Customer Onboarding Automation — Step by Step Guide

Getting customer onboarding automation right should be an important priority for any savvy SaaS owner: you can save time and effort while enhancing customer lifetime value.

In this article, we’re going to explore how a customer onboarding process contributes to growth. Then, we’ll break down the steps you need to take to automate it, and hopefully leave you equipped to apply the lessons you learn to your own product.

Ready to get started?

Let’s dive in!

TL;DR

  • The customer onboarding process describes the sequence of actions necessary to introduce customers to your product (and help existing users get the most out of it).
  • Customer onboarding automation means introducing various automated steps throughout the customer journey: this could include simplifying the entire process, generating automated messages, or launching contextual in-app help.
  • Automating customer onboarding can help boost growth. You’ll be able to provide a more consistent experience, improve customer satisfaction with personalized journeys, and cut costs with more efficient business processes, which means you can scale much faster.
  • You should look at all of your customer onboarding processes to understand what can be automated. Simplifying signup is a great way to boost customer satisfaction. You can also explore optimizing your welcome page with automated welcome messages or microsurveys.
  • It’s critically important at the start of the customer lifecycle to help users ‘get started’. You could do this in several ways: launching interactive walkthroughs, automating video guides, or producing helpful checklists.
  • Targeted in-app guidance can break down complex internal processes and help users reach key milestones in their onboarding. Of course, you also need to offer a range of support options — whether that’s an in-app resource center or direct contact with an agent.
  • When automating your own onboarding experience, there are a few key steps to follow. Start with clear goals in mind: what do you want your onboarding process to achieve? Next, map out the entire journey (including all customer interactions) to understand where you might be able to improve things.
  • Once you’ve done that, look to map the happy path towards key milestones. Remove any unnecessary steps to simplify the customer onboarding experience.
  • Use segmentation to deliver bespoke onboarding automation for each user group. Experiment and improve your onboarding with A/B testing to understand which types of automation are helping drive toward your goals. Finally, remember to integrate customer feedback as you iterate your product.
  • Putting that all into practice can be a challenge… unless you use an effective tool like Userpilot. Deploy a range of flexible UI patterns, quickly deploy in-app resource centers, and understand distinct user segments without writing any custom code.

What is customer onboarding automation?

Introducing customer onboarding automation is what it takes to move from a mostly manual to a more automatic, less labor-intensive onboarding process.

Typically, it’ll involve creating automated flows and sequences that guide users through various activities across their journey. Ultimately, that helps them better understand how to get value from your product — without hefty support costs.

Visual of user journey stages: primary, secondary, and tertiary
Different onboarding stages map onto very different product goals.

What is a customer onboarding process?

The customer onboarding process is a broad term, referring to the sequence of actions necessary to help existing and new customers utilize your product at various stages.

That could mean:

  • Getting completely new users signed up
  • Showing existing users how to use a new feature
  • Or converting customers from free to paid accounts

How can an automated customer onboarding process help with growth?

Automated customer onboarding can be a massive boost for any SaaS. In this section of the article, we’ll break down how it boosts growth.

Provide a consistent customer onboarding experience

A manual onboarding experience means different users could have vastly different experiences.

No matter how talented your customer onboarding team is, there’s always the chance they might miss a piece of advice (or misinterpret it).

Setting automated onboarding processes means it’s much simpler to achieve a level of consistency from one user’s onboarding experience to another. Packaging all the best practices together gives you the best chance of driving customer success.

Increase customer satisfaction with personalized automated customer onboarding

An automated customer onboarding process doesn’t mean a one size fits all approach, though. Different customers are going to have different sets of needs, and different objectives they are trying to reach through using your product.

With that in mind, you can personalize journeys to adapt to the needs of specific user groups: automation within clear bounds.

The example from Notion below is a good one. Understanding which category a user fits into can help create a ‘branched’ experience, offering pertinent content based on their answer.

Screenshot of Notion signup
Use valuable data gathered during signup to customize the onboarding experience.

Automating this means you instantly cut out a huge amount of unnecessary manual processing. It means your users don’t need to wait for an onboarding call with a member of your customer success or sales team before getting started.

Automating processes decreases cost and allows you to scale

Automating processes isn’t easy.

In fact, it can be a challenge and requires some thought and effort to get right. So what makes it worth the grind?

You’ll cut down on the administrative burden of repetitive tasks, reduce the risk of errors and unnecessary friction, and decrease hiring costs. Tools and technology allow you to scale far more effectively than simply trying to out-hire demand.

Over time, you’ll start to reap the rewards of investing the time, effort, and energy in identifying which repeatable steps can be automated.

What steps in a customer onboarding process can be automated?

We’ve explored how an automated customer onboarding process can help growth. But how do you break down the process and figure out where automation might be possible?

Completing the signup onboarding flow

Let’s start with the signup process.

Many organizations still wait for signup to be manually verified, simply because their existing tooling doesn’t support automated account creation. Any delay in getting an account set up introduces unnecessary friction: how many users might forget, give up, or try an alternative while they’re waiting?

Signup should be as simple as possible. If possible, explore SSO options (like Loom above). Your users will appreciate not having to create yet another account.

Screenshot of Loom signup page
The key to an effective signup flow? Keep it simple!

Welcome page and the first-time user experience

First impressions count. Why miss an opportunity to enhance the customer experience by leaving your welcome page blank? Look into setting up simple automation.

You’ve got lots of options to explore, including:

  • Personalizing a welcome message (or short video) using data gathered from signup
  • Launching a microsurvey to better understand needs
  • Setting expectations and relaying key product information
Animation of welcome message
Create a welcoming first impression with a personalized message.

Getting started with the product

This is where users really start to unlock value. Unless customers are actively using your product and seeing it demonstrably solve their problems, what’s their incentive to keep using it?

They don’t have time to wait for an onboarding call: automation can help speed up the customer journey.

So act fast and help to engage your users with:

Screenshot of Userpilot getting started checklist
Checklists are a great way of keeping users motivated.

In-app communication and education

Onboarding isn’t a ‘one and done’ process.

As your product evolves, so should your automated onboarding process. You should look to demonstrate value throughout the journey with automated prompts, tips, and tooltips.

Screenshot of automation built with Userpilot
Contextually relevant messages can form a valuable part of the onboarding flow.

As the user navigates around your product, these tips will help them discover what features are relevant for them and how best to use them.

Reaching milestones with in-app guidance

Are there key milestones in the process that users fail to reach before churning?

Consider automating the path there to make it as smooth as possible. Reduce friction, boost customer success, and increase retention.

Sometimes, the right sort of automation — like the interactive walkthrough below — can help transform someone about to leave your product into a power user.

Animation of interactive walkthrough
Taking users through a tricky process step by step can help remove friction.

Real-time visibility of value release can be a powerful thing.

Contacting customer support and getting help

All customers will need help at some stage. Empowering them to solve their own problems with self-service support is a much more effective model than relying on an over-stretched customer success team.

Screenshot of Fullstory resource center
A robust in-app resource center helps centralize the support your users need.

You have a wealth of options at your disposal to automate support. Which combination you use should depend on the context of what your product does, what stage in the journey your users are at, and the type of help they need.

  • Chatbots. A friendly and engaging way of solving problems.
  • In-app help centers. Filled with valuable knowledge articles, tutorials, and FAQs.
  • Interactive guides. Step-by-step walkthroughs of how to unlock value.

And of course, direct access to human help if necessary should always be an option.

Nurturing emails

Don’t forget about the power of a simple email. Just as you’d look to automate in-app messages that help users reach key milestones, launching emails that offer valuable reminders or tips at key points in the process can help add another dimension to the overall onboarding experience.

How do you automate a customer onboarding process?

In this section of the article, we’re going to break down the actionable steps you need to take to make your automated onboarding process a reality. Let’s get into it.

Define the onboarding process you want to automate and set goals

Start with a goal in mind. What are you looking to automate?

Do you want to fast-track users through signup, persuade them to upgrade, or help them reach activation?

Then, break down the steps you need to reach that goal.

Think about how to incrementally move your users from one step in the journey to the next in a logical sequence.

Visual of account expansion goal breakdown
Work backward from the desired outcome to figure out appropriate milestones along the way.

Map the existing manual processes in the onboarding flow

Start with a firm foundation: make sure you map the current process, including every interaction and touchpoint, in detail. That’ll show you where the opportunities lay to improve things.

Template for as-is onboarding journey mapping
To identify the most effective changes, you need to understand the current landscape.

Map the happy path flow for the onboarding process

You’ve set a clear goal. You’ve mapped the process and identified areas to automate.

What’s next?

Focus on trying to find the ‘minimum viable route’: ask yourself, ‘What’s the fastest way for a user to complete a specific step in the process?’

Visual of happy path mapping
Look for the fastest possible route to maximize the chance of swift user success.

Remove unnecessary steps in your customer onboarding

The backbone of effective process automation is cutting out unnecessary steps in the onboarding process.

Your guiding principle should be simplicity above all else: does your signup form really need 7 fields, or will 3 do?

You can draw inspiration from Miro’s sign-in page below.

Screenshot of miro Sign In page
An SSO reduces the complexity of sign-up and speeds things up.

Automate small customer interactions at each point in the journey

Spot quick wins and implement any small automation that might improve various steps in the journey.

Whether that’s a tooltip, checklist, hotspot, or modal, they’ll all help keep users on the happy path (and realizing value sooner).

Screenshot of Userpilot automated flows
Think carefully about where to include targeted automated messages to help your users along.

Use segmentation to create personalized automated onboarding experiences

Don’t forget, that automation doesn’t mean everything has to be the same for every user. Process automation can be tailored for specific user groups: segmentation can help you craft bespoke experiences quickly and effectively.

Screenshot of Userpilot segmentation
Cater to different user groups with segmentation in Userpilot.

Improve automated onboarding with A/B testing

Data analysis and hypothesis-driven development can help you craft a far more effective onboarding process. A/B testing is a powerful way to quickly test different in-app prompts, content types, automation variations, messaging, and more.

Screenshot of A/B testing in Userpilot
Userpilot lets you configure A/B tests quickly and easily.

You should be constantly learning about how different users respond to your automated customer onboarding flow. That’ll help you to quickly iterate and drive users towards specific goals.

Screenshot of A/B testing in Userpilot
You can easily measure performance between variations — and inform how your backlog shapes up.

Collect feedback and improve the onboarding customer experience

Open the feedback loop: take the time to gather direct feedback from your users, understand themes and patterns in their experience, and focus your effort on improving the areas of your onboarding flow that cause the most friction.

How can Userpilot software help with customer onboarding automation

At this stage, the benefits of onboarding automation are clear.

But it’s incredibly tricky to implement everything yourself: it’d require a huge amount of developer effort, cost, and time.

A much smarter option is to use a powerful, flexible tool — like Userpilot. You can choose from a broad range of different in-app UI patterns, enabling you to pick the right option depending on the context.

Screenshot of Userpilot options
Whether it’s a flow, a spotlight, modal, or something else, Userpilot gives you lots of options.

Each pattern is flexible and customizable. Align UI patterns with the look and feel of your distinct brand identity, so they seamlessly blend into the product experience.

Screenshot of Userpilot UI pattern customization
Build a consistent product experience by customizing patterns in Userpilot.

On top of that, you’ll be able to offer your users the help they need, when they need it. Userpilot enables you to quickly spin up powerful in-app resource centers — deployable without coding!

Here’s an excellent example from Backlinkmanager (built using Userpilot).

Screenshot of Userpilot Resource Center
Build and customize powerful Resource Centers with Userpilot.

Conclusion

We’ve covered a lot! Hopefully, this article has helped to:

  • Explain what customer onboarding automation is
  • Set out how to identify opportunities for automation in your own onboarding process
  • Shown you how to pick the best tools for the job

Now, you should be equipped with all the knowledge you need to transform your own onboarding experience.

Want to get started with customer onboarding automation? Get a Userpilot Demo and see how you can create engaging, effective onboarding processes today.

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