Learn how to maximize revenue with this customer onboarding checklist.

What is customer onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the process of making each first-time user experience a compelling one, guiding each new or existing user through your product to navigate obstacles and surface moments of delight. Having an efficient and thorough onboarding process has immediate and long-term financial benefits.

Why should I improve my onboarding process?

Whether you focus on it or not, every product has an emergent first-time-user experience. When you make continuous intentional investments in users’ first-time experience, you set your business up for these benefits:

Higher conversion rates

According to SweetProcess, only 25% of app users log in again after their first use. If your sales funnel involves a free trial, you could be losing 75% of prospects at that stage.

What’s turning so many users away?

For many, a confusing user interface with little guidance is a deal-breaker. If your software is frustrating to navigate, why would someone stick with it?

For others, they may not realize the full value they can get out of your software. They can log in and use a few basic tools just fine, but they aren’t discovering the features that set you apart from your competition.

Upgrading your customer onboarding process can help mitigate both of these issues. For what to include, see the Checklist section below   

Increases customer retention

Connecting with your new customers early in the sales cycle can build long-lasting relationships. Closing a deal can be an expensive process after adding up marketing research, advertising, and paying your sales team. Ensuring a customer base that will continue to purchase from you can increase your profit margin exponentially. 

Effective customer onboarding processes increase customer retention through well-timed education. A customer that knows how to optimize your product for their situation will continue to use it and will likely incorporate more products from your line into their business. 

Improved brand image

As you continue to deliver amazing results to more customers, news of your value will spread. People enjoy talking about their triumphs to other potential customers, in other words, free marketing for your product.

According to Reputation Builder, customers are more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than after a positive one. That can seem discouraging, but you just need to make the positive reviews count.

You can leverage your customer onboarding process to receive feedback. You can use that feedback to share success stories and solve issues before they turn into disgruntled (and vocal) customers. 

Customer onboarding Checklist

Use this checklist to evaluate your current first-time user experience and see where you can improve.

1. Welcome

Your prospect decided to give your product a chance, keep the momentum going with a warm welcome.

Software products vary greatly in complexity and ease of use. Your pricing and sales processes should be tailored to your offering and target market, but a great Welcome experience is a consistent must-have. Welcome emails are an easy way to deliver essential information, prompt early wins in the product, and offer resources for learning more.

  • Focus on getting your customer to click a link back to your product.
  • Thank them for choosing your product.
  • Include resources for getting started.

2. First use

The first use of your product is a crucial moment in your customer’s decision-making process. Be sure to include all vital information so they have a beneficial experience. 

Introduce your customer to your product with quick, easy steps. They should be able to learn the basics, navigate the key features, and feel confident:

  • Include an optional walkthrough.
  • Use encouraging copy to guide them from step to step and celebrate milestones.
  • Allow customers to explore at their own pace. Program breaks in the tutorial and an option to skip steps.
  • Give support contact information.

3. Optimization

Do your customers know where to go after they’ve mastered the basics of your program?

Now that your customer has given your product a test and is familiar with the basic features, show them why they should stick with you and not someone else’s software:

  • Offer on-demand guides that explain advanced features.
  • Surface examples of what can be achieved with commonly used features.
  • Resend contact information for support.

4. Feedback

Don’t make the mistake of ending your onboarding process too early. As your customers continue to use your product, check-in to see if they’re using all the features available to them.

The best way to know what your ideal customer needs to achieve their desired outcomes is to ask at multiple points in their customer journey. Here’s what to do: 

  • Craft thoughtful questions to learn about your customer’s desired outcomes and what experiences with your product or team have helped or hindered their work.
  • Respond to feedback with specific solutions in a timely manner. Don’t let a struggling customer remain stranded.
  • Provide customers with an easy-to-find mechanism to “raise their hand” and request help before they abandon your product.
  • Market success stories to new and existing customers alike to encourage them to continue working for results.

How to improve your customer onboarding process

Using an onboarding checklist will ensure that you don’t miss important steps and will keep your process consistent from customer to customer.

Do I need to start over?

In most cases, making specific changes to weak points will improve your conversion and retention rates. 

To identify weak points in your customer onboarding process, speak to your customer-facing teams, and track where you have the lowest product engagement rates. Ask to see videos or images of customers working and ask questions about their working environments and the jobs they’re trying to get done with your product. This is where you’ll learn which features are too complex for new users, which business functions are difficult to perform, and if your interface is intuitive for users. 

Customer-facing teams are equipped with product expertise and insights into contextual decisions that your least and most successful customers are making. Invest time learning from your customer-facing teams and prioritize feedback according to what your business needs most.

Coordinate roles

If you haven’t taken a look at your processes before, this area will likely need improvement. Sorting out the onboarding process on your end will save you time and money, and your customers will thank you for a better experience. Consider assigning a customer-facing team (ex. Implementation, Customer Success, Support) to develop a customer journey map that illustrates the current state of the first 30 days in your product and what each department contributes to the first-time user experience. Members across departments should be able to look at the process and understand their role in it. Afterward, assign tasks to specific members of each department to gather additional information and ensure there are no overlapping or absent communications. 

How long does your onboarding take?

Even if you feel that your onboarding process is running smoothly, there still may be room for improvement.

Ask yourself, could leads be converting to customers more quickly? What’s stopping them now? Am I including a link to my software in welcome emails? Is a tutorial mandatory for even returning users, or does it go into complex features without allowing new users to take a break, so they burn out?

Again, asking your customers to provide feedback is a great way to learn their sticking points and what obstacles you can remove.

What tools can I use for onboarding successfully?

World-class onboarding leverages multiple tools and communication channels to meet users where they are whenever they need help. If you’re just beginning your study of the first-time user experience, start with the tools you have available today such as email or a Help Center, and begin testing content. As you learn more, it will be easier to make a case for purchasing and implementing onboarding-specific tools for essential moments.

Onboarding-specific tools are available for all types of products and team sizes. An in-app platform such as Pendo or WalkMe gives a platform for moderately technical teams to implement modals, gifs, and tours on pages of your product.

If your product is complex and needs a consultative touch to implement over a period of months, utilizing a purpose-built work management system can make all the difference. Hivewire’s purpose-built implementation platform automates your team’s workflows, creates guide rails for consistent onboarding, and makes it easy to visualize your entire portfolio of implementation projects. This system is also compatible with CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot, so you can sync information bi-directionally and surface essential information without having to overhaul your entire post-sales workflow.

Keep moving forward

As you continue to develop your onboarding system with each new customer, encourage and listen to feedback. What works well for one customer won’t necessarily be best for another, so take feedback in stride and incorporate it next time. Your onboarding checklist is an important document, so make it the best it can be and reap the benefits of satisfied and returning customers.