certain features aren’t being used, it may indicate an issue with customer education or suggest that the features need to be redesigned.
Sometimes, it can even spotlight a feature that deserves more resources and attention.
Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
CSAT is a measure of how satisfied users are with your product. It’s typically measured through surveys and customer feedback.
If you see that customers are expressing dissatisfaction, it could indicate that you need to improve certain aspects of the onboarding process.
For example, if customers have difficulty understanding how to use your product, you may want to consider revamping the user interface or adding more tutorials and resources for self-help.
By tracking these metrics, you can identify any bottlenecks in the onboarding process and make changes accordingly. You should also look for trends in user behavior that can help you tailor each individual’s journey more effectively.
The SaaS industry is always changing.
It evolves quickly, and what might have been the best practice yesterday might not be as effective today. Keeping track of new trends can help you stay ahead of the competition and ensure your onboarding process is up-to-date.
You should also look for ways to improve existing processes. Test different approaches, measure results, and iterate based on user feedback.
Example of Changing Practices in SaaS
If you weren’t keeping up, for instance, you might have missed some of these recent changes in SaaS onboarding strategy.
Personalized Onboarding Experiences
In the past, most SaaS companies used a one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding their customers. However, today’s best practices focus on providing personalized experiences tailored to each customer’s unique needs and goals.
This can include customizing the user interface based on user preferences or offering customized training materials.
Historically, SaaS companies relied heavily on support teams to onboard new users and help them get up-to-speed with their software products. Today’s leading providers allow users to self-serve by providing comprehensive documentation libraries and interactive tutorials.
Use of AI & Machine Learning
Many modern SaaS companies use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools in onboarding. These technologies can be employed for tasks such as:
- Predicting which features or modules will be most relevant for a specific user based on their prior behavior within the platform
- Predicting where they will encounter difficulty with certain workflows so that preemptive assistance can be offered before frustration sets in
Incorporating AI and machine learning into the onboarding process can help SaaS companies streamline their customer journey while increasing user satisfaction.
In recent years, many SaaS companies have shifted to a more interactive onboarding experience. This approach often includes guided tours or walkthroughs of key features and functionality within the software platform.
By providing an immersive and hands-on learning experience, users can better understand how to use the product effectively and efficiently.
Many modern SaaS companies recognize that onboarding is not a one-time event but an ongoing process throughout the customer lifecycle. As such, they now offer continuous onboarding resources aimed at helping customers maximize their usage and value from the software over time.
These resources may include regular webinars or training sessions targeted towards specific user groups or ongoing access to support teams for assistance with complex issues.
Here’s a handy SaaS customer onboarding checklist you can print off and use for your strategy sessions.
- Set Clear Goals and Expectations
- Define clear goals for your users.
- Create an easy-to-follow timeline with specific milestones.
- Explain each milestone clearly.
- Celebrate progress with your users.
- Personalize the Onboarding Experience
- Customize each user’s journey based on their individual needs and interests.
- Offer different ways for users to accomplish the same goal.
- Use online education tools such as videos, tutorials, and step-by-step guides.
- Provide Ample Training and Support
- Offer multiple support channels like live chat, email, or phone support.
- Build a comprehensive knowledge base that helps customers find answers quickly.
- Assign dedicated customer success teams to provide personalized advice for customers.
- Simplify the Onboarding Process
- Reduce complexity by simplifying every step.
- Provide video walkthroughs or tutorials.
- Ensure all content is easy to understand, even for second-language learners.
- Use Automation and Technology to Your Advantage
- Utilize automation tools such as chatbots, SaaS onboarding email templates, and triggered notifications.
- Implement technology solutions that streamline the onboarding process for both users and internal teams.
- Leverage data analytics to personalize user experiences and optimize processes.
- Communicate Regularly and Proactively
- Establish clear lines of communication with users throughout the onboarding process.
- Send regular updates about progress or upcoming milestones.
- Reach out proactively to address potential issues or concerns before they become problems.
- Foster a Culture of Customer Success
- Emphasize customer success in your company culture by prioritizing it at all levels of the organization.
- Train employees across departments to prioritize customer satisfaction during every interaction with users.
- Collect and Act on Customer Feedback
- Solicit feedback from customers regularly using surveys, polls, or other methods of engagement.
- Analyze feedback data to identify trends or areas for improvement in the onboarding process.
- Take action based on feedback insights to continuously improve user experience.
- Measure and Analyze Onboarding Metrics
- Define key performance indicators (KPIs) related to user acquisition, retention, engagement, etc., during the onboarding process.
- Track KPIs over time to measure success against goals set during initial planning stages.
- Stay Up-to-Date on Best Practices and Trends
- Keep up-to-date with industry trends through research publications or attending conferences/workshops.
- Seek inspiration from successful companies that have implemented effective user adoption strategies.
In a world where customer retention is critical, providing an exceptional SaaS onboarding experience can set your business apart.
By following the ten best practices outlined in this article – from personalization to automation and technology – you can create a thoughtful and engaging process that drives long-term value for your business and your users.
Prioritizing user needs at every stage of their journey through effective communication channels will help them feel valued and cared about, increasing satisfaction and loyalty.
Don’t miss the opportunity to stand out by delivering outstanding onboarding experiences!