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Companies that provide a SaaS product need to continuously sell to their customers — but not through the typical relationship between a seller and buyer. A monthly subscription model means SaaS customers can (and will) cancel if they do not quickly realize meaningful value from the product. So,
Companies that provide a SaaS product need to continuously sell to their customers — but not through the typical relationship between a seller and buyer. A monthly subscription model means SaaS customers can (and will) cancel if they do not quickly realize meaningful value from the product. So, SaaS providers must make sure that their customers are using their products optimally, so they achieve success as a result. One of the most crucial steps in getting customers to benefit from a SaaS product is proper onboarding.
The process of
onboarding involves more than just granting access. Onboarding can be defined
as the period from signup to when a customer can use all or most of the
product’s features independently. Correctly executed, onboarding sets customers
on a pathway to success, ensures a high adoption rate, and lowers the
likelihood of churn. Even more, onboarding is an educational process. It
informs a SaaS provider on various aspects of customer behavior that may not have
been apparent during the sales process. The onboarding period is also an
opportunity to introduce the customer to product features so they can learn
what the product can do for them in practice, aside from the content of a sales
The onboarding period can also be a wasted opportunity or a period when a customer decides that a SaaS product doesn’t deliver on what was promised or hoped for. To avoid cancellation, companies should seize this opportunity and use onboarding to foster a long-term customer relationship.
Customer success is a journey, not necessarily a destination. Onboarding should set the stage for great customer experience. Customers should want to use the product. It should be simple to use, and the onboarding process should guide customers, not just to optimal use, but to clear value. One way to accomplish this is to identify easy and quick wins that the product can deliver during onboarding.
Some quick wins include:
Deliver a “wow” moment — one that engages and encourages continued use. For example, weight loss app Noom sends encouraging messages and provides an easy to use interface and access to all of its features during their trial period. The result? “Sticky” customers that want to stick along for the ride.
Onboarding requires guidance. Simply handing over the keys to the product, without a guiding hand can set a customer up for failure. Automated and consistent messaging can help keep new customers engaged with a product. Each communication should speak to an identified customer pain point and show how the product can alleviate their problems.
During the sales process or in the early stages of onboarding — such as the first 30 days of a typical 90-day period — SaaS providers should identify one reason the customer needs their product and deliver some relief to a problem. Solving the problem is a big win in the eyes of the customer, and as a bonus, the learning process will help understand the customer better and their goals.
Customer success can be
defined in several ways, but quick wins are just a start. When a product helps
customers consistently reach their goals, they will likely remain a subscriber.
This underlines the importance of looking beyond the quick wins to lasting
value. A customer can save money during the first 60 days or so, then feel
abandoned as the SaaS provider moves on to other new customers. Keeping
long-term customer goals in sight helps guide the customer relationship.
Onboarding must balance
customer engagement and providing quick wins with incremental gains along the
path to success. Customer goals also change in response to many factors.
Because of this potential for change, it’s crucial to keep lines of
communication open during onboarding. Ideally, successful onboarding will
result in a set of milestones to gauge success and an engaged customer that
wants to use the product to reach these goals.10
Successful onboarding requires a system that helps customers, communicates product features, guides customers to optimal use, and monitors and measures behavior so customer success can operate at scale. To do this, SaaS companies need a tool to help operationalize customer success and onboarding. SmartKarrot is a customer success platform that tracks customer and end-user real-time digital behavior, so SaaS companies have an ongoing accurate view of the customer journey. With SmartKarrot, companies can enhance product adoption by managing and influencing digital touchpoints for customers and end-users.
Anshi has over 12 years of experience in demand generation, digital marketing, and managing global teams. In her prior role as head of marketing operations for a high growth US healthcare tech organization she transformed marketing from cost to revenue center.
Published February 20, 2020, Updated February 20, 2020
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