MaRS Library Customer onboarding: Preparing customers to use your product
Before you deliver the product release and launch it to market, think through how the process will work once the customer has agreed to purchase your product. Bringing a customer on board (that is,“onboarding”) involves getting the customer up and running using your product. A lot of time is spent on understanding the buying process, but oftentimes not much is spent on the onboarding process—yet it is important to customer happiness.
Depending on your product, you might need to build onboarding into your product as a requirement.
For example, if you have a software product, you may want to include online registration as part of the product release; however, if you have a product that is consumed (such as a medication), this will not apply. In the early days of their business, many companies struggle with this process; however, by asking simple questions, you can streamline the procedure.
Why streamline the onboarding process for a product release or launch?
Taking time to streamline the onboarding process offers several benefits:
- Customers will enjoy the process, and be likely to stay with you (the first 90 days is a key timeframe for customer retention).
- Customers will be more likely to recommend your company and products to others.
- A customer’s average spending will likely increase if they have a positive experience.
Streamlining your onboarding process
Every customer onboarding process is slightly different, but the following questions will help you build the workflow, and highlight any gaps. Once you have outlined your workflow, you can build the required documents and processes to bring a customer onboard effectively.
1. How does the customer buy?
Do they sign a contract? Do they agree to the contract terms online? Do they purchase from a retailer? How do you know who they are? How do they pay you?
Goal: Ensure that you deliver the contract or online agreement so that customers can purchase your product using a credit card, an invoice, or other easily tracked method.
2. How does the customer receive the product?
Is the product shipped to customers? Do they download it? Do they start using it online? Do they pick it up themselves?
Goal: Once the purchase is made, the product should automatically ship to customers. Automate the process or put one in place.
3. How will the customer know how to use the product?
Do customers need an overview of how to use the product? Do they need to receive documentation?
Goal: Outline how information on using the product will be delivered to customers (that is, either online or with the product shipment).
4. How is the product installed?
Do customers install the product themselves? Do they require a consultant to help them? Is the product available online?
Goal: Have a standardized installation process.
5. How will customers get help if they need it?
How will your customers access the support team? Do you provide online help? Do you offer a customer support line?
Goal: Set out a process where you ensure that customers have someone to contact if they encounter a problem.
6. How does your organization deal with new customers?
How is revenue recorded? How will customer support know about new customers?
Goal: Ensure that financial integration enables the collection of revenue, and that the right departments are aware of new customers and their needs.
Company ABC built an online wedding planning site. It costs $30 per month, and the customer uses it online. The following example illustrates the buying process and the required actions to ensure a streamlined onboarding experience:
|Customer decides to buy.||Present the customer with opportunity to click a“Buy Now” button. The system offers a credit-card payment page where the customer enters his/her personal information. System processes the payment and brings customer to a confirmation page. System sends an email confirming the transaction.|
|Customer agrees to the terms of the agreement.||Before the customer logs in, system asks him/her to agree to the terms laid out on-screen, and then the customer proceeds to log in.|
|Customer has access to the product.||System asks customer to create a customer profile, and then logs him/her into the website. The system sends an email to the customer to confirm his/her new account.|
|Customer receives information on how to use the product.||The first time the customer logs in, the system relays a“how-to” guide, online help videos and an email for their records. The videos include information on how to contact customer support services.|
|Company ABC records the new customer.||Company ABC is alerted to the new customer in several ways. The financial provider sends notice of the new credit card revenue, the system updates the customer database with the new buyer’s information, and the help desk sees the new customer in their online help tool.|
This example demonstrates that there are many areas that require consideration when bringing a new customer on board. These steps should become product requirements for a release, or could be done manually until that functionality is built.
Dove Consulting. (2010). Onboarding New Customers: Capitalizing on the Experience. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from
Murphy, J. (2010). Tips for Delivering Consistent Services. Pragmatic Marketing. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/topics/06/0607jm2
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- The Customer Development Model (CDM), product development and technology startups.
- Product development: Minimum viable product (MVP) approach.
- Defining your target product profile: In vitro diagnostic products.
- Create a succinct value proposition: “Customer discovery” and the Customer Development Model.