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The Ultimate Guide to Successful Customer Onboarding

The days and weeks following the purchase of your organization’s product is a critical time for customers. To ensure customers find long-term value and success with your product, the onboarding experience must deliver a powerful first impression. 

While customer acquisition is a primary goal for organizations, retaining these customers is equally important—and this process begins at (or sometimes before) onboarding. In fact, 88% of new customers are more likely to be loyal to an organization that provides a welcoming and helpful onboarding period. To sustain business growth and profitability, a positive customer onboarding experience should not be overlooked.

In this blog post, we’re providing a comprehensive guide to onboarding new customers, must-have onboarding resources, how to measure success, and common mistakes to avoid.

The role of onboarding in customer retention

Customer retention doesn’t happen by accident—or overnight. Organizations need to be proactive and strategic about keeping new users satisfied with their product throughout the entire customer journey. Customer retention is often split into three phases:

  1. Short-term (week 1): Customers begin using and testing out the product.
  2. Mid-term (weeks 1- 4): Customers regularly use the product to improve operations.
  3. Long-term (weeks 4+): Customers depend on the product as an essential tool.

The most important role of onboarding for customer retention is to demonstrate the value your product brings to the unique challenges and needs of the customer. Positive onboarding helps to set the right expectations and build a strong relationship with a new customer from the beginning. Overall, and potentially most importantly, providing a great onboarding experience increases Customer Lifetime Value and reduces churn.

Six steps to a successful onboarding experience

Once your customer has initially committed to using your product, your goal with onboarding is to provide them with a valuable and engaging experience. Over the next several weeks, it’s crucial that your organization offers helpful resources, provides education, and stays in contact with a new customer. 

The more customers feel appreciated and cared for (as well as how indispensable they believe your product to be), the more likely they will be to stay with your company long-term. Here are the six main steps to creating a successful onboarding experience:

1. Begin with a warm welcome

Whether a welcome call, email, or webinar, your first official contact with a new customer should be positive and exciting. Offer congratulations on their purchase of your product and thank them for investing in your organization. Get them excited about being a customer with you and about digging more into your product!

💡Did you know? New FormAssembly customers receive a personalized welcome call and can also participate in a welcome webinar.

Your organization can choose to provide a call, emails, or a webinar—or offer a combination of the three for new customers. While a welcome email is a great option, you can potentially have a more personalized experience with a phone call. This also gives you a chance to directly address any questions or concerns before a new customer gets too far in the onboarding journey. Similarly, a webinar can provide even more detailed information and leave room for a live Q&A session for new customers.

The welcome is also a great time to get more contact information from your new customer. Using a platform like FormAssembly, you can easily gather a new customer’s key details and send them directly to Salesforce. Having this information on-hand means any other form a customer uses during onboarding can be prefilled with their data to improve their experience.

2. Motivate with an engaging email sequence

After initial contact with a new customer, one of the easiest ways to keep them engaged with your organization and product is with a welcome email sequence. This part of the onboarding journey should provide customers with helpful resources and education about your product and what they can expect. Offering tips and solutions can also keep customers from feeling too overwhelmed at the beginning, so they stay on track and start using your product as soon as possible (and continue to use it).

Your welcome email sequence should provide strategic information for new customers that continuously point to the value your product brings to their challenges. These emails should also focus on positive affirmation for customers working to understand and leverage a new product at their organization. Simple, positive acknowledgment throughout onboarding helps spark motivation, especially when these affirmations are accompanied by helpful resources.

For an even more personalized onboarding experience, consider segmenting email sequences based on a new customer’s main interests or industry. The more specific the resources you provide a new customer, the more clear it is that your product can meet their unique needs.

3. Overcome learning hurdles with guided tutorials

A significant part of your customer onboarding experience is teaching these new users how to effectively use your product. Demos and help documents are always useful, but your new customers most likely won’t fully grasp your product without hands-on experience. Making this experience straightforward and helpful with guided tutorials can help users ensure a deeper understanding and faster adoption of (and reliance on) your product.

Contextual tips, additional resources, feature callouts, video clips—whatever simplifies the initial learning process will be most beneficial to your new customers. Remember, your new users are beginning with minimal or no knowledge of how your product works (aside from viewing demos or watching videos). The more direct and helpful you can be and the more specifically you can direct users through your product, the more likely new customers will stick around.

If you’re unsure what types of tutorials would help your new customers most, simply ask for their feedback. You’ll get specific insight into where your customers need additional help with your product and will be able to provide more personalized support. Using FormAssembly web forms can help you quickly gather this information and store it in Salesforce for easy referencing.

4. Offer personalized help

Tutorials and help docs might be all that a customer needs to become onboarded and fully familiar with your product. But at times, providing additional customer assistance can have longer-term benefits for them. Offering a personalized guide to a customer will further demonstrate the value of your organization.

💡Did you know? FormAssembly offers personalized Implementation Services to help customers get set up for success.

Make sure your customer support team has the knowledge and resources to help new customers begin using your product. This provides customers with several key benefits. With assistance from a support specialist, customers can jumpstart their success and minimize challenges from adopting a new product. These support specialists can also guide customers toward the best solution for their unique business goals.

5. Broaden user skills through a knowledge hub

Your customers can never have too much knowledge about your product, but how they receive this information can be either helpful or overwhelming. New users who have to do a lot of digging to find the resources they need can quickly become discouraged and lose interest in your product. However, users who have organized and helpful information available will be better equipped to find the solution to a challenge quickly and easily.

A dedicated knowledge hub for customers is an ideal way to offer resources and guidance for your product as well as frequently asked questions or discussion boards. This hub of information keeps tutorials, articles, videos, webinars, case studies, and more, at your customers’ fingertips, giving them additional product knowledge or helpful tools that are specific to their industry. Another great way to build the skills and knowledge of your customers, as well as keep them engaged, is to offer a certification program for your product.

💡Did you know? FormAssembly offers free certification courses through FormAssembly Academy to advance customers’ skills in the web form builder, integrations, and more.

6. Keep engagement high by following up

Successful customer onboarding shouldn’t end after the first call or once an email sequence is complete. It can take several months for customers to feel fully competent and confident using your product. You should stay with them through this entire journey and maintain their positive engagement with routine check-ins. Keeping in contact allows you to assess their learning progress and also provide help and guidance.

Common check-ins, whether by email or phone, include:

  • 1-2 weeks: Assess a new customer’s progress through initial implementation tasks.
  • 4 weeks: Review a customer’s progress in training and roadblock during product use.
  • 12 weeks: Celebrate onboarding milestones, access progress, solve technical issues.

Customer check-ins throughout the onboarding journey also provide an opportunity for customer success managers to inform new users of product updates or new features, further determine their goals, and provide additional assistance when the need arises. Be sure to also give new customers a space to voice their thoughts and opinions as well. This will help them feel heard during the onboarding process. Feedback surveys will boost their confidence that you care about their experiences interacting with your product and team.

How to measure the success of your customer onboarding

Your team put a lot of time and effort into crafting the perfect email sequence, updating knowledge hubs, and helping new customers adopt your product. How do you know if all these efforts are successful? Metrics! Several onboarding metrics exist to help you measure how successful the journey has been for your new customers. It’s important to both track and store this customer data in a centralized place, so you can easily access and analyze this information. Here are three metrics you can begin tracking today.

1. Time to finish onboarding

The main goal of onboarding is to assist new customers in independently using your product by providing the necessary resources, knowledge, and communication. How long it takes customers to complete this onboarding process is how fast they can begin seeing the value of investing in your product. Additionally, the rate at which customers progress through different phases of onboarding can be analyzed as well.

How to measure success: Keep track of the time it takes your new customers to complete different steps of the onboarding process as well as the journey as a whole. Measuring how many hours or days each phase takes can alert you information bottlenecks or confusion customers are experiencing. Understanding these metrics will help your team keep improving the onboarding processes and, in turn, the customer experience.

2. Rate of product adoption

Another goal of onboarding is to equip your new customer with the resources they need to use your product independently. This also includes understanding your product’s value for their essential business processes and the success of their business overall. When a customer more fully adopts your product in the onboarding process can give you insight into how successful this journey has been for them.

How to measure success: Keep track of how often new customers access your product, what features they use most, and the length of time they spend each time they use your product. Knowing this data can help your team understand how different phases of the onboarding journey affect when and how customers use your product. This metric can also be tracked during and several months after the onboarding process to determine success.

3. Level of customer satisfaction

During onboarding, new customers will inevitably have questions or run into roadblocks while learning your product. Allowing customers to respond to their experiences with your product is beneficial for several reasons. Their feedback helps your team further tailor the onboarding journey to better meet their needs.

How to measure success: Keep informed of your customer’s success with your product by routinely providing feedback forms and tracking support tickets for common pain points. This response rate about their onboarding experience will help you decide if current processes are helpful and satisfactory. 

Common customer onboarding mistakes to avoid

One of the biggest challenges new customers will face is adopting your product and integrating it into their current business processes. A difficult or overwhelming onboarding process accounts for 23% of average customer churn rates. It’s crucial for your team to create a personalized and helpful onboarding journey so as to reduce or avoid losing new customers. Here are four common customer onboarding mistakes to avoid when designing your own experience.

Mistake #1: Too many touchpoints with no direct path

Onboarding can be overwhelming for new customers. A common mistake companies make is further overwhelming customers with too much information that doesn’t have any clear direction. Your onboarding resources should not be battling for the attention of new customers. This can cause confusion or end up becoming too time-consuming for customers, who may decide to not finish onboarding. 

Solution: Be clear and straightforward with the information you provide new customers. It may be helpful to break onboarding into shorter, manageable paths to success for your customers through emails, tutorials, and other resources. Be sure customers understand the core features of your product and have the resources to use them with relative ease as soon as possible.

Mistake #2: Not asking for feedback early in the process

Whether your new customers are doing well or struggling during the onboarding process, you may never know if you don’t provide a way to receive feedback. Additionally, if you are simply waiting for a customer to reach out, you will be missing out on valuable information you can use to improve the onboarding experience for future customers.

Solution: Ask your new customers for their questions and opinions about your product or their onboarding journey early and often. You’ll get insights into how customers are adopting your product, overcoming issues on their own, or where they need support. Then, be sure you implement a plan to act on the feedback you receive. The FormAssembly team routinely launches new product features based on customer feedback!

Mistake #3: Thinking all customers are identical

It may be easy to think that all your customers will need or want the same onboarding experience with your product. But this is a common mistake that companies make during this process. Mismatches of resources or emails can quickly lose the interest of a customer as well as make them feel stuck in an impersonal or slow their momentum during onboarding.

Solution: If possible, personalize the onboarding experience to match what you know about a new customer, such as industry or company department. If you don’t have the resources to create tailored experiences for different types of customers, be sure your onboarding feels personal, but with resources and tutorials that can be used across verticals or departments. Using a web form to collect and store key contact details of new customers early on will make it easier for your team to reference this data during onboarding to keep the experience personal.

Mistake #4: Making initial success difficult to achieve

Sometimes, companies make the mistake of having an onboarding process that is too complicated or technical. While a new product will take time to learn, one of the goals of onboarding is to ease a new customer into using and understanding your product. The longer it takes a customer to achieve results with your product, the more disconnected they can become.

Solution: Make things easy for your new customers! This means having a user-friendly product, introducing resource libraries and tutorials that are easy to navigate, sending emails that provide helpful information, and providing a simple path for asking questions and sharing feedback.

Revamp your customer onboarding experience

The onboarding experience is critical for demonstrating the value of your product and jumpstarting positive relationships with new customers. Without it, your organization can miss out on creating lifelong customers who will recommend your product to others. One of the best ways you can create ideal onboarding experiences for customers is with a web form and data collection platform like FormAssembly.

Using our Salesforce-connected platform, your customer success team can easily create forms for new customer contact information, welcome call invites, resource downloads, support and feedback forms, customer satisfaction surveys, and much more. Once collected through these user-friendly forms, you can easily route this data directly into Salesforce for easy access, analysis, and reporting

Throughout the onboarding process, you can access key information about your new customers to create more personalized experiences through features like form prefilling. FormAssembly not only improves how efficiently you can collect new customer data but keeps data collection processes streamlined and accurate. 

Interested in using FormAssembly for customer onboarding and beyond? Reach out to us to request a demo or sign up for a 14-day free trial today – no credit card required!

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