In last week’s post, I wrote about the importance of employee onboarding. No surprise that it’s critically important to success that employees are properly integrated into the organization from the outset. It should be no surprise, then, that it’s equally important to introduce and integrate your customers into your products and services.
Let’s take a look at what customer onboarding is, if it’s only for B2B, what it entails, why it’s so important, who’s responsible for it, how it looks if it’s automated, and what some of the necessary considerations are when designing an onboarding program. I’ll cover the first four in this week’s post and the latter three in next week’s post.
WHAT IS CUSTOMER ONBOARDING?
Customer onboarding is the process of welcoming new customers to the business and helping them set up and start using your products or services. It is a crucial stage in the customer journey and plays a significant role in setting the tone for the entire customer experience. The primary goal of customer onboarding is to ensure that new customers quickly and effectively understand, adopt, and derive value from the product or service they have purchased.
At a minimum, onboarding includes the following:
- Pre-boarding, i.e., introduce the company to the customer and vice versa, continue to build and strengthen the customer relationship, and understand the job to be done with your product in order to better design the onboarding experience
- A welcome email or message via some other channel that outlines what customers can expect during the onboarding process
- A hand-off from the sales team to the customer success team
- Education and training, which might include tutorials, videos, 1:1 sessions, etc.
- Account setup, e.g., logins, preferences, and personalizing the experience to the customer’s needs
- Customization and configuration to the customer’s specific needs and requirements
- Customer support and assistance to answer questions or issues as they arise
- Monitoring of the customer’s usage and progress to ensure successful adoption of the product
- Feedback sessions to address questions, concerns, and suggestions that might arise as the customer starts using the product.
IS IT FOR B2B CUSTOMERS ONLY?
Customer onboarding is mainly associated with B2B customers. And not just any B2B customers but B2B SaaS customers. Because there are roles and titles in B2B companies who are the ones primarily responsible for onboarding customers, few think about its importance to B2C customers. But it’s important for B2C, as well. It’s just handled differently.
In B2B, onboarding typically involves guiding businesses through usage and adoption of a product, ensuring it’s integrated it into into their operations. The process may focus on understanding the business’s specific needs, offering tailored training, and providing ongoing support to ensure the successful implementation and utilization of the product or service.
In B2C, onboarding involves welcoming individual consumers to the product or service and helping them quickly understand and use it effectively. The onboarding process aims to make consumers feel comfortable and confident using the product, leading to higher customer satisfaction and reduced churn. It’s not 1:1, like may be the case in B2B; it’s 1:many. And every user has chosen your product and wants to learn/use, whereas in B2B scenarios, users are often forced (typically by someone else’s decision) to integrate the product or service into their day-to-day.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
It’s a no-brainer that you want your customers to use the product, integrate it into their daily operations, help them achieve the job to be done, and see the value in using it. So, when done effectively, customer onboarding has some great benefits, for the customer and for the business.
- Higher Conversion Rate: Properly onboarding a customer during a trial period leads to increased conversion. Customer feel the love, use the product, and convert that trial to a subscription.
- Increased Usage and Adoption: A great onboarding experience helps customers understand, use, adopt, and integrate the product more quickly and effectively.
- Improved Customer Satisfaction: When customers feel supported and guided during the initial stages of their journey with your product, they are more likely to be satisfied.
- Reduced Churn: When customers quickly realize the value of the product or service and experience a seamless onboarding process, they are less likely to abandon the product and seek alternatives.
- Faster Time to Value: Onboarding accelerates the customer’s journey to achieving their desired outcomes with the product. Customers start using the product’s core features and experiencing its benefits more quickly, leading to faster time-to-value.
- Increased Revenue: Satisfied and engaged customers are more receptive to upsell and cross-sell offers. During onboarding, companies can identify additional needs or features that customers might benefit from, leading to potential upselling opportunities.
- Positive Brand Perception: A well-designed onboarding process reflects positively on the brand. Customers are more likely to perceive the company as professional, caring, and committed to their success.
- Increased Advocacy: Delighted customers who’ve had a positive onboarding experience – and thus use the product and receive value – are more likely to become advocates for the brand, referring friends and colleagues to use the product or service.
WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS OF IMPROPER ONBOARDING?
If you don’t invest the time and effort to design and implement a customer-centric onboarding process that guides customers from the start and ensures a positive experience, you and your customers will not reap the benefits mentioned above. Instead, you’ll see the following.
- Customer Frustration and Dissatisfaction: Without proper onboarding, customers will struggle to understand the product and the value that it drives, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction, which could potentially lead to abandoning your product and finding another solution.
- Reduced Product Adoption: If customers aren’t adequately onboarded, they will fail to realize the full potential of the product or service. That leads to under-utilization, preventing them from fully benefiting from their investment.
- Higher Support Costs: Without (proper) onboarding, customer might need more support assistance, increasing support costs for the company.
- Negative Word-of-Mouth: Unhappy customers are more likely to share their experiences with others, damaging the company’s reputation and deterring potential customers from buying your products.
- Higher Churn Rate: Higher churn rates will be seen as customers feel frustrated and abandon the product or service for a better solution.
- Missed Revenue Opportunities: Without understanding customer needs and preferences during onboarding, companies might miss opportunities to upsell or cross-sell additional features, products, or services.
- Longer Time to Value: When customers face hurdles during onboarding, it takes longer for them to start seeing the value of the product, often leading to reduced satisfaction and churn.
Regularly gathering feedback from customers about the onboarding experience can help identify areas of improvement in order to deliver a better onboarding process over time.
A poor onboarding experience is hard to come back from and is the fastest way to lose a customer. It’s critical to actively think about the entire customer journey, define it, map it, document it. ~ Paul Philip
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.
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