We’ve all been there: it’s a new town, and you’re hungry. Really hungry. So you quickly open Yelp hoping for a good local restaurant. You find one that’s almost walking distance and has all the right pictures and reviews—all good signs.
Then you arrive, and it’s totally different. No one welcomes you, and an employee slithers in two minutes later. They lead you through a maze of empty seats and put you in a corner. Half of the menu isn’t available because the kitchen is out of ingredients. And you aren’t sure what the meals are or what to expect.
Finally, you get your food. Before you even try the first bite, your experience is already cemented.
Compare that to a spot you go to the next day. The staff welcomes you and tells you about the little-known things you can do in the area. They give you great meal and drink recommendations, and are attentive the whole time. Again, before you taste the meal, you already have a good idea of how you feel.
Customer onboarding is no different. Every platform onboards, whether planned or not. And while there are many efficient ways to onboard, that’s only the start of a successful experience.
Tapping into emotions is the most powerful form of persuasion. Creating a magnetic onboarding experience cements positive associations in the customer journey.
That’s why companies must pair efficient onboarding practices with human practices—an enjoyable experience that encourages your customer base to adopt your product, and hopefully recommend it to others.
Together, we'll dive into what a better onboarding experience looks like, essential features, and how you can leverage your new onboarding strategy for long-term customer success.
Flipping the script on onboarding
Here it is: onboarding should be fun and memorable. Users aren’t having their teeth pulled, so it shouldn’t feel painful or frustrating. Companies that want to see better user activation and adoption need to create an enjoyable experience that leaves a positive impression.
That being said, how do you actually transform the run-of-the-mill onboarding experience? Instead of pushing users down one path like a sleep-deprived camp counselor, you guide them and engage with them through the entire customer onboarding process, considering their needs and input.
Traditional customer activation and onboarding include relentless popups and rigid tours. Often, users just want to get started. They want to experience and feel it for themselves. But here’s the catch: they’re also naturally averse to friction and confusion.
Customer onboarding best practices
A robust customer onboarding process should incorporate the following criteria:
- Onboarding should be based on user intent.
- Customers should be able to understand the app and participate in a couple of minutes.
- The onboarding experience should be pleasant, free of distracting notifications.
- There should be self-service help resources to dig deeper and answer personalized questions.
- Users should have a clear roadmap and expectations for a successful onboarding experience.
By incorporating an onboarding strategy founded on self-exploration and customer engagement, companies can increase user activation, adoption, and scale platform growth.
6 must-have onboarding features
Onboarding experiences should revolve around a few key pillars that foster a fun, memorable, and effective customer activation and adoption.
1. Product tours
If you visit Rome, you want a tour guide showing you all the must-sees. But you also want one that helps you experience the city how you want. You might love walking and want to find the unique, narrow paths. You might be a foodie who wants to try a little of everything, or a history buff who wants to learn every detail about Ancient Rome.
Now imagine if you found a guide, told them what you’re interested in, and they said, “That’s nice.” And proceeded with an itinerary that was the opposite of what you wanted. You wouldn’t want to take that tour!
Similar to touring a city, customers are engaging with your product because they want to get to know it. But everyone has different interests and customer needs. You need a product tour that can satisfy them.
Product tours should provide enjoyable means of getting familiar with your app. There should be a non-intrusive tour that shows the user around. There should be a checklist-style approach that allows them to try different features when and how they want—on their terms. And there should be supportive resources to help them along the way.
For example, CommandBar uses nudges to encourage users to try different things or get important information about the app. Users also get Questlists, which are interactive checklists that help them experience all there is to offer.
As customers get to know the platform, there are videos and other resources gently presented to them so they can succeed as new users.
2. AI assistant
Speedy, personalized help is a must-have for SaaS companies. It’s essential to successful customer service, and if you can’t help someone in the most vulnerable stage of the product adoption process, you’ll lose them. Considering that 96% of customers will leave because of poor service, adding attentive, 24/7 assistance is an obvious solution.
AI assistants like CommandBar’s Copilot make the onboarding process engaging and fully in the hands of new customers. They can ask any question about your app and get a relevant response. Copilot also uses your content, docs, and other information as its foundation to generate accurate and helpful responses.
As you build on your wiki of helpful resources, you can continue feeding the AI more information and generate better results. If the chatbot doesn’t know the answer, it points users to the right expert.
Source: CommandBar Copilot page
3. In-app feedback
You can’t give someone shoes without first knowing their size. The same goes for user intent. We want a relevant and enjoyable customer onboarding experience, but we can’t do it without understanding new users.
There are many ways to study users, like tracking in-app movement or having conversations with your target audience and test users. One effective method is adding easily accessible ways to give feedback right on the app.
Businesses can leverage a tighter feedback loop and identify areas that need improvement. When they notice themes of friction within onboarding, they can quickly adjust the user experience for better results.
Great onboarding activates users and leads them to adoption, increasing retention rates and minimizing your customer churn rate. In-app feedback helps find issues before they grow into bigger challenges.
4. Immersive docs
You might want to shut the door on the guy trying to sell you silver spoons at your house, but you wouldn’t want to do that with new customers. They want more information early on, and you want to step aside and let them explore. Super active users prefer to become experts on your platform (and ideally future ambassadors). It’s to your advantage to give them all the tools they need to master your platform and enjoy it on a deeper level.
For B2B customers, in-depth and immersive docs provide everything dedicated users need to incorporate your tool into their product or workflow. B2C customers use these resources to independently master the app, improving their lives and outcomes with maximum efficiency.
You can also incorporate docs within a knowledge base or help hub, boosting their impact. The resource center can have its own search engine to find the exact information users need. Companies can also include relevant web pages, FAQs, and articles so that the resource grows and improves.
Everything should be easy to navigate, find, and apply to your product.
5. Device inclusivity
Onboarding experiences should be friction-free on any device, whether on a desktop, laptop, or a phone. Ensure your onboarding experience is mobile-friendly and works with as many types of devices as possible (where your app can be accessed) with smooth, up-to-date functionality.
6. Third-party integrations
This one's for you: great onboarding solutions should work with the tools you love. Ensure you can integrate with essential tools to benefit from the necessary resources and apps to hit your user experience milestones.
CommandBar provides high-quality, top integrations with your favorite tools. You can easily embed Loom for relevant, engaging presentations. Or use Zendesk for help documents. If your website is powered by a no-code solution like Bubble or Wix, we provide integrations for those, too.
Integrations help unify your tech stack for an efficient and seamless user onboarding strategy.
Slack: Real-world example of onboarding successes
Slack, the team communication platform, has an effective onboarding experience that gives customers the power to jump in and succeed.
Visitors are promptly invited to get started right on the home page. They don’t need to create an original account and can use Gmail instead, reducing login friction. The website also emphasizes that you can use the platform for free for as long as you want. It encourages new users to explore for the first time and see how Slack can benefit them and their team.
Source: Slack account setup process
Next, Slack invites you to start a Workspace or find an existing one (it also searches for any Workspaces already associated with your email or company in case you got a recent invite). By getting you connected to a space, the platform ensures you use the app for communication immediately.
Source: Slack account setup process
The onboarding questionnaire and tour continues, encouraging you to invite members and to start a chat channel based on a current project or subject your team is working on right now.
Source: Slack account setup process
Users can immediately use Slack for productivity when they activate their account and start a channel. It’s a great way to show customers the app's power by plugging right into a use case.
Feedback and interaction: The joy of learning
Ultimately, the new onboarding experience should excite users like a 9-year-old kid at Pizza Hut—they can’t wait to dig in.
The “learning curve” becomes an illusion when we have fun while learning. Instead, it’s a frictionless, joyful experience that gets customers charged, ready to hit the road and use your app to the fullest.
Platforms should continue to collect feedback and iterate. They should continue to improve the experience by using data, metrics, analytics, and customer feedback to gauge success and inform leaders to make strategic roadmap decisions.
Not only is joyful learning helpful with onboarding, but it also helps build community and brand culture.
Community building and measuring the happiness factor
As brands build an effective customer onboarding strategy, they can also embed community features simultaneously. Connecting customers with each other can establish an ecosystem for users to help one another, share ideas, and rally around your platform.
Community increases happiness and creates a positive experience for customers. It also helps you as a business. Users become ambassadors, help build your brand and generate new users.
It starts by creating an onboarding experience that reflects your brand culture. By offering helpful, fun, and interactive videos and resources, you set the tone for your community.
You can also connect customers to communication platforms like Slack or Discord. Your community leader can lead the conversation, find valuable feedback, and improve your entire product adoption strategy.
As you gauge and improve customer satisfaction through a great product, fun onboarding, and engaged community, you can supercharge your company’s presence and scale it for growth.
Picking the best solution
Onboarding requires intention to produce results, and it’s often associated with endless steps and tasks that jeopardize user engagement. And it’s not guaranteed to work on its own.
The strongest onboarding solution is a platform that has the built-in tools ready, so you can plug it into your app and watch new signups become long-term customers.
Platforms like CommandBar activate your users so they jump right in, using your apps and features to the fullest for the most satisfying experience possible.
You can put your onboarding process on autopilot while your product grows.