What To Know About Customer Onboarding

Companies that look to book monthly recurring revenue (MRR) through a subscription model wrestle with churn. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors like Salesforce, Slack and Adobe lose customers through churn when subscribers cancel because they don't bother to use the software or never become well-versed enough to reap its benefits. In response, SaaS vendors have developed the concept and processes of customer onboarding.

Onboarding focuses on helping new customers (or prospects taking 30 or 60-day free trials) learn and use the SaaS offering so that they eventually realize the software's full value. In most organizations, onboarding is managed by Customer Success (CS), which is in come companies part of the Sales team.

Onboarding helps new customers and those taking free trials immerse themselves in the software by pushing out bite-sized training modules to them, usually via email or in-app messaging. The use of onboarding has spread to a wide range of other industries like insurance, banking and telecommunications, to name a few.

Typical customer onboarding tactics include:

  • Product setup: The vendor loads actual or fictitious sample data into a template in the software to show customers how it works. For example, a CRM system vendor may populate templates with representative customer contact information and workflows. New users of the software can use these templates as models to load their real customer data into their new system and start using it.
  • Modular product tours: Content creators divide one or more user workflows into interactive modules that customers can take at their convenience to learn how to use the software. As customers complete each module, absorbing a bit more information each time, the vendor's onboarding program triggers an email or in-app message that introduces the next module.
  • Rewards: Customers who complete training modules receive emails or in-app messages that encourage them or offer prizes such as discounts as reinforcement. In the case of multiple users at a company, the vendor can gamify the onboarding process by publishing a leader board showing the top power users and perhaps offer a prize to the first user to complete a tutorial.
  • Personalization: The onboarding system collects data on the customer's interactions with the vendor's software and uses AI to tailor the experience. The more personalized the tour or tutorial the vendor provides, the more likely customers will adopt the product and even become fans.
  • Customer check-ins: CS managers monitor the analytics on their customers' progress as they learn and use the software. From time to time – it's counterproductive to overdo it – a CS rep calls or emails customers to offer time-saving shortcuts and tips for greater efficiency, as well as answer their questions.

If this sounds a lot like the adaptive, intelligent training model that sales enablement implementations provide to salespeople and new hires, it's because the core principles for customer onboarding are the same. If your company onboards customers but hasn't implemented sales enablement, examine what works best and leverage that when you roll out your adaptive training program for sales reps. Conversely, if you're new to customer onboarding, apply what you've learned from employee onboarding and content marketing to educate and demonstrate value to your new customers at every touchpoint.

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