The Big Difference that Customer Onboarding Makes

Once companies have invested their resources (time or money) in acquiring new customers (those users who have successfully 'signed up' or purchased something) they would be wise to immediately focus on retention - making a concerted effort to keep those customers as customers as long as possible. 

For this reason, customer onboarding is top of mind with today's most digitally savvy brands. 

Onboarding, for the unfamiliar, is the action or process of familiarizing a new customer or client with a company's products or services. The practice is ideal for those who not only want to deliver a more engaging digital experience, but also for those who want to introduce their broader range of offerings to those new customers - ensuring customer lifetime value is maximized.

Say, for instance, that a company sells a collection of widgets. After a customer purchases their first widget, the company may want to send a welcome email directing the customer to information on how to use their widget such as a walk through of the product that highlights actions they can take with their widget. The recommendations can be optimized when brands use ones known to increase usage and lead new customers toward purchasing other widgets in the future.   

Onboarding is certainly not an easy initiative to undertake (requiring an immense amount of very detailed planning and support from a variety of teams within an enterprise, from service to IT support) but it can be immensely rewarding across industries. In financial services, for example, Bain & Company found a 5 percent increase in customer retention produces more than a 25 percent increase in profit.

The secret to managing these initiatives, regardless of the goal, is to first identify how to get a consumer to use the service more often, for longer or in a more profitable way.

Most brands get tripped up at the outset of these projects, however, as they aren't really sure what constitutes a successful onboarding initiative. Perhaps the aim/goal might be to increase repeat visits (although it could be something far more specific such as generating incremental increases in the lifetime value of customers or their per-session spending like in the widget example).

Keep the following in mind as you develop an onboarding initiative for your enterprise: 
  • Onboarding should be performed immediately to fully capitalize on its benefits; if you're waiting weeks or months to "onboard" a user, you're way, way behind the curve.
  • Onboarding is less about eliminating friction than it is exposing strengths of a service, a platform or an offer. What capabilities of the service or system would users benefit from knowing more about?
  • Onboarding doesn't need to be overly complicated - if you keep in mind that it is (ideally) about ensuring an optimal experience for users you'll be on the right track. 
There will always be users that readily and rapidly adopt a service; the aim with onboarding is to ensure that the rest (often the majority) become aware enough (and vested enough) in the process and the outlined journey that they too don't end up abandoning it altogether. 

While you could develop your own system for onboarding by cobbling together a range of different services, there are many solutions on the market designed for this purpose. Here are several that have captured the attention of Internet professionals looking to deepen engagement regardless of channel to make a big (positive) difference in customer lifetime value.