Customer Success Onboarding: Learn How to Improve Profitability and Reduce Customer Churn

Customer Success Onboarding Learn How to Improve Profitability and Reduce Customer Churn_1

90% of customers feel that the companies they buy from could do better when it comes to how they experience onboarding.

Customer success is about helping your customers understand and leverage the value of your product; you’re basically helping them achieve their goals. In a sense it’s one step beyond traditional customer support, taking a proactive approach to understanding and addressing customer needs.

A key component of customer success is making sure your customers are effectively onboarded.

Onboarding provides a unique opportunity for the CS team to nurture and address the key needs of a new customer, and an effective onboarding program can mean the difference between a long-term customer and a rapid churn.

For customer success teams to succeed with onboarding, CS managers should drive clear best practices and use well-structured processes to make onboarding as effortless as possible for everyone involved.

In this Process Street article, we’ll dive into:

Customer success onboarding best practices 🌟

An effective onboarding strategy for customer success teams requires synchronization around two separate goals:

  • Understanding what customers expect from your product: You need a firm grasp on what kind of use cases and needs your customers have when they come to you with interest in your product. How can you help them solve their problems, using your product? Which features make the most sense as solutions to those problems? What can you do to help?
  • Streamlined onboarding: Alongside understanding, your goal is to help new users actually experience the value of your offering. Think of customer onboarding as a nurturing process to get customers acquainted and comfortable with your product/service.

The benefits of customer success onboarding

Considering that most revenue will come from your existing customers, and happy customers will become your top referral sources, it’s easy to grasp the importance of customer success onboarding.

A report by Zendesk stated that 52% of customers stop using brands due to feeling lost and abandoned. 😰

Neglecting customer success onboarding could also cause:

  • You to lose 75% of your new users within the first week.
  • A 40-60% loss of your free trial users – users will use your product once and never come back.
  • A high churn-rate, with 2/3’s of SaaS companies experiencing a churn rate greater than 5%.

Ultimately, how you onboard your new customers will set the tone for your ongoing relationship with them, which is why the onboarding aspect of customer success is important, helping to effectively decrease customer churn, and increase profitability.

But how do you get customer onboarding right?

Well, as a growing organization, perfecting our customer success onboarding approach is a top priority at Process Street.

We say you need to:

  1. Spend time understanding your different customer profiles and most common use cases. 🌟
  2. Learn how other top-performing organizations are doing customer success onboarding. πŸ› 
  3. Build functional customer success onboarding processes. πŸ”„

Process Street’s customer success onboarding best practices

Process-Street
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Process Street is a powerful no-code customer success management tool that allows you to document your recurring tasks and business processes in the form of intuitive, easy-to-use checklists.

With a majority 5 ⭐ user rating, our customers scream…

I love Process Street” – Benjamin D, G2

What are we doing right?

Did you read our post The Secret to Success: Process Street’s Customer Success Team Tell All?

If not, then I recommend you do so if you’re serious about getting your customer success onboarding right. I’ve summarized the article’s key points to communicate the best practices we use at Process Street.

Process Street’s customer success team are strict in their approach to customer onboarding, ensuring that:

  • The customer knows how to get the maximum value out of our product.
  • Issues are solved before they become problems.
  • Opportunities are sought to be improved.
  • Customers feel cared for.

To meet the above objectives, Process Street’s customer success team abide by the following best practices:

  1. Onboarding customers quickly but to a high standard.
  2. Build deep relationships with every customer.
  3. Add value by spotting upsell opportunities.
  4. Identify and deal with problems proactively.

But it’s not just Process Street that has perfected the customer success onboarding experience. Let’s take a look at some more top organizations, and consider their customer success onboarding strategy.

Airtable’s customer success onboarding best practices

Airtable
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Airtable is a no-code solution for creating and sharing relational databases and distributing them throughout your team.

And like Process Street, customers love it. They say Airtable is a…

Simple, but very efficient tool.” – Mitchell H, G2

What is Airtable doing right regarding its customer success onboarding strategy?

What we love about Airtable’s onboarding experience:

  1. Customers are granted access to the user interface without needing an email verification, meaning less friction and faster time-to-value.
  2. A persona questionnaire is used so the user can learn about the customer and their use-case.
  3. A resource and learning tab is provided to help users ease into the user interface.
  4. The user interface is simple and easy to use.

Salesforce’s customer success onboarding best practices

Salesforce1
Source

Did you read my post: How Salesforce Uses Process Street for Effective Client Onboarding?

Silly question, I know you did. πŸ˜‰

For this post, I delved into Salesforce’s customer success onboarding strategy and explained how important Process Street is for executing this strategy. I recommend you read this article for the full low down, but for all your busy bees I’ve summarized Salesforce’s onboarding best practices below.

Salesforce is a star of the SaaS world and one of the largest tech companies globally. It has over 49,000 employees in 28 countries.

Salesforce is praised for being…

Wonderfully easy to use.” – Bo Walker, Trust Radius

Ease of use is a plus when it comes to getting new clients started with your product or service. But what else is Salesforce doing right?

You got it, onboarding well.

I’ve summarized Salesforce’s customer success onboarding best practices below:

  1. Identify and define client needs and expectations.
  2. Understand important use cases – Salesforce follows a unique Use Case checklist, which guides customer success reps through the process of establishing what the client wants to achieve.
  3. Set up the product to meet the unique needs of the customer in mind.
  4. Determine the success metrics for ongoing success.
  5. Guide the customer to their aha moment.

Designing your customer success onboarding framework πŸ› 

Customers who aren’t fully engaged after 90 days don’t stay customers very long.” – Sixteen Ventures

Customer success onboarding is all about reducing the churn rate to improve profitability.

Think about it, you could be bringing in high-quality leads, but if those customers are flitting away like flies, it’s like trying to fill a leaky bucket.

And according to Sixteen Ventures, you have 90 days to engage your customers…eek!

This is why – following on from the best practices mentioned above – you also need to set yourself up with an effective customer success onboarding framework.

According to Shoeb Ahmed, Customer Success writer at SmartKarrot, a great customer success framework should be built around the 6 customer life-cycle stages.

We name these stages tenets, giving the 6 tenet framework of customer success.

Tenet #1: Brand awareness

This is the first, passive interaction your customers have with your brand.

All hail to your marketing team who have no doubt created an outstanding experience for your prospects via optimized marketing campaigns.

The look and feel of your ads, the aesthetics of your online content, and the promotion of your unique selling point to the right audience – these are a few decisions that can make the difference between a good or bad customer experience.

According to research by Gartner, 57% of customers have made up their mind about purchasing your product/service before their first conversation with a given seller.

Your marketing team will need to be creating targeted ads directed at a given persona, presenting features that fit the persona’s needs.

To find out more about persona research, read: Reach the Right People & Get the Right Result With a Customer Profile!

Check out our other resources below, designed to help your marketing team perfect any campaign, building brand awareness:

Tenet #2: Acquisition

For the successful acquisition of a new customer, it’s paramount that the experience they have while interacting with your sales and marketing team is consistent and as promised during the earlier stages.

For this, you’ll need a clear agreement regarding roles and responsibilities.

A sales team should be able to handle all product-specific queries with ease. Sometimes it may be necessary to bring in an operations team member for more detailed product/service descriptions.

If you look at how Salesforce does this, they follow set processes mapped out in their Process Street account. Process documentation during this acquisition phase establishes best practices which gives consistency for customer interactions.

Tenet #3: Customer onboarding

Enter the customer success manager.

A CSM needs to full-proof the customer success onboarding strategy by covering all aspects, as follows:

  • Finance: The payment process along with invoicing/billing should be as smooth as possible.
  • Training: Make sure that all user manuals, tutorials, or orientation documents are in place and easy to digest for a first-time product/service user.
  • Engineering: Maybe your product needs to be configured with the client’s internal systems – this should be done without hassle through experts.
  • IT: If the customer needs to be set up in your systems, then it should be done under keen observation.

Tenet #4: Value realization

It’s a customer success manager’s job to move the business ahead as initially promised, by allowing the customer to derive value from the given product/service.

As a CSM, it’s your job to understand the client’s needs, to show and evaluate the capacity of your product/service to meet those needs.

This means continually monitoring customer satisfaction, business KPIs, quarterly review meetings, and recommending unused features of the product for driving higher customer engagement.

The aim during this stage is to win new customers, otherwise referred to as customer adoption. Customer retention is a natural outcome of customer adoption.

Tenet #5: Loyalty

Once you’re sure that your product/service is the first choice to fulfill your customer’s business needs, then this loyalty can be leveraged through different means.

Customer success managers should design brand evangelist strategies by reaching out to customers for testimonials, stories, referrals, or reviews.

At Process Street, we like interviewing our top, most loyal customers to discover the details of how we add value to their business. We then use the feedback given to write case studies that communicate to others the value of our service.

Check out the below case studies as examples:

By giving us their time and collaborating, our customers are acting as loyal evangelists, helping us expand our customer reach.

We developed this Evangelist Sequence Email Process to help you develop a professional evangelist email sequence that will reach out to your most loyal customers.

Click here to access our Evangelist Sequence Email Process!

Tenet #6: Expansion

If all customer interactions have been positive up to this point, then there can be no better time for a customer success manager to upsell or cross-sell a given product/service.

Earlier-stage interactions can be used to guide the upselling/cross-selling process.

The customer success team should be able to demonstrate enhancement of new product/service values for their new offerings while recommending them to the customers.

To help you with your upselling campaign, run our Upselling Process for SaaS Companies checklist, which can be accessed for free from your Process Street account.

Click here to access our Upselling Process for SaaS Companies!

The customer onboarding process πŸ”„

The customer onboarding process is a step-by-step guide that familiarizes a given customer to your product/service, to the point where they can get the most out of your offering(s).

Using the 6 tenet customer success onboarding framework given above as structural support, we can hone in on the specificities of what makes a successful customer onboarding process. We’ll also acknowledge the customer success best practices mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Before diving into the customer onboarding process, it’s important to recognize that the process flow is dependent on each user’s specific needs.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the objectives of customer success onboarding are:

  • Your goal in customer success: For your customers to achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company. Customer success means your customers can get where they require by using your product or service offering.
  • Your goal in customer onboarding: To help new users experience the actual value of your product. Think of customer onboarding as a nurturing process to get customers acquainted and comfortable with your product.

Your customer onboarding process has to meet both of these objectives. You need to empower your customers by providing them with all the resources to onboard autonomously. This means your process requires certain features to guide customers from setup to realizing their first win.

Right then, let’s jump into the process.

Step #1: Welcome email

Initial correspondence with your new customers needs to be a positive one. Congratulate them on their new purchase, let them know how excited you are to have them come on board, and thank them for choosing your brand.

Step #2: Greeting message

This is different from the usual welcome email, a greeting message is an in-app welcome message delivered to users when they first log in. These messages encourage the user to take the first step and set up their account.

It’s best practice to ask your user to do one thing, and one thing only. For example, you might ask them to set up their account or turn on email notifications, with a video included as a guide.

Step #3: Produce setup

You want to take your new customers through a guided step-by-step process on how to set themselves up with your product/service.

For this, you can use Process Street. Create your free Process Street account, and document the setup process in an easy-to-use Process Street checklist.

For more information on how to document your business processes using Process Street, watch the below video.

Next, grab the checklist run link and share this with your customer. The customer can work through the checklist to set themselves up with your product/service.

Using the checklist run links provides a good way to ensure we’re continually engaging with the clients while also giving them independence.” – Alex Hauer, Salesforce Datorama’s senior success consultant

For more information on how you can use Process Street’s checklist run link feature, watch the below video example.

Step #4: Interactive walk-through

The most important part of the onboarding experience is teaching your customers how to use and get value from your product. The best way for the customers to learn is to let them use the product themselves.

Once again, you can create a Process Street checklist as an interactive walkthrough showing the customer how they can use your product/service to meet their needs.

When creating your checklist, use Process Street features such as:

  • Stop Tasks πŸ›‘ to ensure each step in the product/service walkthrough runs in the correct order, and no important tasks are missed.
  • Dynamic Due Dates ⏰ meaning you can set due dates on specific tasks, to synchronize work done by your customer success team and the customer.
  • Conditional Logic 🧠 to create dynamic documented processes that cater to your customer’s unique needs.
  • Role Assignments πŸ‘₯ to ease task delegation between your customer success team and the customer. Assign a given team member to the relevant task for them to be notified of their job beforehand, streamlining teamwork. Assign the customer to the relevant tasks they need to complete for product/service set up.
  • Approvals βœ… allowing decision-makers to give the go-ahead (or rejection) on important items. Also, the necessary comments can be provided. For instance, a customer success rep can approve a successful client walkthrough process.
  • Webhooks 🎣 meaning you can send automated messages or information from your interactive client walkthrough process directly to other apps. A great feature keeping your other tools notified about the status of your customer’s checklists and tasks in Process Street.
  • Task Assignments πŸ‘€ to assign users and groups to individual tasks during customer walkthrough, making it easy to see who is responsible for what.
  • Embed Widget 🌐 allowing you to view and interact with other apps without leaving the client interactive walk-through process.
  • + more! πŸš€

Step #5: Knowledge base

A knowledge base or resource section is an ideal solution for frequently asked questions, allowing users to solve their problems both quickly and autonomously. You should also consider employing a chatbox for websites, to help users solve their problems without having to search on your website for an answer.

Step #6: Routine check-ins

Check-ins are more of a best practice than a step. Your new customers should feel like you care about their progress. You’ll need to understand where they’re getting stuck and how you can help them get more value from your product/service.

Doing this is easy via your Process Street setup/walkthrough checklists. Your customer can simply say, “Hey, I’m stuck on task 9.” You can then go into the setup/walkthrough checklist and you’ll know exactly where your customer is at, and how you can help them solve their issue.

Step #7: Mini celebrations

Customer success managers need to be creating customer-centric milestones, and celebrate small wins with your customer, to get them excited about being one step closer to their goals.

Do this via in-app notifications, a congratulation email, or a quick call.

The more your customers feel you’re invested in their success, the more invested they will be in your solution.

Implement your customer onboarding process in Process Street

You can create your customer onboarding process from scratch using your free Process Street account, integrating this process with your customer setup and walkthrough processes.

Alternatively, you can grab and adapt anyone of our premade client/customer onboarding processes which are freely available in our template library.

The onboarding journey for your customers will be unique, but our processes provide a solid framework for you to work from. I’ve listed three customer onboarding process checklists as examples below, but do explore our library of free templates to find more.

High-Touch Customer Onboarding for SaaS Companies

Every SaaS company is unique, with different apps and approaches. There’s no one-size-fits-all guide to customer success or onboarding. However, there are some basic things customers will expect and best practices to make sure your customer gets value from your product.

Run this checklist as a streamlined high-touch onboarding process for new SaaS customers.

Click here to access our High-Touch Customer Onboarding for SaaS Companies!

Client Onboarding Checklist for Management Consulting

A specific onboarding process for a management consulting organization. Run this checklist for each new client to ensure they understand the value your management consulting services can bring them.

Click here to access our Client Onboarding Checklist for Management Consulting!

Client Onboarding for a Marketing Agency

A specific onboarding process for a marketing agency. Run this checklist each time a new client needs onboarding.

Click here to access our Client Onboarding for a Marketing Agency checklist!

Looking at these three customer onboarding processes, you can see how each process differs to suit each unique onboarding need. Yet all have been built using the same basic foundation. Like I mentioned, you can hop in and edit any one of these processes to adapt it for your specific purpose.

Measuring success with key customer success onboarding metrics

Before I close off this article, I wanted to briefly touch on key metrics that’ll help you evaluate the effectiveness of your customer onboarding process.

Use the below metrics to gauge how well your onboarding process is going.

  • Product adoption:
    Are your customers using all product/service features that you have trained them to use? Or, are they only using specific features? You want your product adoption to be high, and therefore your customers using all required features.
  • Time is spent on the product:
    How much time is a customer spending on your product/service? For instance, if you offer a SaaS service, and your customer hasn’t logged in for say 14 days, then that customer is likely experiencing some roadblocks or they’re not getting value from the service. This customer is highly likely to churn. Under this situation, you’ll need to touch base with the customer.
  • Values delivered:
    You want your customers to get value from following the shortest path, as at the end of the day, it’s the value that the customer gains from the product that matters.
  • The number of active users:
    If your product/service has been purchased to be used by multiple employees, but only a few of them are using it, there’s a problem that needs attention.

For effective onboarding, follow the process

To close off this article on customer success onboarding, I wanted to share with you a little story.

Recently I was looking to purchase a new mountain bike. I wanted one that was technical, sturdy, and fitted within the confines of my budget and skillset. 🚡

I went to my local biking shop and communicated to them my needs that would allow me to achieve my biking goals.

The customer success reps listened and gave their humble recommendations. They led me to purchase from a second-hand dealer, and not themselves.

Bad business you may think.

But no. By working with me, helping me realize my goals, I now hold this brand with high esteem. I have recommended them to several friends, and always take my bike to the shop for repairs and advice (often coming out with new gear).

Customer success onboarding is ultimately about helping and working with your customers as you would a friend. It brings the idea of co-collaboration, helping your customer who will also help you.

What has been your best customer onboarding experience? What challenges and successes have you faced when trying to deliver an effective customer onboarding strategy? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!.

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Jane Courtnell

Hi there, I am a Junior Content Writer at Process Street. I graduated in Biology, specializing in Environmental Science at Imperial College London. During my degree, I developed an enthusiasm for writing to communicate environmental issues. I continued my studies at Imperial College's Business School, and with this, my writing progressed looking at sustainability in a business sense. When I am not writing I enjoy being in the mountains, running and rock climbing. Follow me at @JaneCourtnell.


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