For many businesses, so much focus goes into simply 'getting people in the door' that the customer onboarding process can be a little... lacklustre, to say the least. The customer journey doesn't end with a sale; it begins there. And a strong customer onboarding process flow ensures that new customers are well-oriented, have what they need to succeed with your product or service, and are glad to have chosen your product and business to help them solve a problem.
In this post, we'll walk through a customer onboarding process template (in Notion) that you can use to map out the ideal onboarding experience, plan key projects and actions, and track how each stage of the onboarding flow is performing.
First, a quick refresh.
What is customer onboarding?
There are plenty of definitions out there, but for our purposes, I'm going to be talking about customer onboarding as the period of the customer journey that takes a customer from 'purchase' to 'successful and active user'.
For a Saas product, that might mean everything from signup and account creation, to feature tutorials and success criteria.
In other words: customer onboarding is what you do to help customers get the most value out of your product or service. Customer onboarding best practices are all about making this process as smooth, positive, and successful as possible for everyone involved.
Customer onboarding strategy
Which leads us to your customer onboarding strategy. It's one thing to map out a detailed, rich customer onboarding flow; but why a user should take step A instead of step B will only become clear once you have a firm strategy in place.
For example, your customer onboarding strategy might be a 'self-paced' strategy; which would entail giving your new customers a whole library of resources which they can consume and pick up as they go along and try out the product. With this strategy, you might include some retention activities (like customer success check-ins) to make sure that people are still finding value as they move through the product resources, but basically: the focus is on creating top-notch resources that people want to consume in their own time.
Contrast this with a more proactive customer onboarding strategy; in which case, you might have Customer Success Managers assigned to specific new accounts, and a high-touch series of emails, phone calls, or in-app messages to help guide customers step by step through those first critical weeks. With this strategy, the focus is much more on communication; making sure that people who've signed up for your product feel supported and have a line they can connect to whenever needed.
There's no right or wrong answer here - it all depends on your business, your team's strengths, and what is most likely to give the best customer experience (and introduction to your product).
The Customer Onboarding Process Flow
For this example, we're going to be walking through a SaaS product, and we'll be using the customer onboarding process template to help plan and map out key activities and assets we need to put in place.
The steps of our onboarding flow will be the following:
- Welcome email;
- Click-through product tour;
- Empty states prompts;
- Encourage a simple, first, easy project;
- Follow-up email to check in on progress;
- Knowledge Base links;
- Community invite;
- Mini milestone celebrations; and
- Request for feedback about the onboarding experience.
Let's take a closer look at each.
As soon as someone signs up for your product, they should receive a welcome email. This is an important first touchpoint with your new customer, and it sets the tone for the rest of their experience.
In this welcome email, you might want to include three things as a starting point:
- Thank them for signing up;
- Confirm their account details (useful for double opt-in); and
- Give them a brief overview of what to expect next.
This doesn't need to be anything too long or complicated - a simple template will do the trick. Just make sure that it's clear, concise, and gives a fair impression of what your brand is about (and what they can expect going forward).
Click-through product tour
A click-through product tour is a great way to give people an overview of your product, and how to use it. You can use a tool like UserPilot, Appcues, or Chameleon to create rich and friendly user experiences for your product tours.
The important thing is that this tour is short, sweet, and to the point. People should be able to finish it in 5 minutes or less, and they should come away from it with a clear understanding of what your product does, and how to use it.
Empty states prompts
Empty states are what users see when they try to do something in your product, but there's no data there yet. For example, if someone tries to create a report but hasn't imported any data into their account yet, they'll see an empty state.
Empty states are a great opportunity to give people some guidance on what to do next. In our example, we might want to prompt people to import their data so that they can start using the product.
Encourage a simple, first, easy project
One the best ways to help people get started with your product is to encourage them to do a simple, first, easy project. This could be something like setting up their profile, or creating their first report.
The important thing is that it's something that they can complete in a few minutes, and that it's something that will show them the value of your product; while also feeling like they've had a quick win.
Follow-up email to check in on progress
After someone has been using your product for a while, it's a good idea to check in with them to see how they're doing. This follow-up email is a great opportunity to ask if they need any help, or if there's anything you can do to improve their experience.
It's also a good time to invite them to join your community, or to check out your knowledge base.
If a user hasn't been active in the first week or two, you might also segment your list to send a different follow-up email which is more support-oriented, to help them take a first step in using your product.
Knowledge Base links
Your knowledge base is a great resource for people who are trying to learn how to use your product. Firstly, of course, you'll need to spend some time building out these resources. If it makes sense for your product, short videos (even just simple Loom screenshares) can be an ideal way to show users exactly where to click to achieve a certain outcome.
Once you have your Knowledge Base in a good state, placing links to it across your product platform, in emails and on related onboarding materials is a good way to ensure new users feel like they have access to all the information they need.
If you are building a community around your product, this can be a great place for people to ask questions, get help, and connect with other users. In your follow-up email, you can invite people to join, and give them a few ideas of how they can get started.
Using a tool like Circle or Slack can be a great way to setup and manage a product community with very little friction.
Mini milestone celebrations
As people are using your product, it's a good idea to help them celebrate their progress. This could be something as simple as sending them an email when they complete their first project, or when they reach a certain number of interactions.
These mini milestone celebrations are a great way to show people that you're paying attention, and that you care about their success.
Request for feedback about the onboarding experience
Finally, it's important to get feedback from your customers about their onboarding experience. This can be done through a survey, or by asking them to contact you directly if they have any questions or concerns.
By getting feedback from your customers, you can identify areas where your onboarding process needs improvement, and make the necessary changes.
How To Use The Customer Onboarding Process Flow in Notion (Template)
The above steps have been recreated in this multi-page Notion workspace, letting you track progress toward each stage of the onboarding flow in its own page and work area.
Inside the template, along with the above sections, you'll find:
- Personas template;
- Key User Actions table;
- Channels list;
- Emails database;
- Projects database;
- Targets & KPIs section;
- Knowledge Base hub
As you move through the various workspaces, you can erase the demo data and update each area with your own customer profiles, steps and projects.
To get started with the template, duplicate it to your Notion account with the 'your member template' button on this page (or hit 'unlock this template' if you're not logged in).
Customer Onboarding Best Practices
And, as some final tips for you to keep in mind while thinking through your customer onboarding process flow, here are some customer onboarding best practices to keep in mind:
Define your Customer Success Metrics: Customer success metrics are the quantifiable goals and objectives that you want your customers to achieve while using your product. Without these, you won't be able to measure the success of your customer onboarding process in any kind of concrete way.
Some examples of customer success metrics include:
- Number of active users
- Number of support tickets closed
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Customer churn rate
Choose the Right Customer Onboarding Channel: There are a number of different channels that you can use to onboard your customers. The best channel for your business will depend on your target audience, and the resources that you have available.
Some of the most popular customer onboarding channels include:
- In-person training
- Online tutorials
- Video demonstrations
- Customer success managers
Set Up Customer Onboarding Automation: Customer onboarding automation is a great way to improve the efficiency of your process, and to make sure that every customer receives the same high level of service.
There are a number of different ways that you can automate your customer onboarding process, including using:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software like HubSpot;
- Marketing automation software, or integrating your toolstack with Zapier; and
- More dedicated customer success software like UserPiliot.
Implement a Customer Feedback Loop: A customer feedback loop is a process for continuously collecting and acting on customer feedback. This feedback can be used to improve your customer onboarding process, and to make sure that your customers are having a positive experience.
There are a number of different ways that you can collect customer feedback, including:
- Customer surveys
- Customer interviews
- Customer focus groups
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys
Get started with the Customer Onboarding Process Flow template on this page, and start delighting your customers at every step of the journey.