By choosing their own adventure, customers are more likely to complete the onboarding journey. Here’s how we do it.
When we set out to personalize product onboarding, we began with the most obvious solution:
“Let’s just assign a customer success manager to every new customer.”
I can hear you laughing through the screen.
That wasn’t scalable. And we soon learned, it wasn’t even what customers wanted. At least not all of them.
So we studied their behaviors.
Some customers didn’t talk to us at all but had their teams fully ramped on our software within a week. Others used their customer success manager to the fullest extent, taking advantage of video calls and training sessions. While others emailed our support team with a few specific questions, mostly asking about self-help resources.
They all needed the same information, but they had different preferences for how to get it.
We learned that the way to personalize customer boarding wasn’t by spoon-feeding information to each new user. But rather, by giving them more self-service options and letting them take control of the process. Here’s how we do it.
The 4 methods we use to tailor onboarding to customer preferences
We offer four methods of onboarding but give customers the freedom to select which one works for them.
We’ll break down what each platform is, why we use it, and who it’s intended for. We’ll also show you an example of our own, then explain our success and learnings over the past few years.
1. Email for low touch customer onboarding
Onboarding emails are the standard for most businesses. Upon signup, new customers provide their email address and we put them on a drip campaign.
What is an email drip campaign?
Email drip campaigns are part of a marketing strategy intended to nurture leads and new customers with relevant email content. Email marketing software automates the drip process by releasing a sequence of emails based on schedules, behaviors, or actions.
Onboarding emails work best for customers who need a little hand-holding but aren’t able to carve out a set time for training. They can open the email on their own terms, and loosely follow our instructions without being tied to a strict schedule.
Emails provide a low-touch customer experience for users, while also keeping things pretty low-touch on our end.
Once we settled on the most effective email copy and sequence intervals, we automated the entire process using email marketing software.
We spread communications over a few weeks. Each email contains guidance on a specific part of the app. Starting with the basics and moving into more advanced features over the course of the sequence.
As account owners add new team members, each one gets a shorter campaign to introduce them to Groove. Two emails over a week.
This ensures that every new user gets a customized onboarding experience, whether their company’s been using Groove for two days or 2000 days.
2. Knowledge base articles for self-service onboarding
Knowledge bases provide a clear, organized, and detailed way for us to house onboarding documents and more detailed FAQs within a self-service portal.
Our customers can search for exactly what they need or follow our suggested flow to get ramped up on Groove. Without ever interacting with us.
Using knowledge base articles for onboarding reduces the need for a back-and-forth between customers and our customer success team. This saves customer effort and our team members’ time.
This type of onboarding works best for customers eager to do it all on their own. They don’t want to engage with other people or be told what to do. They learn best by doing and figuring things out along the way. (I’m one of these people, so forgive me if I take liberties with the description.)
Here’s a look at Groove’s Knowledge Base:
Everything you’ll ever need to know about our support software lives on this page. For people who jump right into the product without reading any onboarding materials (more on this type later), they can come to this page with one specific question in mind and find the answer.
For people who come to this page seeking a series of training materials, they can find exactly what they’re looking for too:
For us, using knowledge base articles for onboarding was an obvious choice.
First, our support product includes a knowledge base. So it was easy for us to set up and allowed us to show off one of Groove’s features during onboarding.
Self-service onboarding makes sense for our user base. As we discovered by tracking knowledge base metrics:
Our “New User Guide” is one of our most viewed articles. It saves us over a hundred support inquiries each month. And likely retains even more customers who would’ve churned had we not offered these easy-to-access documents.
3. In-app communication for fast onboarding
In-app information streamlines the onboarding process by keeping everything, well, in the app. Customers make their way through our product on their own terms, and we provide light guidance along the way.
This type of onboarding works best for people who typically throw out instruction manuals. It eliminates extra work and unnecessary information.
Since our product is a shared inbox for customer support, we use in-app emails to get onboarding content front and center.
When in-app onboarding works, we see fewer support inquiries, knowledge base searches, and live training requests.
4. Live training sessions for high-touch customer onboarding
Training sessions connect individual customers with customer success or account managers to walk through the product together. Rather than a standing document, each call adapts to the needs of a particular customer.
As a remote tech company, we use video chat and screen sharing to train larger teams and answer questions on the spot.
We immediately set expectations for the experience on our signup page:
Video chats allow us to build real, human relationships between new customers and our business. For some buyers, human connection tips the scales in our direction. This medium works best for them.
They must be willing to set aside time to join a call. And put in the effort to engage with another person in real-time.
For those who prefer high touch customer experiences, the benefits far outweigh the costs. They can ask questions, request to see specific use cases, and learn things they wouldn’t have sought out themselves.
That said, most of our customers prefer self-service and email communications. But, those who did take the live training option were more likely to convert. The human element almost always wins.
Because of this, we continue to offer live training for those who prefer it. But we found a way to apply our findings to another medium.
Our customer success managers recorded a handful of videos to mock the live training experience:
These videos live within our knowledge base and email campaigns. We can cater to those who prefer hands-off onboarding but could benefit from more engaging content.
Creating your own customer onboarding process
Once you create your own onboarding content, try the four distribution channels that work for us to see what works for you:
- Knowledge base articles
- In-app communication
- Live training sessions
Track how your customers engage with each option. Use real data to focus on what your customers want and what their behaviors tell you. Put more effort into what’s working and less into what’s not.
When you have customer metrics, you never need to throw things at a wall and see what sticks. You already have the answers in front of you.
Let your customers shape your onboarding process. Then, continue to listen and iterate as your business grows.