Mastering the Dance: End User Onboarding

  • 3 April 2024
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In working with PX customers, the term "onboarding" is often thrown around as a key component of customer-centric in-app strategies.


However, it's crucial to distinguish between two fundamentally different onboarding scenarios: New Customer Onboarding and New User Onboarding. 

Though they might sound similar, their (1) scope, (2) objectives, and (3) execution strategies differ significantly, each catering to distinct needs!


Today, we’re going to focus on the slightly less popular topic of the two which is the smaller scoped yet equally crucial new user (or what I have called ‘end-user’) onboarding program.

For additional context - this post emerged out of one of my customers asking - ‘What if we’re releasing a new product and we want to introduce it to our existing customers?’


Before we jump into that, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the two approaches:

New Customer Onboarding

  1. Scope: Targets the organizational level, focusing on integrating a new customer account or organization into your product or service.
  2. Objectives:
    • Accelerate Time to Value: The main goal is to reduce the time it takes for the customer to realize the value of your product or service, enhancing customer satisfaction and retention.
    • Assist with Initial Setup: It involves helping the customer with the initial configuration and setup required to start using the product effectively.
  3. KPIs include:
  • Number of days from sign-up to first value
  • Onboarding goals achieved
  • Time saved/ spent by the Customer Success Management (CSM)/Professional Services team or reduction in 
  • Reduction in support tickets for this stage of the lifecycle
  1. Driving Team: Led by the Customer Success (CS) Lead and Professional Services, with collaboration from the Product, Support, and Documentation Teams.
  2. Strategies:
    • Providing personalized welcome emails, guides, and webinars/video tutorials
    • Utilizing tools like the Knowledge Center (KC) Bot for on-demand assistance
    • Focusing on customer-centric iterations and setting up for long-term success

Vs. End-User Onboarding

  1. Scope: Focuses on individual end-users within an organization, helping them understand and navigate the product efficiently.
  2. Objectives:
    • Drive Adoption of Golden Features: Aims at encouraging the use of key features that significantly contribute to the product's value.
    • Usage/Adoption Metrics: Monitors user retention rates, adoption trends of golden features, and critical path/funnel completion rates.
  3. KPIs include:
  • Golden Feature Adoption Trends amongst cohort
  • Time to First Value (TTFV) or the time from first login to interacting with a key feature
  • User Retention Rate
  • Customer Effort Score (CES) or NPS amongst cohort
  • Feedback and Support Requests
  1. Driving Team: May be primarily driven by Marketing (Demand Gen, Growth Ops) in collaboration with the Product, Documentation Team, Support, and/or Sales.
  2. Strategies:
    • Implementing PX In-App Engagements based upon user-type to guide users to their first valuable product interaction
    • Using a targeted ‘Welcome KC Bot’ for this specific user-type with content limited to onboarding materials
    • Utilizing dashboards to track engagement with content and monitor retention


The 3 Phases of Implementing End-user Onboarding

The intricate dance of introducing users to a new digital environment can almost be thought of as a practice, as we perform this repeatedly with the aim of building our proficiency.

In this case, we aren’t learning a new hobby, but we are developing this muscle as individuals, teams and organizations.

To help with that, we’ll break this work down into three stages:

Phase 1: Core Planning for Adoption - Analyze the product's core value, identify adoption barriers, and map a detailed user journey to lay the strategic groundwork for targeted user onboarding.

Phase 2: Execution - Implement the plan by creating tailored onboarding content, personalizing the user experience, and integrating immediate feedback mechanisms to guide users toward the product's core value.

Phase 3: Iteration - Continuously refine the onboarding process through thorough analysis of user feedback and engagement, making data-informed adjustments to align with evolving user needs and product development.


The Specifics

Phase 1: Planning - Weeks 1-3

  1. Analyze the Product's Core Value Proposition

    • Conduct analysis to discern which features or aspects of the product are critical to the users' success. Utilize quantitative data from user analytics and qualitative insights from testimonials and support inquiries to elucidate the product's core value to its users. 
    • If this is a new feature set or product, much of the analysis will be hypothetical qualitative data - this means that the early days of adoption will be key for defining your baselines.
  2. Identify Initial Obstacles to Adoption

    • Employ a data-driven approach to pinpoint the initial barriers users face that hinder their full product adoption. Analyze user behavior data, support ticket trends, and feedback from trial users to map out these obstacles.
  3. Construct a User Journey Map with Core Adoption Milestones

    • Develop a comprehensive user journey map from initial engagement to full product adoption, integrating core milestones where users derive significant value. This mapping should be informed by empirical user data and success metrics.
    • Start simple with 3 stages - Awareness, Learning, Habitual - in order to understand what user behavior may look like.
  4. Evaluate Existing Onboarding Instruments and Materials

    • Systematically assess the efficacy and engagement of current onboarding resources. This includes reviewing content relevance, tool utilization metrics, and user engagement levels to ensure alignment with the core adoption journey.
    • If a new product, explore what has been successful in the past - we always suggest repurposing existing videos or gifs within guides and keeping them simple.
  5. Formulate Precise Objectives for the Onboarding Process

    • Define explicit success criteria for new user onboarding, rooted in achieving activation of core features, attainment of specific user milestones, or realization of predetermined goals within the product context.

Phase 2: Execution - Weeks 4-6

Objective: Execute the onboarding strategy, guiding new users towards realizing the product's core value efficiently and effectively.

Execution Steps:

  1. Develop Targeted and Insightful Onboarding Content

    • Craft onboarding materials that directly address the core questions and challenges identified in Phase 1, ensuring the content is engaging and founded on evidence-based insights.
    • Focus initially on the Awareness stage, eventually focusing on deeper learning with continued adoption.
  2. Personalize the Onboarding Trajectory

    • Utilize segmentation and data analytics to customize the onboarding experience for different user demographics, enhancing relevance and personal connection to the product's core value
    • Again, starting simple - maybe this is 2 user types at the beginning and you actually only focus on one of those key types. Anything that gets you the quickest results and access to early data.
  3. Embed Immediate Feedback Mechanisms

    • Integrate options for real-time feedback within the onboarding flow, enabling ongoing optimization and user-driven enhancements.
    • Utilize KC Bot to filter users towards offering feedback organically rather than using a pop-up. If using an pop-up, aim for a banner rather than something that prohibits the users workflow.

Phase 3: Iteration - Weeks 6-12

Objective: Methodically refine the onboarding experience based on empirical feedback and adoption metrics, maintaining its alignment with user needs and product evolution.

Execution Steps:

  1. Analysis of Engagement

    • Regularly assess user interactions with the onboarding content and their feedback, using funnel reports to identify trends and actionable insights for improvement
  2. Quantitative and Qualitative Insights

    • Apply a rigorous, data-informed approach to refine the onboarding process for each persona and expand to other users
    • Cross reference survey data or identify power-users to understand what your happiest, healthiest customers look like and how they interact with content
  3. Reassess and Revise Core Adoption Milestones

    • Continuously evaluate and update the core milestones within the user journey, ensuring they remain relevant and reflective of both the product's and users' evolving needs.

In Conclusion

The end user onboarding process is many things:

  1. A critical bridge between the initial interest in a product and its long-term adoption and integration into daily routines
  2. The period where first impressions are formed, value is perceived, and decisions about continuing use are made.
  3. Directly influences user retention, satisfaction, and ultimately, the success of the product in the market!

A well-structured onboarding process educates users, not just about the features of the product but about how it can solve their problems and enhance their lives or work.

The more that your team can understand this as a strategic investment in user satisfaction and retention and a method for translating complex functionalities into tangible benefits - the more you are able to paint those outcomes back to the business and quantify the impact of your own work!


For more information on that, check out my previous article on quantifying the impact of PX through developing ROI Outcomes!

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