Why SaaS onboarding is different – and how you can improve it

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It’s not exactly a bombshell revelation that customer onboarding is incredibly important. It’s a wellspring for improved support metrics, it builds relationships, and it makes for happier, more engaged users.

What isn’t so obvious is why customer onboarding is arguably more important for SaaS companies than it is for other tech companies.

We’ll explain: if you’re a SaaS company, your customers are subscribers. That means you have to make the value of your platform apparent to users quickly – and continue to prove that value month-to-month. 

But your users can’t fully realize the value of your platform unless they know how to use it. That’s why onboarding is so important for SaaS companies. 

And that’s not all. For SaaS companies, onboarding looks markedly different than it does for non-SaaS companies – because SaaS users learn differently. 

As a SaaS company, then, your onboarding needs to be SaaS-appropriate. 

But what does that look like? We have some thoughts …

Taking a continuous approach

The old one-and-done model of onboarding doesn’t line up with the expectations of modern SaaS users. Nobody wants to have to remember what the training tour described three months ago – nor does pointing them to the Help repository always equate to effective learning.

The new onboarding is all about continuous learning: having the right knowledge available as conveniently as possible at all times – so users can train at their own pace, on their own terms.

Ongoing learning isn’t exactly a new concept in SaaS. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re part of the 94% of software companies using agile development methods. Your release cycle and platform updates are more frequent than those of old-school tech companies (who would release once every 12-18 months) – and your approach to training has to be flexible and timely enough to reflect this. 

Your users are constantly being equipped with new features, new functionality, UI tweaks, and more. And as beneficial as that is, it makes proficiency a moving target. So you’re tasked with not only onboarding new customers, but continuously onboarding existing users as your software evolves.

Here are 4 tips for making the most out of continuous onboarding and upskilling …

Give your (super smart) users the chance to self-onboard …

SaaS users tend to be pretty tech-savvy, and most are probably happy to learn independently when they feel they need to. Give them plenty of opportunities to do that with always-available self-service portals, FAQs, in-product tours (and prompts), and more.

… But make sure you’re there to answer tough questions when they arise.

Since they’re typically more tech-savvy, the questions your customers raise their hand for will probably be a lot harder to answer – but this is actually great news. Those complex questions can offer insights into what users are really looking for from your software.

Plus, the customers that surface more nuanced issues tend to be frequent users. Those are the same people that will champion your platform within their own companies if you can truly help them out. In that respect, personal, one-to-one contact with them becomes not just important but necessary – a competitive differentiator, even.

Make sure your training efforts aren’t all up-front.

Instead, they should be truly continuous. That can mean getting proactive and reaching out to existing users whose usage has fallen off. Try asking them about their experience so far and find a way to help them get back to being engaged with your platform.
And as for your power users? Keep giving them opportunities to explore new features and functions they may not be taking enough advantage of. They may not know what they don’t know – and might appreciate the heads-up.

Make sure your customer support reps can show and not just tell

You’re in the SaaS business, so you already know – the tools make the difference. Ensure that your customer support team (and sales, training, and customer success teams, of course!) have the right software in place to be able to quickly identify issues customers are having and easily share how to overcome them.

If you’re still relying on text and audio to have conversations about complex software functionality, think about implementing training and support solutions that add a visual dimension. (Hey, that’s us!)

Whenever you’re onboarding and upskilling your customers (which is now pretty much always), the key here is meeting them where they really are.
Especially when you’re showing them how to make the most out of your software, you want to offer the shortest, most effective bridge between your SaaS users and the knowledge they seek. To that end, there’s nothing quite like a highly visual, on-demand, human-to-human experience. That’s where Guided Onboarding works wonders. 

We’ve whipped up a short eBook that illustrates exactly what Guided Onboarding is, how it works, and why it’s the most effective way for software providers to train and teach today’s users.

Spoiler: It’s a far, far cry from training videos and chatbots.

See what we mean by checking out Glance.

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