High-touch vs. low-touch onboarding (and the unassuming hero called tech touch)

What type of onboarding is your customer comfortable with? Let us explore High-touch onboarding and low-touch onboarding along with the rising hero on the horizon - tech touch onboarding.

Sinduja Krishnakumar
  • a month ago
  • 7 min read

In 2016, Innisfree, a Korean beauty brand, color-coded its baskets for customers to indicate whether or not they needed a salesperson’s help.

By picking the black basket, you choose to do the shopping alone, and by selecting the orange basket, you would be open to salespeople helping you shop.

Innisfree shopping cart (via Springwise)
Source: Innisfree shopping cart (via Springwise)

Innisfree’s idea was revolutionary at the time. It gave away significant data about the customer as soon as they entered the store.

Businesses and their customer-facing teams have struggled long nights to crack the Da Vinci of what the customer really wants. But even when they Dan-Brown their way through this, it leads them to another turn in the labyrinth of ‘what does the customer already know’ and ‘what else should they know now.’

The problem intensifies as people like to receive their answers differently. While some people entering Innisfree would like to chat with the salespeople about the ingredients in their products, others preferred their silence.

Reddit obviously had a hay day with it.

While Innisfree’s color-coded baskets would help an anxious customer entering a store bracing to be assaulted by the salespeople, some Reddit users also pointed at fundamental flaws in the idea.

Source: Reddit

Do customers enjoy guidance, or do they like doing things independently?

Companies squirm as it slowly dawns on them that it has never been an ‘either’ ‘or’ situation.

Let's carry this anti-thesis to product onboarding to break this down.

The argument for sophisticated tools

At Trainn, our principles have always been simple. While designing the onboarding experience for the user, we asked ourselves how we would like to be onboarded onto a product.

For this, we analyzed the tools we use on a daily basis and went back to the roots of how we learned them.

While our social media marketers swear by Hubspot’s on-demand product videos to have acted as onboarding, our email marketers say that speaking to a member of Hubspot’s team has helped them adopt the product easily.

We realized two things here, one that the world already knew and one more that the world refused to acknowledge.

  1. Product adoption starts with smooth onboarding
  2. The level of technical knowledge required to use a product never mattered, provided the learning experience is tailored to the user’s needs.

An understanding of the user is essential to fine-tune the approach needed for their onboarding experience.

What is high-touch onboarding?

Imagine high-touch as people standing in every corner of the Longleat maze guiding you from the beginning to the finish.

High-touch onboarding is when the customer success team is proactively involved in the customer journey. The sales teams tailor their pitches according to the customer's needs based on their conversations with them.

The mission is to keep the purchase decision at the top of the customer’s mind and keep the momentum going with emails, calls, meetings, and product demos to familiarize the customer with the product.

A high-touch approach is more useful when the customer expects a human interaction before taking the decision to purchase, or if the solution is to be built around the customers’ needs.

What is low-touch onboarding?

A low-touch onboarding model is when the customer is asked to rely on the tech to solve their problems. It is more of a product-led model where the information is evident for the customer to adopt the product without human intervention.

Here, companies are more focused on building powerful automation and intuitive UI. This is mostly more convenient when the product is self-serve in nature.  But it is not all wild west with low-touch onboarding.

The user is equipped with an armory of resources at their disposal. There is enough content around the product to enable customers to hit the road running.

The misconception with low-touch onboarding.

Guru Prasanna, who takes care of Trainn’s GTM strategy says,

"Most often people assume there is no human involvement when it comes to low-touch, and it cannot be far from the truth. We have humans equipped to help our users, whether they are part of low-touch or high-touch onboarding flows.”

The customer success reps must ensure that everyone gets practical answers through clear communication, irrespective of being answered at scale through low-touch.

High-touch onboarding vs. low-touch onboarding

For ease of understanding, here are some differences between high-touch and low-touch onboarding.

High-touch onboarding Low-touch onboarding
A personalized aid for users mainly through human interaction A generic approach to aid the user in adopting the product with less to nil human interaction
Useful for products that need to be customized on a case-by-case basis Useful for products of self-serve nature
Some methods include product onboarding demos and exploratory calls with interested parties Some methods include FAQs, support documents, and exploratory product videos

It is impossible to add a customer rep every time a new customer onboards or an existing customer comes up with a personalized request. It would also be unethical to have employees working overnight on weekends. For this reason, a dual approach combining low-touch and high-touch is needed to give the users the best experience.

But are we limited to only two options?

What’s next in onboarding?

Do you remember the ever-enthusiastic Mr. Clippy from the 90s?

Clippy from the 90s
Source: Artsy

It might sound unreal for the millennial who types their emails on the go but back in the 90s when computers were menacing machines reserved for cubicles with serious jobs, Microsoft unveiled Mr. Clippy to break the stereotype and help computers get adopted at a large scale.

But as this started happening, more people got accustomed to having a desktop computer at their houses and soon Clippy’s involvement with everyday tasks started to bother people using the Microsoft range of products.

Whether it was Clippy never learning your name or Clifford Nass’s research from Harvard that said people placed the same standards for the products they dealt with as much as they placed for humans, Clippy was a lesson in intuitive assistance.

That’s why, even in today’s world, altering between high-touch and low-touch is not enough to make people fall in love with your product. A good onboarding strategy is one that cares about the customer and sets the stage for them to stay for the long haul.

So how do you scale along with your customers without stressing your customer success reps or opting for a metallic maniac like Clippy?

Tech-touch onboarding

A tech-touch model is best for scaling companies. It is a data-driven model that uses relevant UI patterns in onboarding and a less-invasive presence throughout the user journey. It is knowing when to suggest a guide, or prompt a walk-through video in the user’s experience.

Outplay, a sales engagement platform adds a personalized digital engagement layer by making custom videos from Trainn to help its customers at different levels of the product education journey. This allows them to send personalized messages at a scale.

Tech-touch does not mean low-touch or high touch

It is often a misconception that tech-touch is low-touch. In fact, tech-touch is a mode of engagement and strays from fitting into the realms of high or low touch.

Tech-touch does use automated communication, but it cannot be defined by it. For instance, a tech-touch approach analyzes customer data through NPS, health scores, and activity within the product.

This helps the customer success team categorize the users and subject them to automated emails, in-app notifications, or used-case videos that push them to the next level based on their actions on the product.

Gainsight, a customer success, and product experience software, first collect data to understand the customer pain points. It provides an on-demand demo center consisting of product guides, onboarding modules, videos, and walk-through articles, which helps customers self-pace their learning.

You can do the same with Trainn’s academy. Create a no-code academy for your product and empower your users to self-pace their learning. You can also have a customized LMS portal and add certificates and communities within it to incentivize and humanize the experience.

In short, tech-touch is a human-centric model which reaches out to customers proactively and extends beyond onboarding. It defines touch points in the customer journey to automate human interactions.

Balancing the human and the tech in onboarding

Brian Nicholls, the Vice President of Customer Success at UserIQ, says when it comes to onboarding, “Your customers are still human; humans are still buying from humans. And although it might seem like big tech isn’t going anywhere– and it definitely isn’t–  we’re still figuring it out. However, the human touch has been around a whole lot longer.”

When building an onboarding process, we consider the resources and assets available for the business. We think about how each user in this funnel would reach the end goal, the first conversion, and so on.

But we seldom think of their human journey or the human experience. Understanding the psychological journey of humans can help to humanize the onboarding process, whether high-touch, low-touch or tech-touch approaches are adopted.

Another way to approach this is to go through your onboarding process with a fresh pair of eyes and to understand the questions that might arise from your customers. This would help you figure out bottlenecks in the process. You can also figure this out by asking your customers through surveys at places where customers fall through.

Understanding the human behind the tech would help make the product experience better for the user, whether they opt for high-touch, low-touch, or tech-touch.

If you would like to discuss a combined strategy to educate your users on your product from onboarding, let’s get on a call.