How to Create a Customer-Centric Onboarding Strategy

Creating an accessible onboarding experience is a customer service power move right now. Especially considering that more people than ever are accessing digital platforms and self-service applications. People who would never opt for a digital solution under normal circumstances are being forced to adapt; including people with very little experience using mobile apps and digital services.


A straightforward onboarding process determines the quality and longevity of your customer-company relationship and it’s essential to get it right for everybody. People who encounter a difficult or frustrating experience using your digital services might decide to never do business with your company again—online or otherwise.

What Is Customer Onboarding?

HubSpot defines onboarding as the nurturing process that gets customers acquainted with your digital product or service. A customer-centric onboarding sequence typically includes step-by-step tutorials, limitless support services, and milestone celebrations when a customer achieves success using your product or solution. Great onboarding answers the key questions your customers have about your product or service before they even think to ask. The process is about more than just welcoming new customers, instead, it’s about showing them around, pointing out how the most important things work, and ensuring that they’re set up for success when the training wheels come off.

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Why Should You Care About Customer Onboarding?

Onboarding sets the tone for a customer’s ongoing experience with your company. The reality is, you need to be proactive, helpful, and strategic about getting customers to use your platform again and again. User retention is easily one of the biggest challenges of any digital platform or mobile product, and part of the problem is many customers don’t understand the value and benefits of the platform quickly enough. For this reason, onboarding is the most important aspect of any customer journey.

How To Create A Customer Onboarding Strategy

According to Tallyfy, an onboarding experience needs to answer two questions:

  1. Have you successfully introduced the new customer to your business and addressed all their questions and concerns as quickly as possible?
  2. Have you gathered enough information about the new customer to properly understand what products and services will benefit them directly?

You wouldn’t create a business campaign without first creating a strategy; otherwise, you run the risk of executing ineffectively. The same is true for customer onboarding. You need actionable goals and a plan before you create anything your customers will see.

You will continuously refine your strategy as you learn more about your customers’ needs and pain points, but an effective onboarding program needs to begin with a clear objective in mind. It’s essential that you keep your central objectives specific to your product, service, or platform, as well as your customer base. It’s also important to ensure your strategy covers these three retention requirements:

  1. Get customers to use your product, service, or platform more than once in the first week.
  2. Establish a pattern of usage.
  3. Make your product indispensable.

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Step One: Understand Your Customers

To send the right message, you need to know what your customers want to hear. You should have a thorough understanding of your user or buyer personas before you start building a customer onboarding strategy. Make a point of understanding each unique obstacle, pain point, and challenge your customers face, as well as their ideal solutions and outcomes.

Customers bought your product or signed up for your service because they saw its promise. They learned from your website, a friend, or your product description that they could get value from your service. User onboarding is your time to fulfill that promise.

Step Two: Set Clear Expectations

Your customers should always know what to expect from your product, service, or platform. Your company’s sales process should ideally highlight the qualifying factors for using the product. This practice needs to carry over into your customer onboarding sequence as you reiterate the value proposition that your product provides to your customers and prepare them for any potential setbacks. That way, when customers hit a snag, they are better prepared for it and know how to resolve the issue so they don’t give up on your platform quickly. 

Step Three: Find Your Aha Moment

Beyond just describing the utility a customer gets from the platform, a customer needs to get a feel for it during onboarding. Samuel Hulick explains in Elements of User Onboarding, that you need to give customers “a small win that provides them with a positive outcome to their first excursion, and one that can be used as a springboard for future efforts.” In other words, an aha moment is tactical and it’s essential to help customers achieve their aha moment early in the onboarding process.

Step Four: Demonstrate Value

Before new customers can get excited about your product, you need to reemphasize its value proposition for their individual circumstances. Give your customers specific examples of how your product will address their pain points. You should include as much personalization as possible. A kickoff call, specialized training, or documentation are all valuable assets at this stage.

Step Five: Keep Communication Consistent

After your first welcome message, continue using email as a communication channel throughout the onboarding process to support any in-app tutorials or guides. At this stage, email is probably your customer’s most frequented communication medium. Once your product becomes indispensable, you can count on them to sign in on their own to view in-app messages.

Step Six: Create Customer-Centric Goals

Your customer’s goals and metrics will always be unique to their experience. Allow them to define their own success, then guide them to create measurable milestones to get there with benchmarks to hit along the way.

Step Seven: Measure Your Success

Onboarding benefits your customers and your business. Keep gathering customer feedback, proactively identify friction points, and track key metrics so you know what’s working and where you can improve.

Customer Onboarding Helps Grow Your Business

Customer onboarding doesn’t begin when someone purchases your product or service. Instead, it starts the very first time a prospect comes in contact with your brand. Every encounter is an opportunity to gather the information that will help you create an onboarding experience that converts. So it’s vitally important to build a seamless experience across all of your business’ touchpoints.