6 Actionable Tips to Level Up Customer Onboarding

Onboarding may be the most critical period in the customer lifecycle. First impressions matter, which makes onboarding the perfect opportunity to showcase product value and the strength of your customer support to first-time customers. Failures during the onboarding process can lead to premature customer churn and lost revenue for your business. Retently found that up to 23% of customer churn is caused by poor onboarding, while Appcues saw a 15% improvement in retention rates after making improvements to their onboarding process. 

If you’re looking to keep your customers around for longer, focusing on better onboarding might be the best thing you can do! 

Follow these 6 steps to improve customer onboarding for long term happy customers.  

  1. Segment your customers
  2. Focus on high-value product touchpoints
  3. Measure impactful engagement 
  4. Craft customer journeys for product and engagement
  5. Enable your team
  6. Echo your journey

Segment your customers

Not all customers are created equally. Different tiered plans can change what sets a customer up for success and how much value comes from engagement during onboarding. Knowing your customer’s origin story, such as if they came from a competitor or if they are exploring a tool like yours for the very first time, can also shape your educational resources to provide more contextual help. 

The best place to start with developing customer segments is by customer lifetime value (otherwise known as how much money they will spend with you). You may have different tiers of value such as user count, plan type, or estimated usage, but a simple “high value” vs. “low value” is enough to start. 

Another great way to segment customers is how you acquired them. First-time users just discovering your product may have a different vocabulary and level of attention that is needed than users coming from a competitor. Segmenting further, like which competitor your customer comes from provides an opportunity to offer even more contextual support based on deriving value from your product. 

To capture this, you have a few different options. Collect this information during your signup flow:

TextExpander segments customers by the company size as they onboard new users

Alternatively, you can use a tool like Clearbit to pull information in and segment customers automatically. The form is typically more accurate, but using Clearbit results in less friction for the customer. 

Once you define customer segments, it can inform your onboarding process to create more personalized value for each prospective customer, and delineate your reporting metrics to measure performance.

Focus on high-value product touchpoints

It’s easy to think every feature in your product or app is valuable, but presenting fresh-eyed prospective customers with too many options can feel overwhelming. Instead, pick 3-5 product touchpoints that highly correlate with successful customers. If you’re not sure where those are, you may want to contract or loop in an in-house data scientist to find out. You’re looking for trends in which product touchpoints lead to long term, successful accounts. 

It’s also helpful to know if there are any product touchpoints that must be hit during onboarding, or the customer definitely won’t be successful. This first critical touchpoint is usually called activation — when the customer hits their first success milestone. 

Additional product touchpoints should reflect aspects of your product that deliver the most value to your customers. Once onboarding is complete, you can always continue to drive product adoption through additional customer success efforts like customer marketing, educational guides, and videos. Packing in too much information during the learning stage can make your product feel overwhelming to adopt.  

Measure impactful engagement

Email, chat, 1:1 coaching sessions, webinars, messaging, and phone support—all of these support channel options require different amounts of effort from your team, but they also provide a different return on investment (ROI). 

In engagement experiments done at Help Scout, the support team found 1:1 coaching calls converted customers from trial to paying at a near 60% rate, but they also discovered that customers in the 1-3 user range cost more in acquisition than their typical lifetime value. Based on these discoveries, Help Scout optimized onboarding engagement by offering 1:1 coaching calls to customer segments of 4 users or more. 

To implement a similar strategy in your company, you can start measuring how different engagement points correlate to customers converting from a trial account to a paying one, how long they stay a customer, and how much they grow and expand with your business. 

Once you know what engagement channels have the most impact in converting and keeping customers, it’s much easier to optimize your efforts and decide which support and engagement channels to keep in your journey. If high-touch engagement points convert at a high rate, it may be worthwhile to use them with high-value customer segments. If webinars don’t convert customers effectively, drop them from your repertoire, and save the labor costs. Your support humans are the most valuable asset your team has to provide—learn the impact on ROI to use their time effectively. 

Craft customer journeys for product and engagement

Trying to onboard customers without a defined customer journey is like trying to plan a trip without a map. You’ll likely waste a lot of money and time getting everyone where they need to go. After identifying segments, high-value touchpoints, and engagement, it’s time to craft customer journeys through your onboarding flow. To maximize ROI and personalize the experience, create a unique customer journey based on each defined customer segment. Think of this journey in two parts, a product journey, and an engagement journey. 

Using the product touchpoints identified, craft an overarching product journey that all customers follow. The first product journey touchpoint starts with getting them to activation and then leads through the next 3-5 essential product touchpoints in a logical order. 

The engagement journey changes based on your customer segments, because interactions with your team have both cost and value. Lower value customer segments should get a lower touch, self-serve journey. The amount of touch and engagement from your team should increase with the value of the customer segment. 

Enable your team

Train your team on your product and engagement journeys so that they always know where your customer is going on their onboarding journey. Publish internal documentation that teaches your team about your customer segments, the product journey, and the engagement journey to keep everyone on the same page. 

TextExpander users can prepare snippets with saved replies that nudge customers along to their next product touchpoint or to book time on a calendar for a coaching call.  

Echo your journey

Reflect your product and engagement journeys across every channel your customers use. Use automated email nudges to lead them to their next step, map the journey with in-app reminders,  create step-by-step guides in your help documentation that follow the onboarding journey, or even leverage video tours that show your customer what steps they should be taking next. 

Continuous reminders throughout the journey keeps customers on the right path, no matter if they are figuring it out in real-time in-app, getting reminders in their email inbox, or deep-diving in your help documentation. Repetition is one of the most powerful learning aides because it moves knowledge from the conscious to the subconscious, so echoing the journey in every way your customer interacts with your business embeds the learning path deep in your customer’s psyche. 

Simple tricks like adding videos or case studies to your onboarding flow can connect the customer to value in an impactful way. But a proper onboarding strategy, you’re sending your customer out into the wilderness without a map. Do your homework and draw your customers that map and encourage customers to engage at every step. In no time, your customers will have no problem navigating your product or app with ease. 

Onboarding is just one way you can improve your customer’s experience. Check out this popular post for even more actionable tips and tricks to keep your customers delighted!