A killer SaaS product won’t sell itself. Even after your marketing and sales team have generated sales, the process doesn’t end there. A whopping 90 percent of people who opt in for a free trial never become paying customers.


Because getting used to your product or making it work requires effort, and sometimes people leave simply because they don’t understand how it benefits them.

In most cases, it isn’t your product that turns potential customers away—it is your customer onboarding process. And a minor mistake can cost your business a lot. In fact, a mere 1 percent difference in churn rate can have a 12 percent impact on your company valuation in five years.

Here are four of the most common customer onboarding mistakes that some of the biggest businesses make and how you can avoid them.

#1. Not helping customers with their “first success”

The earlier your customers get to know your product, the better. Research shows that a delay in delivering your customers their first success with your product will result in churn.

customer onboarding mistakes

This is where businesses repeat a couple mistakes.

Not understanding success from customers’ point of view: Success to you is when a trialist converts to a paying customer. That’s not how your users define it.

For instance, when a customer purchases a quadcopter, the first success might be a safe delivery of the quadcopter, or when a customer assembles the quadcopter successfully, or when a successful flight takes place. Ask your customers and see how they define success.

Making it hard for them to achieve their first success: If you’re sending your customers a 7-hour training video series that will allow them to start using your software, you aren’t of much help. Don’t make it hard or cumbersome for your customers to achieve their first success.

As much as 69 percent of millennials feel good when they can solve a problem themselves, rather than relying on someone else to do it for them. Therefore, your job is to make it easier for your customers to achieve their first success. Help them—you don’t have to do it on their behalf.

Key takeaways: Understand success from your customers’ point of view and help them achieve it as quickly as possible.

#2. Unable to deliver exceptional value

Helping with first success isn’t enough. It is only the beginning.

customer onboarding mistakes

If you fail to provide immediate exceptional value right from day one, you will lose customers—and revenue. Statistics show as much as 95 percent of a SaaS company’s earnings come from renewals and upsells.

customer onboarding mistakes

You need to validate your customer’s decision to choose you and unfortunately that’s where a lot of businesses go wrong. Because they’re too busy celebrating the number of acquired customers and meeting their sales goals and forget to focus on delivering value that their customers expect.

So how do you do it?

Make every customer count by ensuring them that choosing your product was the right choice. Deliver value throughout the customer journey, right from the first success.

customer onboarding mistakes

This value could be related to customer services, product features, bonuses, personalization, usability, tutorial, or anything that wows your customers.

One big mistake that businesses often make is that they overpromise benefits. The hype created to generate sales is a challenge to live up to. That’s where delivering true value to your customers becomes a next-level game.

Picture this: your customers expect a revolutionary, all-in-one and self-managing project management product; you sent them a traditional tool that doesn’t meet their expectations. Don’t fall into this trap.

  • When you overpromise and underdeliver—no value.
  • When you under-promise and over-deliver—exceptional value.

Key takeaway: Deliver exceptional value to your customers. Don’t create hype. Focus on creating lifetime customers by delivering value throughout the customer journey.

#3. Lack of a focused approach

What do you think your customers will do when they have too many options to choose from on the welcome screen?

customer onboarding mistakes

They will either skip the onboarding process (if that’s an option) or you will receive a request for a refund.

The onboarding process has to be focused on the most important features of your product. Take Dropbox, for example. It asks users to add photos as soon as they choose a plan, a core feature.

Nothing fancy. No multiple CTAs. Either do it, or skip it.

customer onboarding mistakes

Here are a few tips to avoid throwing spaghetti at the wall, as Eric Siu calls it, during the onboarding process.

  • Reduce clutter by removing anything and everything that’s unnecessary and doesn’t add any value.
  • Reduce form fields. Keep it simple, short and sweet. If you don’t need a piece of information, don’t ask.
  • Focus on core features first—you don’t have to explain every single product feature during the onboarding process.
  • One CTA per screen.
  • Allow customers to skip the onboarding process.
  • Avoid upgrades, upsells or cross-sells. You’ll have a lot of time for it later.

Key takeaways: Channel user attention toward the most important product features, without making it appear messy. Let them focus on one thing at a time.

#4. No follow up

While overpromising can be suicidal, over-communication is better than under-communication throughout the onboarding process. If you only send a couple of automated emails, you’re missing customers, losing revenue and breaking the rules of communication. And no, a welcome email is not enough.

Follow up at every stage. Celebrate your customer wins. Remind them of features they aren’t using. Share case studies. Offer help.

Here is an example of the type of communication we are talking about. This is the message that Typeform users get when they create a template. It’s not an email—it’s incorporated into their onboarding process.

customer onboarding mistakes

Communication and regular follow-ups build trust and help convert users into customers. Onboarding isn’t all about your product—it’s about customer experience and building trust. Here is a handwritten note that Stride sent to its users.

customer onboarding mistakes

The purpose of follow-ups should be:

  • Quick and easy user success
  • Deliver value
  • Reduce churn rate
  • Collect data

Key takeaways: Communicate with your customers throughout the onboarding process to ensure they achieve the desired outcome from your product as soon as possible, without extra effort. Customer onboarding is a journey that begins as soon as conversion happens and you have to make it fun and meaningful.