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Planning a SaaS onboarding journey for a new customer

SaaS Customer Onboarding: A 3-Step Guide for Streamlined Success

Like making a first impression with a new acquaintance, SaaS customer onboarding has a big effect on whether your customer’s trajectory with your company is positive or negative.

Like making a first impression with a new acquaintance, SaaS customer onboarding has a big effect on whether your customer’s trajectory with your company is positive or negative.

Imagine you’re the main point of contact or user of the software element your company has purchased. You had a great experience with the salesperson, but now that you’ve signed the deal, you’re unsure about next steps. You find yourself poking around on your own and investing lots of time figuring out what to do next…

This situation doesn’t spell great news for a new customer.

When doing customer onboarding, you’re usually not responsible for the things that happen later in the customer’s journey. But if you invest the hard work and planning required to guarantee a great onboarding experience for your customers, it will be influential on their success.

In our imaginary example, when you started using that new software, wouldn’t you have been happier if you were given a step-by-step approach to success and guided to all the resources you could access for future help and support?

You should treat new customer onboarding as the gateway to their overall experience with your company. It’s as easy as 1-2-3… if you follow these steps for a successful onboarding experience.

Step 1: Map the Customer Journey

Customer onboarding usually crosses interdepartmental lines – your new customer could interact with anyone from sales, marketing, implementation, support, and success. This is where a customer journey map comes in handy. Going through that process with the key onboarding stakeholders can help you visualize where onboarding fits into the entire customer experience.

In the SaaS (or anywhere in the B2B software) world, a clear and efficient onboarding process is fundamental.

For example, at Higher Logic, we have a clear plan established for how customers move through the cycle. When our customers have crossed all those t’s and dotted all those i’s in the sales process, they’re handed off to the customer implementation team, followed by the customer success team. They’re introduced to the Higher Logic Users Group (HUG, our internal online community), the resource center, and briefed on how to contact support.

We created a guide about how we do customer implementation (or onboarding). Check out how our process works and feel free to borrow parts you like for your own.

As a reminder, before you get into the rest of the Customer Onboarding Success steps, you’ll want to commit to doing a customer journey map – or at least map out your onboarding process. It’s time intensive, but worth it. When you’re back, read on for how to perfect your customer onboarding path.

Step 2: Give Them a Roadmap

Once you know the customer’s journey, you can then clearly communicate that to the customer. They’ll know what to expect. Also? A perk of doing customer journey mapping is that you see exactly where changes need to be made.

Now, you might be asking yourself the burning question – how do I scale this communication process?

(Great question, I’m so glad you asked). Your best bet is going to be with automated, but personalized, technology tools.

Related: Blog Post – The Value of Community in Customer Success

Show Them What’s Available

As you onboard customers:

  • Run a drip campaign with marketing automation software to ensure they’re informed and engaged along the way. Each email provides more layers of information about what it means to be your customer.
  • Clearly outline the resources they have available for success. For example, can they easily access a library of resources, a discussion board with other customers, and self-service support in your online community? Let them know.

Outline the Plan with Community

When a customer enters your online community, you can customize the home page to match where they, specifically, are in their individual journey. For example, as new users, they might see a widget showing how many tasks they’ve completed in the onboarding process.

Not only does this encourage logins and use of the private online community (which, in itself, is a resource for customer success), but they also clearly see what’s next on the to-do list. Instead of doing this process manually, online community makes visualizing the journey swift and easy on your end.

Related: Blog Post – The Value of Community in Customer Success

Step 3: Track Their Progress

Your best friend during the onboarding process? Data.

When scaling onboarding efforts at a growing SaaS business, you won’t have the ability have individual check-ins with each customer to see how it’s going. But with the data harvested from your online platforms, your CRM becomes an invaluable hub of information to help you gauge customers’ happiness.

“[Customer Success] pinpoints problems—and opportunities— [that] happen by collecting and leveraging as many data points as possible about the customer.” – Gainsight

Now, if you’re following, you’re probably thinking the same thing I am:

How do we get as much data as possible?

Integrate Your Tools

I touched on this in Step 2, but the imperative here is to ensure your tech stack is working together. Your tools, like your marketing automation or your private online community software, when integrated, send data back to your CRM and create complete customer profiles.

This way, the most recent, and accurate data can inform the way you track customer onboarding.

Note: Integration here refers to the connection between two software tools using APIs [Application Programming Interfaces]. With un-integrated tools, you run the risk of overwriting or confusing data.

When You’re Done? Assess & Refine Your Approach

After you’ve taken these steps to streamline your onboarding process, it’s time to take a step back and assess your progress. Making sure your customer’s implementation process is a smooth transition from the sales team to support is no easy job, so expect to make a few changes.

Bonus: If your email tool is integrated with a private online community, you’ll have even more behavioral data about your customer’s engagement with your community. Those who haven’t logged in or posted any questions after a couple months can raise your customer success spidey senses, or those who seem to participate and have positive things to say can get onto your marketing team’s referral bucket list.

But when you’re done, you’re going to feel so good about this whole process. And, we all know the real goal of customer success is to make customers for life.

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Elizabeth Bell

Elizabeth Bell is the Content Marketing Manager at Higher Logic. She’s passionate about communities, tech, and communicating about both effectively. When she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her cooking, reading, gardening, or playing volleyball.