Why Customer Onboarding Matters in SaaS: The 3 Advantages for your Revenue

The secret to creating loyal customers lies in onboarding. We talk to Donna Weber, the customer onboarding expert about how one can set up an onboarding process to achieve success.

Sinduja Krishnakumar
  • a month ago
  • 7 min read

There is much thought going into launching your product.

Endless business plans on tissue papers, late-night strategy discussions, in-the-shower ideas to propose to investors…the list goes on.

Every B2B SaaS entrepreneur knows the struggle behind launching that MVP and achieving product market fit.

But do we really put in the same effort when launching our customers into our products?

When customers start using our product, we justify that something in our marketing efforts has caught their attention. Maybe a product feature that answered a “Bat Signal.” But does the customer get the value they were seeking immediately? If not, how many seconds do we have before the now confused customer walks out?

The Importance of Customer Onboarding

Onboarding is the swing bridge you put in place for your customer to cross the maze of product features.

You take your customers one step at a time, building trust along the process. You want your customers to succeed, and you want them to understand that you’re both on the same team.

We spoke to Donna Weber, the customer onboarding expert and the author of the famous book, ‘Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions’ to understand more about customer onboarding.

She shared many unique insights, which are sprinkled throughout the text. You can skip to the parts you want to read, or let us take you through the journey of customer onboarding one step at a time.

When does onboarding start?

High-touch vs. Low-touch onboarding

Three reasons why onboarding matters

The future of onboarding

When does onboarding start?

The customer signs the dotted line. The sales team sighs in relief, releasing the breath they have been holding since the customer ventured in. With the onboarding team at its helm, the customer success team gears up to take over the customer.

Does the above scenario seem like onboarding?

Wrong!

Successful customer onboarding starts before the deal closes and extends beyond the customer’s first move within your product.

Donna Weber encapsulates this pretty well. She says,

“Onboarding starts even before the deal closes, so you set the right expectations with customers early and often. That way, customers will be engaged throughout onboarding, whether it’s a high or low touch experience.”

Onboarding simply stated means to bring the customer ‘on-board’. This does not mean throwing mountains of information at them but rather working with them towards a common goal.

The ultimate purpose of your onboarding is to understand the customer’s needs and pain points and see how best they can be met even before the deal is closed.

High-touch vs. Low-touch onboarding

In 2019, Theresa Ludvigson & Patrick Willer from Salesforce opened up about their customer onboarding process. They understood that CMS tools can be intimidating with their array of features but can become integral to a person’s work, once understood.

They released their customer onboarding approach.

Salesforce on customer journey
Source: Salesforce blog

For each new customer, Salesforce builds a personalized customer onboarding experience called ‘journey orchestration,’ helping the new customer be successful in their role with the help of Salesforce. This provides knowledge in many forms, from emails to video meetings with their teams at their customer's disposal.

An approach like this that is human-first and supports the customer post and pre-sales is called a high-touch onboarding experience.

On the other hand, a tool like Slack encourages users to learn the product by actually using it. In-app messages with tooltips help fill any knowledge gaps that need to be filled.

Slack on Appcues
Source: Slack on Appcues

This is referred to as a low-touch onboarding approach or a self-serve system where the onboarding is mainly automated.

High-touch onboarding Low-touch onboarding
A human-first approach An automated approach
Best for complicated tools that need customization for each customer. Best for easy-to-use tools that anyone can understand.
Eg. Onboarding onto Salesforce or Hubspot Eg. Onboarding onto Slack or Notion.

Whether to use a high-touch or low-touch approach to onboarding depends on your product/service type, available resources, the skill level of your customers, and the best way to educate your customer.

Most companies use a blended strategy in their onboarding approach wherein a company might use a high-touch model for their top paying clients and use a low-touch model for the rest of their customers.

3 reasons why onboarding matters

In a survey conducted by PwC, 73% of customers say the experience with a company impacts their purchasing decisions. This customer experience starts with onboarding.

The initial novelty of the product excites the customer to venture into the product. Once in, this marginal utility from the product begins to stagnate or drop. A good onboarding strategy can prevent this and the ultimate churn that it leads to.

But apart from the bread and butter reasons that onboarding helps with customer retention and reduces churn, there are three other reasons why onboarding matters to your company.

1. A good customer onboarding strategy makes you grow faster.

A good onboarding strategy reflects directly on the revenue earned. When a person’s distress is catered to, they not only show up with a smiley-faced NPS score on your onboarding surveys but also help you expand your customer base.

Successfully onboarded customers are the best form of word-of-mouth marketing.

Even if your happy customers are a bunch of introverts, you can steal a page from Netflix’s playbook by initiating customers to talk about your product.

Netflix on Instagram
Source: Netflix on Instagram

2. A good customer onboarding strategy helps customer success.

Donna Weber shares her experience working with a company that provides software and hardware for medical practices. When she was looking into their broken revenue pipelines, she discovered the company was losing close to half a million dollars due to the following:

  • labor costs of delayed implementations
  • costs of paused and cancelled subscriptions
  • cost of involving sales teams to resolve issues with already closed deals

This is where her 6-stage Orchestration Onboarding™ framework helps.

Source: www.donnaweber.com


In simple words, the Orchestrated Onboarding framework by Donna Weber revolves around delivering value to your customers with a cross-functional approach.

Most companies look at the functions of marketing, sales, onboarding, customer support, and success in a linear fashion, but Donna Weber’s model attacks the core of this linear thinking. In the first stage, ‘Embark’ discusses infusing the value of customer success and onboarding before closing the deal.  

Donna vouches that doing this would help you provide a more customized experience for your customers and solidify your relationship with them with trust.

Building relationships on trust would allow your customers to stay with you through thick and thin. It helps weather the storms during unexpected events like a pandemic or probably a zombie apocalypse in the near future.

3. A good onboarding strategy sets the base for your customer learning journey.

Everyone faces a bit of buyer’s regret from time to time. The latest study by Finder, a fintech company, shows the percentage of buyers’ regret across the industry.

Finder on buyer's regret
Source: Finder on Buyer's regret

It sucks a little extra to know that your product is the reason for a buyer’s regret.

Equipping your customer with the proper knowledge can reiterate to your customer why they decided to buy your product in the first place. The learning path you establish for your customers at the onboarding stage can help set the momentum for your customer’s continuous learning journey with your product.

At Trainn, we have video hubs and an academy, which can be used by your customer-facing teams to create easy product videos and categorize them into personalized customer training programs. Trainn’s no-code Academy can break down your complex product into easily digestible bytes giving your customer education strategy a new look.

The Future of Customer Onboarding

Whether it's Mark Zuckerberg building J.A.R.V.I.S from Iron Man or a Westerworld-ish fate that awaits us, we know that the future is very different and closer than it appears.

With more offerings, customers start demanding more. When asked Donna how she envisions customer onboarding would change owing to the rapidly evolving technology and the customer’s response, she highlighted that personalization and scalability form the crux of tomorrow’s customer journey with a company.

The future is about smudging the lines between your product and customer. Building JARVIS is time-consuming and probably comes with its claims to copyrights from Mark; we at Trainn are thinking of a concept closer to home.

When asked Donna for her idea of using videos to explain the product to consumers, she said,

“It all depends on the customers and your product and what drives value most quickly. Videos are very valuable to scale the onboarding process and to onboard and engage new users in existing accounts.”

Your customer onboarding strategy changes based on many factors, and you should consider one or a mix of media that would help educate your customers in the best possible way.

We thank Donna Weber for being kind enough to respond to a stranger (me) and for sharing her insights that helped shape the blog.
We encourage you to try your hand at video creation for customer education to begin with (the learning curve could get easier for JARVIS). Sign up for Trainn now.