Onboarding is a critical moment in the SaaS customer experience. The onboarding experience raises many questions that you and your team must answer if you want to build a powerful and effective structure to get things advancing quickly and smoothly. How do you want to educate your customer about your product? How much should your customer depend on their CSM? This article explores SaaS self-service onboarding best practices and how EverAfter can help optimize your SaaS onboarding experience.
Self-serve, low-touch, and high-touch onboarding
As customers, we'd want every resource available to us at all times. But, as a Customer Success Manager (CSM), it’s important to recognize that different onboarding approaches serve different purposes. Self-service and low-touch onboarding are approaches that focus on setting up an onboarding process requiring minimal intervention from a CSM and enabling the customer to navigate their journey independently - well, mostly. High-touch onboarding is an approach where the CSM plays an active role in providing a personalized experience to the customer. Both can result in high customer satisfaction.
These approaches serve different purposes and are suited to different situations. Low-touch onboarding is suitable for more simple processes and helps the CSM manage many accounts without increasing the workload. High-touch onboarding can be needed if the product requires personalization for the customer, it’s a complex product, there are multiple stakeholders, a large contract, or you want to offer special treatment for an all-star customer.
With EverAfter, a low-touch onboarding experience can still resemble white-glove, personalized treatment. In other words, the self-service automation that EverAfter offers provides a high-touch experience to the customer and helps with customer retention.
Benefits of low-touch and self-service customer onboarding
Low-touch onboarding is self-serve in nature. They both require more thought and preparation beforehand, and the customers will use instructions and resources (that are provided to them) to guide themselves through the product. From now on, we’ll use ‘low-touch’ and ‘self-service’ interchangeably.
This doesn't mean there is no CSM-customer interaction! There’s a reason CSMs manage customer onboarding. But, low touch onboarding greatly reduces unnecessary back and forth and lets your customers spend more time exploring the product themselves. We're not saying don't do demos, showcase your product or perform onboarding meetings (eg. kick-off and check-in), but since your customer can complete the technical and simple tasks beforehand, you can personalize these sessions for the customer's needs and pain points.
Low-touch onboarding is also designed to scale. More accounts can be managed without adding an extra workload on the CSM or burdening current systems and is a more efficient process. If you use a system that allows for self-service automation - it will come into play as you will require a solution to scale.
Another advantage is your customer’s experience and psyche. Your customers will feel trusted to take control and navigate their journey at their own pace, and appreciative that conversations are more relevant when they occur.
Is low-touch onboarding right for you?
Think about your product. Think about your company. In the world of SaaS onboarding, companies have no choice but to create and adapt their onboarding to suit their unique needs, market, and product. Below we'll raise some situations and considerations that suit a low-touch approach.
- Managing different tiers: Low-touch onboarding enables your company to onboard the different types of customers without adding to its headcount
- A simple onboarding process: If your onboarding process is pretty straightforward, without requiring additional customization or solution engineering - a low-touch approach could be the way to go (ie. onboarding automation)
- Looking to go up-market? Part of this important stage includes freeing your team from redundant tasks and maximizing their efficiency
- Scale your account management: A low-touch onboarding approach lets you increase the account capacity per CSM without adding to their workload
Does your product enable your customer to have quick wins by executing tasks and accomplishing goals from the get-go? Can your customer get a head start with the product before the first kickoff meeting with their CSM? If you want to answer “yes” to these questions - then explore self-service onboarding.
Low-touch onboarding with EverAfter
EverAfter is a versatile system that can support a low-touch and self-service onboarding approach that is personalized and automated for each customer. You’ll be happy to know that EverAfter’s tools accommodate self-service onboarding best practices. And you can learn more about industry best practices here.
What metrics can you improve with a good low-touch approach? A shorter onboarding time and a decrease in emails between you and the new customer are two ways to measure a successful low-touch journey. Our customers report that their customer onboarding time was reduced by 2-3x with EverAfter. And, with up to a 10x decrease in communications between the CSM and the customer, a correctly-implemented self-serve onboarding with EverAfter encourages your customer to work independently, as the CSM can keep track of progress behind-the-scenes in CSM view.
EverAfter builds customer-facing portals that we call hubs. The hub template is called a kit, and below we will list some actionable measures to implement in a good low-touch kit (or at least consider). But, you are of course welcome to customize your hubs in a way that works for you!
By building a low-touch or self-service kit correctly, your customer will still receive a personalized onboarding experience, feel satisfied with the resources they have, and complete the process promptly! And, as mentioned earlier, by implementing many of the EverAfter features - your customer will still experience a high-touch, white-glove onboarding.
Building a suitable onboarding kit
Kits are the foundation of EverAfter. You build an individual kit for each specific use case, incorporating the different widgets, and then share the necessary kit to each customer’s hub. Here are just some of the things that make an effective kit for self-service onboarding:
- Include resources: As part of the kit creation process, it’s important to be proactive about the resources you’ll share that will streamline the onboarding process. Think of recommended articles, videos, FAQs, or anything else that will help. The Share materials, List, and the Free style widgets can help with this
Keep your kit compact: Don't overwhelm your customers with an extensive hub. Only have a few tabs, perhaps one with the tasks and one with additional resources
Kit content and widgets
Now that we’ve explained the fundamentals of the kit and the general approach, we’ll describe some capabilities of some of our widgets that can help
- The To-do widget:
- Progress can be displayed in a few ways, and for self-serve onboarding, we recommend using the Milestone progress bar to visualize the stages of the overall journey.
- Use action buttons to direct your customer to external sites or even your help center
- The KPI widget: Did you know that you can collect customer data, like their CRM, tech stack, or primary goals, and then automatically show the next steps and relevant information on their hub based on their input. For example, if your onboarding process has different instructions if your customer uses Salesforce or HubSpot, your customer can select their CRM and the hub will then display their next steps.
Contact widget: Limit the contact information you share in the hub. Share details to contact your support team, and consider including the CSM's info with a description of when to reach out
Because self-service onboarding is about trusting and empowering your customer, it's important that CSM-customer interactions are relevant and to the point.
- Email previews: You can send your customers personalized emails summarizing their hubs, encouraging them to access their hubs and work through their required tasks. This process can be done in bulk with many accounts or just for a specific account in one simple step! Why not share the hub before your kickoff meeting and let them explore it independently?
- Kickoff meeting: In your kickoff meeting, guide your customer through the hub with presentation mode, go over other tasks and check for any obstacles that may slow down the process for your customer. You can then offer insights and solutions to create a smooth onboarding experience
Status tracker: EverAfter has a nifty page called the ‘Status tracker’ that keeps track of the progress across all your accounts. Use this to measure all your accounts’ progress and check if a customer needs a polite nudge or extra assistance.
Smooth sailing with self-service onboarding
Trust. Independence. Personalization. Automation. These are the fundamentals of a strong SaaS self-service onboarding experience. It helps the CSM manage many accounts, streamlines their workload, and lets companies scale up without adding to their headcount.
And more to the point - the CSM can focus on building value-based relationships with customers by moving the technical steps to the self-service hub. Customers, too, recognize the trust they are shown and have a stronger product experience. EverAfter has many tools that allow for self-serve onboarding automation and is a platform worth exploring if you want to provide a smooth onboarding experience for your SaaS product.
Want to start building your own self-service onboarding portal for your customers? Get started here.