Harry Obsessively exploring the depths of consumer psychology... Then writing about it.

Elevating your customer onboarding experience

5 min read

customer onboarding

You’ve got them! They’ve discovered your product (no mean feat in itself!) and they’ve liked your landing page – enough to give out their details and sign up. Time to pat yourself on the back – you’ve just won yourself a customer! Or have you? This is what the quality of your customer onboarding process decides…

The reality is that right after signup – is the start of a very fragile period. In fact, 40% to 60% of users will look at your product just once before ditching it.

That’s because there is a second key milestone that must be reached before you’ve really won that customer: the moment they’ve achieved their first success with your app.

The biggest reasons for abandoning your app:

  1. Users don’t understand how to use your product.
  2. They don’t gain any value from it.

Onboarding is the process you put in place to assist your user in achieving their first success – that includes showing them how to use your product and quickly enabling them to achieve a useful outcome. 

This is why customer onboarding is absolutely key to converting an interested window shopper into an engaged and loyal customer.

The customer onboarding welcome email

Welcoming your new user is the first step in the onboarding process – it sounds simple and obvious, but the crucial element is to not overload your user with information at this early stage. It might feel like the right time to talk about all your features and benefits – but it isn’t. Not yet.

  • Keep it simple and direct.
  • Thank the user for signing up.
  • Focus on what they want to achieve with your product.
  • Give them the first step to take.
Survey Monkey's customer onboarding welcome email
The welcome email from Survey Monkey gets straight to the point

Survey Monkey have a great example of a welcome email that hits all the right notes. It’s brief, it thanks the user and has a clear call to action – but most importantly it focuses on the user’s goal – which is to create a survey!

Getting users started with their first task

When you walk into a fancy retail store, every aspect of that experience is tightly controlled.

As you walk in, the temperature is just right – the subtle scent in the air has been carefully developed to match your taste (they’ve tested it with focus groups!) – the artful lighting, the smiling assistants, the tasteful furnishings and even the low number of products displayed are all curated – down to the smallest detail.

This is because first impressions matter. Once you’re in there for more than a couple of minutes, this ambience will normalize and blend into the background – but that’s ok – because the bar for how much you’re going to spend has already been set by your initial experience.

The first login

If reducing churn, and converting trial users to high-value customers is important, then their first login experience is paramount.

Our tendency is to want the user to jump straight into the software – or get them fully set up as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But the assistant at that fancy store wouldn’t run up to you with a measuring tape pushing you to start trying on their clothing – similarly, you need to allow breathing room for your users.

Just like with your welcome email:

  • Welcome the new user
  • Briefly reaffirm their goals and how your product helps them achieve it
  • Give them an easy entry point to get started
Pinterest's customer onboarding welcome screen
A great welcome screen from Pinterest

The setup process

The specifics of your particular product will dictate how you get your users set up on your platform – but here are some best practice tips to be mindful of.

  • Do you really need all that information straight away? Consider asking only for the essentials, and then asking them to add more details later.
  • Show them what to expect. Use a method that shows the number of steps to be taken and how far they are in that process (the fewer steps – the better!)
  • Never present an empty UI. Always walk your user by the hand through your product.
  • Use a skippable setup wizard. But allow the user to jump back into it (when they realise it’s actually quite helpful.)
  • Don’t overwhelm them! Again your aim is to get them started actually using your product – they don’t need to know everything from the get-go.
Evernote's customer onboarding setup wizard
Evernote is extremely feature-rich – so their setup wizard makes things less overwhelming by narrowing down the feature-set according to the user type

Inform within the UI

Once your user is set up and is in your primary interface – use prompts and callouts to get them navigating the UI.

  • Keep things step by step
  • ‘Progressive disclosure’ – a fancy term for only showing them what they need at that moment.
  • Focus on the primary goal of your product. You might have worked really hard to create an impressive sharing feature – but if the primary use case is to create a To-Do list, then show them how to create a To-Do list and keep the sharing feature for later.
  • Using prompts isn’t just for the first time they log in. As the user begins to explore more of your product, deploy prompts to get them using the more advanced features when they’re ready.
Evernote's tooltips and prompts
To get users started, Evernote use step by step prompts to get started with their UI

Human assistance – the holy grail of customer onboarding

Going back to our retail store analogy, we can see how human assistance sets the stage for how ‘upmarket’ your store is.

At the bottom end of the spectrum – it’s a huge store, hardly any assistance – all the products are on display and it’s up to you to go and find what you want.

At the very top end of the retail spectrum – you walk in, you’re given a drink, asked to sit back and relax while a personal shopper finds out exactly what you’re looking for and then curates a small range of products that suit you perfectly.

If you have a premium product then human assistance is key.

Whether over a phone call or using screen-sharing or co-browsing technology, human assistance makes your customer feel like a VIP. 

It allows them to explain specifically what they want to accomplish, and then be shown on screen how to accomplish that in the easiest way possible.

Further education for your users

Once your new user is all set up, now is your opportunity to show off some of the features of your product. This can be achieved with an email drip campaign – a regular email that briefly promotes a related set of features and encourages the user to try out that feature.

  • Keep it bite-size – now that your customer is using your product, you can elaborate a little more, but don’t get too deep into the details.
  • Give just enough detail to make it enticing for them to actually make use of the features.
  • Tie each feature to a benefit your user gets or a goal they want to achieve.

Here are a couple of drip emails from Square:

Bringing it all together

Although you know your product inside-out, your users don’t.

In fact, they can easily become overwhelmed in trying to understand what your product does and how to use it. So much so, that they are likely to quit before they’ve even tried it.

Your aim with onboarding is to get your user to use your software and achieve their first success. Once they see the value of your service, your users are much more likely to become valued customers.

To onboard customers – welcome them, break down the setup process into simple steps and hold their hand while they use your product to create a valuable outcome for themselves. 


Onboarding with Coview makes your customer feel like a VIP

Coview co-browsing
Coview takes your customer onboarding process to another level

With Coview’s co-browsing feature, your support agent’s cursor appears on the user’s screen – your support agent can then demonstrate your product, add highlights and even step by step instructions right in your user’s browser window. Your user can ask questions and get live help direct on their screen – like having a helpful assistant sitting by your side.

And best of all this is all done at the click of a button:

  • Instant connection – no reloading, no installations, no fuss
  • Users see no change in resolution and no popups
  • Minimal data transfer – so everything is instant and with no lag
  • Support staff can easily highlight and add written comments
  • On-page step by step instructions to guide your users
  • Save common highlights and instructions for use with other customers
Harry Obsessively exploring the depths of consumer psychology... Then writing about it.

One Reply to “Elevating your customer onboarding experience”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *