Nov 9, 2021

Read Time 4 min

6 Tips to Improve Customer Onboarding


The proper upkeep and continual improvement of a customer onboarding process are essential to maintain its value over time. Whether you’re rethinking your customer onboarding, building a process from the ground up, or just thinking it’s time for some customer onboarding improvements, it’s a worthwhile investment that substantially increases your return.

When you’re ready to improve customer onboarding, then follow our six tips to enhance the most influential phase of your customer’s journey.

1. Don’t: Fly Blind with Onboarding

To be a competent and confident Customer Success Manager (CSM) you should know where your customers are in their journey at any given time, but especially during their onboarding process. If you don’t, your customer might be struggling and you would have no idea.

To improve customer onboarding, you should always be able to answer the question: How many of my customers are on track, behind, or stuck in the process? (If you’re a high velocity team with thousands of customers, it may make sense to track progress as a percentage rather than an actual number.)

For those who are behind or stuck, it’s important to make customer onboarding improvements to help identify and manage possible escalations. These might come up either internally with leadership or externally with customers and their executive sponsors. Either way, it’s a good idea to have processes and strategies in place to address them. 

Start by establishing onboarding thresholds with estimations of how long certain tasks will take. Then, you can adjust to find your ideal customer timeline, which will serve as a good benchmark to help you manage any possible issues.

2. Do: Collect and Apply Data to Improve Customer Onboarding

A shortage of data isn’t usually the problem, but rather not knowing the best way to apply the data in a meaningful way. When it comes to customer onboarding improvements, the data can help paint a clear picture. 

If you use a cohort report based on onboarding date, you can evaluate your onboarding performance over periods of time. With these reports, you can compare how frequently and quickly customers complete onboarding.

Ideally, you want to see gradual improvements over time, with your most recent customers seeing the highest rate of success. This time-trend analysis helps ensure you don’t accidentally slip into a regression or ignore minor setbacks that could actually be consequential.

3. Don’t: Ignore Customer Onboarding Improvements if it’s “Good Enough”

“Good enough” doesn’t mean “good forever.”

Things are constantly changing, both for your business and for your customers. When you ignore or postpone needed improvements, you create a bigger problem for yourself in the future. You risk pushing improvements to a time when implementation becomes absolutely essential.

Like anything else, customer onboarding needs maintenance. Grant Freeland, the Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), wrote in Forbes, “Waiting until something is obviously broken before you fix it is often too late.”

Although we all get lost in our routines and busy schedules, it’s important not to become complacent and keep customer onboarding improvements at the forefront of our minds. Take some time to identify successes and failures:

  • Where are the majority of my customers getting stuck in the onboarding process?
  • Where is the majority of my team’s time spent when onboarding a customer?

Answering these questions can help identify pathways toward new ways to standardize or automate processes, uncover workflow improvements, and alleviate time strains. And, if you feel like you’re lacking answers, ask your newest customers. They can tell you exactly where they felt gaps and confusion throughout their onboarding.

4. Do: Create a Feedback Loop

Customer feedback should permeate everything you do to improve customer onboarding. It’s impossible to replace the knowledge that comes from firsthand experience, so reach out to your customers to find what’s working and what’s not from the people who are going through it. Then, use that feedback to make your changes.

For such an important resource, it’s crucial to keep track of all that customer feedback. Ensure you thoroughly document it, so you always have a reference you can return to if you need it in the future.

It’s also helpful to make collecting feedback a part of the customer onboarding process. Build in check-in points where your customers can offer their thoughts and feedback via surveys or interviews on the experience of learning your product.

5. Don’t: Think You Can Control Customer Onboarding

Turbulent markets and shifting circumstances are uncontrollable, and sometimes, customer churn is truly out of your hands. These things will never entirely be in your control, so it’s important to focus on what is: your attitude and your actions.

When situations seem unmanageable, remember the 90/10 principle: 10% of life is what happens to you, and 90% is how you react to it. You can be positive, purposeful, and pragmatic in your response.

6. Do: Define What Customer Onboarding Success Really Looks Like

Onboarding success should not be defined by its mere completion. Instead, outline what your customer needs during onboarding to be successful with your product independently.

Start simple and set realistic expectations. Define the bare minimum of tasks that your customer needs to achieve to see initial success. Then,  define what success looks like for you, such as what success might look like after implementation. What should the customer have accomplished? How should they feel?

Crush Your Customer Onboarding Improvements

Customer onboarding is a crucial part of the customer journey to get right. It can make or break your customer retention, and when properly executed has a heavy impact on reducing customer churn. If you’re ready to crack the code on customer retention, download our How to Crush SaaS Customer Onboarding ebook for a roundup of expert advice and guidance on the whole process.


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