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Abdul Jabbar Shehnaz
Abdul Jabbar Shehnaz October 26, 2021

“The customer’s perception is your reality.” – Kate Zabriskie

Many of us have experienced dissatisfaction with a product or service once we’ve subscribed or signed up for it. Be it a lack of guidance on how it works, complicated payment systems, or indifferent customer service. 

These factors influence how likely we are to use the product or service and whether we’ll continue using the brand or not. 

This is why every business’s customer onboarding experience needs to be on point.

A good user onboarding process does three things: Educate the users on the problem, showcase the features and benefits of using the product, and inspire them to take action.

The key is to strike a balance between these elements and get users to the promised land they signed up for. 

You should keep your onboarding flow simple, informative, and engaging. Here are some actionable tips to help you get started! 

#1. Establish specific goals and expectations

“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them—preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” – Richard Branson

First things first. Your customer onboarding process should be specific to your customer base and product. Before creating an onboarding program, formulate specific goals that define your customer onboarding program, clarify what you want to achieve with it and then, align these with your strategic business objectives. 

For example, at the very least your goals for the onboarding process could be 

To make your product valuable and indispensable in the eyes of your customers

To help customers understand how to use your product to address their needs so that they become more familiar with it and start to use it more frequently

#2. Reduce the friction for getting started with a short and simple sign up process

As a business, at this stage, you might be tempted to ask new users to create an account right away and ask for too much information right off the bat.

But, long and complex sign-ups can often be a barrier to product adoption and may turn off your potential customers. So you should always keep your sign-up process short and sweet by requesting only the necessary information.

You can use social logins (Facebook, Google, Twitter) which provide a one or two-click avenue for signing in, or you could even experiment with timing. 

For example, some apps like Duolingo  (which only asks you to sign up to ‘save your progress’) have more success asking users to sign up at the end of the onboarding process, while some apps prefer to ask users to sign in immediately when they launch the app for the first time before onboarding begins. 

Duolingo onboarding
Duolingo Signup Screen

Remember, many customers will only be dipping their toes in at this point. So give them a moment to test the water before requiring them to jump all in.

#3. Permission Priming – Only ask for the data you need

Many web and mobile apps require data access or messaging permissions in order to provide the best experience and value. Make it clear to users exactly why you’re asking for access and what your app could do for them if it had the right permissions, then ask. This way, your users will have context making them more likely to grant the permissions necessary for your app to properly function.

#4. Set the tone with a Personalized Welcome message

A welcome email is the first time you show up in your new users’ inbox. And this experience should be a positive one, as it sets the tone of your relationship.

Welcome your new users by offering them something valuable like e-books to help them get started. You can then direct them to the next step like product walkthroughs o, getting them to add more details to their account, or helping them to complete their first transaction.

You can also personalize the welcome message by using their name, putting them in the spotlight, and aiming to trigger an emotional reaction. Thank them, and show your excitement and gratitude for having them on board.

You might be tempted to pack it full of information, but it pays to use restraint here.

#5. Don’t overwhelm the users, break it down into smaller steps

Your users won’t appreciate being forced to swipe through a dozen screens before they can eventually use the app.

Remember, your user is most likely brand new to your product, or at least to a new feature you’ve just released. Thus, It’s important to break onboarding processes down into smaller, simple steps to be 100% certain that they understand exactly how it works. And as an added bonus, it also leaves room for users to find features on their own.

#6. Demonstrate your product with a clear and concise product tour

A tour or walkthrough highlights a product’s most basic and popular functions, showing users exactly where to click to work toward goals. 

The key here is to not overdo it: there’s no need to show new users every little detail about how to work the product.

When it comes to your product tour, prioritize quality over quantity. Rather than just sharing a bunch of tooltips and features, try to make the tutorial as interactive as possible and let your customer get their hands on the wheel. 

You can even create a product walkthrough/ “getting started” video that explains how your product works, highlights the value proposition, and allows the customers to get a real feel of the product you’re offering.

The more clearly you can illustrate how your product solves their problem quickly and easily, the better.

#7. Guide users to your “Aha” moment quickly

The main goal of your onboarding process is to show new users the key features and guide them to the “moment of delight” or the ‘Aha Moment’, where the value of the product becomes instantly clear.

So, how to create this special moment when your users feel a glow of appreciation for what you’re offering? 

The more friction there is between your users and their “Wow” moment, the less likely they are to ever reach it.

The key is not to overwhelm the users before the pivotal moment where they see the value of your product. Be precise and only try to aim the user to one goal. Save other features and benefits for later, Your first impression needs to be a killer one!

#8. Emphasize your value proposition – Features tell, benefits sell 

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the customer gets out of it.” – Peter Drucker

People don’t care about your product’s features. Period. Instead, what they care about is what they can do with those features.

If somebody chooses to use your product or service, it means that they’re looking to gain something. Rather than telling customers about the bells and whistles of your product, show the users how it can change their life for the better which will, in turn, win the users over the long term. 

Your value proposition is your greatest asset, so use it wisely.

#9. Engage customers constantly using multiple channels of communication

Healthy communication is a vital part of building rapport with your users and after your welcome email, you must continue to interact with your customers. Make sure they know about your tutorials, articles, and in-depth guides. 

To do it proactively you can use a combination of multiple communication channels like Emails, Push notifications, In-app messaging, product tours, surveys, etc. to motivate, teach, and engage your users.

#10. Gamify your user onboarding experience

Games are fun. Gamification in onboarding is done pretty much like how a player progresses to a new level in a game. It is fun, interactive, and engaging and gives your users a sense of satisfaction.

Gamification Duolingo app

For example, Duolingo keeps users engaged with short-term wins while increasing the inherent motivation through genuine progress and skill development. In fact, a study from 2021 found that 80% of language students enjoyed using Duolingo because of its gamification!

This helps in creating an onboarding process that is enjoyable, habit-forming, and encourages users to commit to trying your product. 

#11. Gather Customer Feedback for Analysis

Improving your customer onboarding process is going to be tricky if you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. The feedback you receive from users is the most valuable tool you can use to measure customer satisfaction at the end of the onboarding process. 

Track completion rates of each step of onboarding and enhance it.

You can Include star ratings and a short survey in your product that triggers after a customer uses a particular feature or send an onboarding survey via email to ask for feedback about the process. 

Reach out to dormant users via push notifications, particularly those who didn’t make it past the tutorial stage. These users will give you crucial insight into potential areas of improvement.

Here’s an extra tip: Don’t forget about the ones who leave!

Even if a customer has stopped using your product altogether and has essentially churned, you still might want to reach out. When a customer leaves, it means that they’ve had a good reason to withdraw. 

Through this way of collecting feedback, you’ll discover odd and unexpected reasons that turn off your customers.

#12. Experiment, test and optimize your onboarding process as necessary

User onboarding is a continuous process. As your product changes your onboarding has to change with it. Continuous user testing or multiple A/B tests for different audiences will help you to come up with the onboarding process that communicates the best with your customers. As your users grow and change, how you teach and empower them will have to evolve as well.

Final thoughts

Creating an effective onboarding experience requires thoughtful planning and is a cumbersome process. However, when done effectively, integrating user onboarding into your product can become one of the biggest drivers of user engagement, satisfaction, retention, and business growth.

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