If your customer onboarding program is only focused on retention, your company may be missing the mark. As customer success expert Lincoln Murphy puts it:

“Proper onboarding isn’t done to prevent churn; it’s done to ensure the customer achieves their Desired Outcome. Retention comes from that.”

Translation: your north star should be hitting the customer’s goal, not trying to retain them.

When it comes to B2B and SaaS, the most effective onboarding strategy is one that shortens a customer’s time to value (TTV)—and that comes from providing a customer-first experience. It’s only after a customer achieves their goals that you’ll see retention rates skyrocket. 

Whether you’ve already launched an onboarding experience or want to give your existing program a spruce, we’ve got five customer onboarding best practices to help you level up.

"Proper onboarding isn’t done to prevent churn; it’s done to ensure the customer achieves their Desired Outcome. Retention comes from that."

1. Make it easy for customers to sign up 

It might surprise you to hear that the first step to effective user onboarding actually happens before onboarding begins. But what’s not surprising is what you need your customers to do: sign up. 

The best way to encourage potential customers to take the leap is to simplify the sign-up process as much as possible. Make it easy, make it quick.

Ask for only the most important data. Just a name, email address, and phone number will do. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to collect more data like user preferences and demographic information later.

If it’s absolutely essential to grab a lot of information right away, break it up into multiple pages and include a progress tracker. That way, customers can gauge their progress and not feel overwhelmed with a big webform right off the bat. 

Integrate a third-party sign-on (OAuth) option, so customers can log in using their existing Google, Facebook, or other social media accounts. Heap surveyed 79 SaaS companies and found that apps using a third-party sign-on option saw 8.2% higher sign-up rates

new client onboarding cheatsheet

5 simple steps to stronger client relationships

2. Send a welcome email right away (and say thank you)

Want customers to stick around? Make sure they feel valued from the start. The best way to make a stellar first impression is with a well-designed welcome email.

The first email you send will likely be your most opened. Welcome emails typically see 4x higher click rates and 23x higher conversion rates compared to other types of marketing emails. 

With that in mind, it’s important to keep this email short and sweet. Include only the most essential information they’ll need to get started. Here are a few key tips to keep in mind:  

  • Start off with a warm welcome message and a thank you to kick off the new relationship on a positive note. 
  • Direct them to a learning center, user guide, or educational resource space to let DIY learners set the pace
  • Include a clear way for customers to get in touch with your support team members in case they have any issues. 
  • Most importantly, be sure to send them back to your product. Encourage them to log in and start exploring the tool. 

Choose a customer learning platform with automation capabilities, so no new user slips through the cracks. Powerful automation tools enable you to build an email template that’s automatically sent to new customers as soon as they sign up—saving your team from constantly monitoring new sign-ups. 

Want an easy repeatable process for jumpstarting your customer relationships? Download our free new client onboarding checklist.

3. Centralize your product education resources 

Unfortunately, there’s no one way to cater to everyone’s learning preferences. 

But, a blended learning environment caters to both synchronous and asynchronous learning preferences, helping you meet most customers’ expectations. 

The key is incorporating a variety of format types: 

  • Host virtual live events: Think webinars, interactive training sessions, and Q&As with subject matter experts. You can always record these live events for customers to access later.
  • Build self-directed learning opportunities: Try short modules that tap into microlearning and quizzes. 
  • Leverage video as much as possible: Video is a major player these days—97% of people consider it an effective way to educate new customers.
  • Include collaborative learning experiences: Discussion forums enable customers to guide each other through challenges or troubleshooting issues. 

You can also reward customers for hitting certain learning milestones (or encourage a little healthy competition among new customers) with gamified elements like badges and leaderboards.   

4. Encourage customers to explore your product 

Your product is most valuable when people actually use it, which means proactive customer education is important. Get customers started right away by encouraging them to explore your app or software as soon as they sign up. 

You can encourage this behavior by offering a product tour. This will give more analog users a framework, so they don’t feel like they’re thrown into the deep end with new technology.  

Another effective way to entice customers to interact with your product is to offer a video walkthrough. This should guide them step by step through your main features, addressing the most common use cases of your app or software. 

You can also consider integrating a guided tutorial that prompts users to click through the most important aspects of your product. 

Give your customers a quick and easy win by rewarding them for taking the first step on their customer journey. You could award badges for completing a guided tour, asking a question in your user community, or simply logging in for the first time. 

This is important: make your customer support easily accessible. Contacting a customer success manager or a member of  the success team should be straight-forward and easy. This will make your customers’ experience much smoother if they hit a specific pain point that’s not addressed in the walkthrough (or if they prefer to follow up with a real human). 

5. Support your customer onboarding program with a learning management system 

Onboarding isn’t a one-and-done experience: it’s a series of experiences designed to help your customers feel the value of your product. 

That’s why it’s important to make sure your onboarding process is accessible and repeatable. A successful customer onboarding tool helps you organize and monitor every new customer in one space. 

360Learning’s comprehensive LMS platform is highly customizable for customer onboarding and helps L&D teams save time and money.  Keep all your resources organized, track progress of new customers, and offer peer-led educational opportunities for customers to learn from each other.

Start your free personalized demo to see how 360Learning’s collaborative learning platform and LMS can supercharge your customer onboarding strategy from day one.