The 3 Flavors of Onboarding

It might be considered an afterthought for some, but in the world of Customer Success, poor customer onboarding should be one of your top priorities. Why? Because it happens to be the leading cause of churn. 23% of churn, to be exact, is caused by poor onboarding (Preact). One way many Customer Success professionals are getting past this roadblock is by utilizing the concept of on-demand onboarding. This gives customers access to the information they need, exactly when they need it. Yet, it’s not always simple to find the right balance between no-touch and white-glove onboarding.

In a recent webinar, we polled attendees to find out where they stand in regards to on-demand customer onboarding. We found that 38% of attendees were not providing any on-demand onboarding programs for their customers. In a similar survey, TSIA found that the entirety of their Education Services Summit participants confirmed their customers were asking for more digital learning content. Let’s take this as food for thought when considering different approaches to customer onboarding.

Speaking of food; we like to think of customer onboarding as taking our customers out to dinner. The kinds of dinner can fall under 3 categories, or flavors. So let’s get our hands dirty with what this analogy means. There are 3 ways in which one can get a scrumptious meal; the first and most common: self-service.

The 3 Flavors of Onboarding

In customer success, this translates to an onboarding experience with a straight-forward product and a high volume of users. Perhaps this is a freemium model or there is a low contract value associated with each individual customer. This is common for B2C tools or Dev tools where you assist high-tech users that are already well trained. We like to think of this situation as going to the grocery store or making your own dinner. In all likelihood, onboarding these users will happen through self-service channels. Your customers will go to the store, buy all the ingredients off their list, narrow down a bunch of recipes they’d like to try and eventually put everything together. To boil it down, your customers are going to do everything themselves. Keeping this in mind, you can design an onboarding program that facilitates that preference for self-service.

Our next method is low-touch, which we like to associate with a taco truck (because let’s face it, who doesn’t love tacos?) There isn’t much of a hassle and the process is pretty simple: you’re either a chicken person, a beef person, or a vegetarian. The options are minimal and you’re not going to get everything served to you. Instead, you’d grab a paper napkin and a plastic fork, then sit on the curb and enjoy your delicious taco. The savory and easy-to-use approach we just outlined is really good for mild-complexity products. This is the kind of onboarding you would serve your customers who need some degree of help and guidance, but probably not all that much. This is typical if there is mild friction and adoption needs a small push. This kind of gentle nudge is appropriate for SMB customers to whom you can’t dedicate the resources of white glove onboarding but who still need help to adopt your product.

The third and final flavour of customer onboarding is that of a high-touch onboarding program. This is the exquisite and fancy restaurant where you have valet parking, an over the top menu, and amazing service. This scenario is appropriate when a new product is being introduced which requires a significant change in user’s daily workflows. This often goes hand in hand with an extensive implementation process. Before a high-touch customer can even start seeing value, there is a whole lot of work that they need to do, and a lot of guidance on your part. Often in a situation such as this, there are many stakeholders involved in the project, and this reflects in the amount of departments involved in onboarding. This is especially true for enterprise users with multiple layers to penetrate within the company, and many levels on the adoption ladder.

When designing your customer onboarding program, keep these guidelines in mind and decide which approach best suits your business, your organization, and your customer segments. As with most things, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s not unusual for Customer Success teams to develop multiple onboarding processes for different customer portfolios and change them as the team evolves.