Jan 10, 2022

Read Time 5 min

8 SaaS Onboarding Best Practices


SaaS customer onboarding makes or breaks your customer retention. Your onboarding process is a learn-or-churn, adopt-or-get-dropped situation. It has a long-lasting impact on your customer and deep ties to their likelihood to churn. For this reason, unlocking the optimal SaaS customer onboarding experience is invaluable.

How exactly do you get customers to embrace your product instead of simply moving them through the motions and hoping something sticks? Read our guide here for the 8 SaaS onboarding best practices to step up your onboarding experience.

1. Work Cross-Functionally During SaaS Customer Onboarding

Customer onboarding doesn’t only have to stay within Customer Success. In fact, it can be a much smoother and consistent process if more of the company gets involved. Reach out to other teams and departments to make sure everyone is on the same page.

This includes the CEO and other executives to help drive these initiatives. When you have multiple teams involved, you have several different perspectives that can help shed light on the customer journey. If you’ve gotten customer feedback, for example, and you want to look over it to identify pain points, recruit a cross-functional team to help you review the data. You’ll be able to put together much more efficient internal workflows and define responsibilities and metrics.

One cross-functional relationship that absolutely cannot be ignored when it comes to SaaS customer onboarding is the relationship between Sales and Customer Success. That crucial handoff can make or break your onboarding: Sales sold the customer the dream, and now Customer Success needs to facilitate the realization of that dream. CS teams should get as much as they can from the Sales team in order to be best prepared for this customer relationship.

Product teams are another important cohort Customer Success should tune into, especially since Product plays a definitive role in the SaaS customer onboarding experience. The product needs to be right for the process to be frictionless, intuitive, and value-driven.

2. Segment for Customer Onboarding

Since successful onboarding really depends on providing the most value for your customers’ specific needs, it makes sense to train them on your products based on those needs. Provide onboarding training that will really set them up to successfully use the product.

Segment your customers based on these needs, or based on other attributes that you think will be most helpful to drive a successful onboarding experience. At ChurnZero, we segment customers into roles we’ve designed: Decision Makers, Champions, and Users. You might find, though, that other types of customer segmentation work best for your business.

You could try segmenting customers based on their business maturity, industry, or other demographics.

3. Define Key Onboarding Events, Correlate Them to Customers’ Success

Take time to allow your Customer Success team to identify events that will help define your customers’ success, both technical as well as business success. Your metrics are going to be different from your customers’ key metrics since you both have different goals.

Remember that your goal is to make sure that your product helps solve the problem that drove your customer to purchase the product in the first place. Keep that in mind, and allow that knowledge to guide you through the onboarding process as well as any support experiences that might pop up.

This is something that your Sales team can help you with. When they close the sale, they can and should confirm the customer’s intended goals for using the product. This is something they can then pass on to the Customer Success team to ensure customer satisfaction.

4. Accelerate Time to Initial Value During SaaS Customer Onboarding

The three most important things to focus on during the onboarding process are identifying what’s important for the customer, setting clear expectations, and measuring success in order to accelerate time to initial value.

Many of your customers probably don’t understand just what it takes to actually drive change and encourage adoption of a new product. You have to help your customers learn about the adoption process and set up an internal adoption team on their side if necessary.

When you help them along in this implementation process, you accelerate the time it takes for your customers to see initial results. The sooner they see these initial results and the value of your product, the more motivated they’ll be to utilize even more of your product’s capabilities.

5. Avoid Overloading Onboarding Customers

A standardized onboarding process is the ideal — it helps you track trends and anomalies across your customer base. But it’s important to allow for some flexibility and agility, too. If you have a customer with a particularly complicated implementation, make sure to allow some space for some possible changes in your process.

It’s also a best practice to avoid a “big bang” approach, when you throw everything at your customers all at once. To avoid this, create a multi-phased adoption plan that lays out a clear path that will help customers optimize the value they find in your product over time.

If your customers need time to establish certain parameters around your relationship and come to an agreement about communication and collaboration, build that into this portion of their adoption process. Outlining these sorts of things can help avoid conflict down the road and create a smoother onboarding process.

6. Motivate Unresponsive Onboarders

Sometimes, your customers might think that they don’t actually need to participate in the onboarding process, that this is something they can figure out on their own. That could be detrimental to your business, especially if they start running into roadblocks and become frustrated with your product, all because they didn’t go through the provided training.

When it comes to onboarding customers who might be disengaged, it’s important to help them understand the importance of fully participating. Explain to them that customers who onboard properly and completely see certain results a lot sooner.

Perhaps most importantly, you should keep the Decision Maker involved in the onboarding process whenever possible. This is the person who signed off on buying your product in the first place, so making sure they have an active role can help build in possible upsell opportunities down the line.

7. Manage Customer Outreach After Onboarding

After onboarding, it’s tempting to just let your customers have at it and assume that they can simply take it from here. Usually, however,  training doesn’t stop with onboarding. Your customers often need continued support to get their product up and running and learn how to integrate it into their existing workflows.

It’s beneficial to map your customers’ journey in order to identify certain important milestones for implementation, adoption, and achieving business goals. With this sort of map, Customer Success Managers can reach out to customers when they’ve reached certain points in order to check in and ensure their continued progress.

In addition to this sort of outreach, you should also make sure to collect feedback from your customers to better understand a number of things. This kind of feedback can give you insight into your product solutions as well as the efficacy of your onboarding and training process.

8. Measure SaaS Customer Onboarding with the Right KPIs

Choosing the right KPIs can be crucial for having a clear picture of your onboarding process and understanding whether it’s successful. Often, companies choose KPIs that reflect their own internal tasks, when really they should be following metrics that genuinely reflect the customer’s onboarding progress.

For example, many Customer Success teams monitor how long it takes for a customer to complete the onboarding process. This, however, doesn’t actually tell you much about the success of the onboarding experience or your customer’s satisfaction. It’s much more useful to track how quickly your customer starts deriving value from your product.

Tracking these sorts of metrics can help you understand exactly when to engage or reach out, when to offer help, and when your customers might need an extra nudge in the right direction.

Put These SaaS Onboarding Best Practices to the Test

Now that you have these SaaS onboarding best practices in your back pocket, you can bring them into play and really vamp up your customer onboarding. If you’re looking for even more guidance, download our EBook: How to Crush SaaS Onboarding: A Roundup of Expert Advice. With all these new tricks up your sleeve, you’ll have customers successfully engaged with your products in no time.


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