Client Onboarding — a Great Way to Keep Customers for Long

Author
Michael Maximoff
Published
02/27/2020
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9m
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Attracting users is a complex task that website and app owners spend a lot of effort on. Let's imagine that the ad worked and visitors installed the product. They open it, spend a few minutes in the interface, and then leave. But where? Of course, to competitors, because they have already implemented understandable onboarding. But on your website, they did not understand anything. Considering that the competition in the field of online products is growing every day, it is meaningless to set expectations about their return. Thus, the efforts of employees and the advertising budget are wasted. 

It's not a process that starts and ends when users complete a product walkthrough. Today, onboarding is as much about the process of mastering a product as it is for a company to make upsells. It is both learning, lead nurturing, and laying the foundation for retention and upsells. By automating at least some of the repetitive tasks of the process, you can reduce costs, increase new user satisfaction, and improve the overall performance of your business. So, what is client onboarding, and how to use it correctly?

What is client onboarding? Who needs this process?

Onboarding is the process that users go through from the beginning of their journey to becoming a customer. It involves various interactions with your brand aimed at improving the clients' onboarding experience, engaging them, keeping them, and strengthening the clients’ relationship with your brand and product.

This is a period of acquaintance and adaptation of onboarding clients to the product, during which the company talks in detail about the functionality and lifetime value of the product, service, or offer.

The fact is that the more opportunities the service provides, the more difficult it is to keep the users' attention and bring it to registration or purchase. But onboarding helps with that. For example, special tooltips and pop-ups can accompany users on the website and talk about sections or recommend certain actions.

The process begins when a purchase is made, and the registration is done. And it continues already in the course of interaction with the platform. It’s not enough to simply familiarize users with your offer. It is important to support them along the way: tell them about updates, offer new features, and notify them about changes in the product interface.

This process answers three main questions:

  • What this particular product does;
  • how to use it;
  • how exactly this solution can be useful.

However, pop-ups and how-to videos cannot solve all problems. But good onboarding can improve users' experience of your service. Separately, such tips will be ineffective. But to really interest users, you need to combine different tools. How to achieve this goal and many other useful tips you will learn further.

This process is needed by anyone who promotes their product, service, or application on the Internet and wants to attract new and retain existing users. 

The responsibility for this process does not really fall on the shoulders of only one department or team member. While there may be a specific person responsible for the process at the helm, you will most likely use different people to ensure the greatest success for the users.

It can be:

  • Marketers who will develop content in various media and channels.
  • Customer Service Department who will provide information about common customer problems and questions.
  • Technical Support who will provide extensive documentation and knowledge base information.
  • Sales managers who will help customers in the early stages of the process.
  • Analysts who will be responsible for checking critical metrics and identifying problematic moments in the process.

The importance of customer onboarding

When we talk about prospecting, appointment setting, and anything else relevant to successfully closing deals, we highlight the importance of building trust and forming a relationship with new customers.

  • But what happens after they’ve signed the contract?
  • How do you make the most out of the trust level you’ve already built?
  • How can you strengthen it during your partnership with the users?

This is why we have onboarding, a step-by-step good onboarding process that helps your next clients get familiar with the algorithm of your services, understand their part in your B2B relationship, establish deadlines, and bridge all information gaps. 

Let's also take a look at the statistics:

  • 74% of new customers are ready to leave for competitors if they encounter difficulties in getting to know the product. For example, they could not figure out how to use it, or could not quickly get value from it;
  • 63% of users say that this process is one of the important factors when making a purchase decision;
  • 50% of users return goods or refuse services because they don't understand how to use them;
  • it is 5-25 times more expensive to attract new customers than to work with existing users.

That's why a thoughtful onboarding that shows you care about your users' success can help:

  • To invite clients;
  • to make them permanent;
  • to turn them into fans of your brand.

Successful onboarding also affects the company's profit:

  • It reduces clients’ churn;
  • It increases clients’ satisfaction;
  • it increases the number of happy clients;
  • it activates the product faster.

Discover the benefits of successful onboarding

Here are some benefits of this process:

It is important to understand that the purpose of this process is not limited to customers' satisfaction. Here are a few key benefits of maintaining a strategic process:

  1. Profit. If the process works well, the customers will stay loyal to your product or service and keep doing business with you. The quality process ensures that more deals will be made in the future. Smart engagement and content at this stage will help reduce the cost of acquiring new customers.
  2. Customers who go through a quality process are more likely to stay with you, improving their value. This makes them an incredibly valuable asset to your business. However, studies show that most B2B companies focus only 20% of their marketing efforts on customers’ retention. That is why we advise you to focus on improving the process to increase customers’ retention.
  3. When customers successfully use your product or service and are happy with it, they are more likely to tell their friends about you. According to the statistics, over 92% of consumers base their buying decisions on expert judgment, so recommendations can make a real difference to your business. Interestingly, 50% of purchases are influenced by the recommendation of another person.
  4. It reduces the workload of the customer service department. In addition to the obvious benefits for customers, this method can effectively reduce your costs. When customers are more aware of how to succeed with your product or service, they are less likely to run into problems during the initial phase.

What happens without onboarding? 

When you sell your product to potential users, you address their concerns. As business owners, your potential buyers want to be sure that their decision won’t put their income, clients’ company goals, or their market position in danger. However, they can only be confident about their choice when they see the results, and that may take some time. 

So, what happens if you just wait for the first results without speaking with them and explaining what’s going on? 

  1. Your churn rate grows. If you make the users wait for the value instead of proving it in the very first days of your cooperation, they won’t stay around. They have a lot on their plate, so the last thing they want is anticipation and uncertainty instead of transparency and confidence.
  2. You lose control. If you don’t document the process of your work with the users, can you really be surprised when your sales reps and PMs start setting wrong objectives and experience communication issues? Obviously, your team can’t read your thoughts. So, if you don’t explain the dynamic between your business and the users to them, they will be left in the dark, which leads to drastic consequences.
  3. Your reputation suffers. It’s very important to establish what the users should expect in the coming months. Unclear results can lead to conflict between what the users expect and what you can actually do. And in the end, the users won’t be likely to recommend you to other companies or leave a good review.
  4. Legal issues pile up. If you do not comply with the rules and conditions in your contract while working with the users, you are risking a lot. Since unsatisfied users can take the matter to court if they’re not pleased with how their legal side is covered, you leave yourself vulnerable to something more than reputational damage. Are you willing to take that kind of risk? 

As you can see, the main danger of not having a proper process is chaos. If you’re a startup that needs to make the most out of every user and every cent in your budget, it is really important not to let uncertainty and unpredictability take over. 

How to establish a successful client onboarding process

Here are 4 steps to a good client onboarding process:

  1. Send an onboarding form. Whether it’s a Typeform, a Google Doc, or a Word file, you should have a special questionnaire to let new users outline their goals and needs and provide you with information that is relevant to your business lead generation. In our case, clients complete a special form. Ideal Customer Profile helps us to know what industries to research, what companies to target, and what pressure points to use in our outreach. Sometimes, when users want to explore a new market, we help them build an ICP that matches their needs. 

In general, an onboarding questionnaire should include the following information: 

  • Users’ business data;
  • point of contact;
  • the preferred communication channels;
  • key performance indicators;
  • the end goal of the project.

If you need access to the users’ software in order to get the job done, add a field for a password or let the users suggest a way to provide you with access to important information. 

  1. Inform the team. After you receive a questionnaire from the users, assign a team to the project. Send to clients a questionnaire which they have to fill out. You should also meet with all team members in order to outline every important part of the project. It will help you stay assured that your experts know what to do, when to act, and how to communicate with more clients to help them throughout the project. 

Register a channel for the new project in your project management system to keep an eye on the progress. In addition, you can send a meeting recap email to your team, outlining all the points you’ve discussed. 

  1. Schedule a kickoff meeting. The only right way to get the project started is to arrange a meeting with the users. It doesn’t really matter whether you do it via a F2F appointment or a Skype call as long as it covers these main points:
  • Introduce the project team to the users. When the users see the real faces behind the project, they feel more comfortable reaching out in case any questions arise or providing necessary information. Letting your team and the users meet in advance also removes tension, making their further communication more natural. 
  • Get the users hyped up for the work ahead. Setting the tone is as important as building a structure for your project. If the users feel your enthusiasm and eagerness to get started, it will affect their own disposition towards you, the project, and its results. Why be dry and formal when you can be calm, reassuring, and positive? 
  • Leave the opportunity for corrections and clarifications. During a kickoff meeting, go over the project, objectives, and the ultimate clients’ goals in order to receive the users’ approval or let them make any adjustments while they still can. By doing this, you save your team from dealing with misinformation or any other inconveniences brought by poor-established communication channels.
  1. Check up regularly. Our SDRs are available to their assigned users 24/7 on Telegram, Slack, Viber, WhatsApp, or any messenger. That enables us to resolve all the matters as soon as they arise and make the users feel safe about their projects. In addition to this, we schedule calls with the users at the end of each stage, so we can summarize our steps and activities, ask for information that we might require as we proceed to the next stage, and ensure that the users are satisfied with our services. It’s critical to schedule checkup calls in advance by sending the users an email with a link to their calendar tool, so they can choose the time slot that works best for them. 

Why should you do it? You must be sure that the users have the time to speak with you and discuss all the details. If you call them when they’re in a hurry or preparing for an important meeting, you won’t get enough feedback to further map your plan.

Our customer onboarding template offers 4 new best practices

Let's move forward and take a look at the best practices that you can use to improve the process.

  1. A successful process requires a clear understanding of the product’s users. Before starting this process, define user categories according to their needs, goals, motivations, and the message they will respond to.

We advise you to answer these important questions according to our customer’s onboarding template:

  • Is the price of the product the main conversion factor?
  • Do users need to learn more about the product?
  • When do they make a purchasing decision?

Answering these three questions will help you prioritize messages and organize onboarding flows that best suit the users' needs. Each category of a client will likely need a different client’s journey, so creating multiple landing pages can help capture new traffic and increase conversions by tailoring the product to specific user needs. You can also conduct quizzes on these pages to determine which elements perform best.

  1. So the product has a personalized and clear value proposition. If a bad registration experience follows a value proposition, the onboarding process can turn out to be a real disaster. The reasons may be:
  • too long and complicated registration pages;
  • marketing messages and actual product features do not match;
  • the brand does not inspire confidence in users.
  1. Some users will need guidance immediately after registration, and some, on the contrary, will want to not be disturbed. Demonstrating a clear algorithm can help those who need support. For those who want to figure everything out on their own, the easiest solution is to convince new users to do something with the product. Further success depends on how user-friendly the basic features are.
  2. If the product is complicated, you may need to demonstrate more than one feature at a time, which requires a more engaging process. That is why you should consider using interactive tooltips that educate and familiarize users with the main features of the product. Two modern companies use this method with great success. Facebook and Twitter inform users about new features, policy changes, and so on. Such messages are usually large so they cannot be missed.

The examples of ideal customer onboarding preparation | Read the onboarding checklist template

In Belkins, we have a good and well-thought-out preparation. Firstly, the clients are added to the respective Slack channel. Afterwards, they see the contract attached in which the duration, as well as the terms of engagement, the deliverables from Belkins's side, and other unique points, are described. Secondly, the clients need to pass the post-sales questionnaire that contains some basic information. In addition, if they have questions, they can ask a sales rep for help. Finally, everyone from the team is added to the project & Slack channel. And then, the research can be done.

By the way, Slack is a useful application where you can create a general chat. This messenger is convenient so you can collect the problems of users that occur most often. Then, arrange the collected information in the form of a table or diagram in Miro, Excel, or any other convenient tool. Think about how you can solve each of them with the help of this method. Start with the implementation of those solutions that will get you to your goal the fastest and require the least resources.

Before the onboarding, the following is needed to be done according to the onboarding checklist template :

  • The clients' workspace as website, LinkedIn page, and blog should be thoroughly studied;
  • the team should check how active they are online. For example, how often they post something, update their content, how many new hirings they have, etc.
  • the team should also check who the people they will be working with are: what are their titles, how long they have been working at the company, and what’s their career growth.

Canva is another good example of an onboarding email. The chain of letters that the company sends to its users on an ongoing basis motivates them to return to the service and introduces them to a lot of useful features.

This method:

  •  Carries out the process outside the product;
  •  encourages users to return to the application and continue working;
  •  talks about its capabilities and teaches how to use it.

The graphic design service offers to choose the purpose of using the service immediately after registration. This information is necessary in order to provide relevant templates in the future. After that, the users are prompted to agree to receive emails with recommendations, news, and updates. This allows you to show the clients that there are a lot of interesting things ahead. Canva provides pop-up hints. If they are not relevant to the clients, then they can simply skip them. With the help of such a process, the company disposes users from the first steps of acquaintance, immerses them in work, and sets them up for further communication.

Slack also demonstrates another example of a good technique. It is clear, friendly, and quite easy. In Slack, this process is based on learning how to use the product but does not help you get closer to achieving goals outside of it. The main purpose of the Slack product is to provide faster, easier, and more efficient communication. Slack solves the problem of overcrowded inboxes and sometimes confusing or hard-to-find email chains.

When visiting the Duolingo website for the first time, the users immediately understand that here they can learn a language for free. Next, the potential students are offered to choose the language, the purpose of the study, and the preferred pace. They can also take a test and determine their level of knowledge of the language. All this allows the system to more accurately understand the needs of the clients. After passing the test, the users are prompted to create a profile or continue exploring the service. The whole process of getting to know the site is accompanied by clear explanations and tips. With this approach, even novice Internet users can understand the interface.

Read a new client onboarding checklist template and discover some ultimate rules

So that everything works properly, there are a few basic rules according to a new client onboarding checklist template:

  1. The level of comfort either rises or falls. This means that in the process of getting to know the product, the level of comfort and trust must constantly increase. That is, if you have trendy banners and the most understandable main page, then other products should be prepared at the same level (or even better). Otherwise, the level of trust and interest in the product will go down.
  2. Rule of 3 seconds. Clients come to you already with a level of trust and interest. And it is in your power to develop it further with a clear message that will offer a solution to the main problem of clients. All the details- later, now the main thing is to support your clients in that they have come exactly where they want to go. The users must understand that their problem will be solved here within the first three seconds.
  3. You must continually provide value. And it is also very important that the users themselves understand what value they receive.
  4. Before the moment when you need to temporarily stop communicating with the users on your initiative (for example, the completion of a deal), you need to give the maximum value. It will either be a solution to the users' problem or any other solution. The last step is always remembered. Let it be the best.
  5. Resources must be invested from both sides so that the users immediately not only take value from you but also support themselves.

To understand that the method works, you need to track its effectiveness. For example, if you developed a product course, estimate how many users complete it. You should also track at what stage the users leave the course. Analyze the reasons: everything becomes clear, too complicated, or important information is missing. Try making changes and track the results again.

Conclusions

To sum up, the first impression is very important, and a clear and accessible interface plays a key role here. To engage and keep users, different techniques are used. Measure efficiency and compare what works best for your business. And remember that there is no single solution. Everything works individually, and if one technique doesn't work, keep experimenting.

There are many tools that developers use today. These can be various tips, welcome documents, email newsletters, training videos, and so on. However, it is important to use them wisely and not implement everything on the website at once. Suppose the development is preceded by a thorough study of the typical behavior and interests of consumers. In that case, its implementation will open up new horizons of popularity and demand for a virtual product.

We hope our client onboarding checklist gave you some ideas, and now you know exactly how to build a plan that works both for you and the users.

Michael Maximoff

Michael Maximoff

Co-founder and Managing Partner at Belkins
Mike has more than 10 years of experience in the digital marketing and technology sector selling to SMB internationally. Michael leads Belkins' sales force and is responsible for biz development and new partnerships.
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