Product engagement is one of the most reliable predictors of high customer lifetime value. Unfortunately, the existing industry data shows that 71 percent of B2B customers are disengaged with the software their companies use, and 28 percent of software licenses go completely unused (Gallup).
The first 90-days are absolutely critical when it comes to onboarding customers and driving product engagement. Research from the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) has found that trained customers are 68 percent more likely to use a product than their untrained colleagues.
The onboarding experience can set the tone for the rest of the customer and company relationship. Training at this stage of the lifecycle assists new customers with launching for initial success, a critical step to achieving long-term product adoption, usage, and renewals.
6 Key Steps for Customer Onboarding
Based on Skilljar’s experience with hundreds of customers, we’ve identified 6 key steps to develop an onboarding program that drives product engagement and generates high customer lifetime value.
1. Clearly Define Customer Value
Before you develop any content, it is important that you understand how your customers define value and the behaviors that generate this value. Look at the journeys and actions of your best customers – what features of your product are they using regularly? What path are they taking to get there? How are they integrating your product into their day-to-day activities? Once you’ve established where your best customers find value, you can then develop a strategy that encourages the adoption of these same behaviors among the rest of your customer base.
2. Identify the Drivers of Churn
While some churn is inevitable, it should be treated as an opportunity to learn and identify patterns. Facilitating a process to identify and address causes for churn can help identify at-risk accounts and prevent future churn. Assessing churn will also enable you to gain insight into areas for either improved education, or the creation of new training modules.
3. Focus on Reducing User Friction
In most cases, customers are voluntary learners so the learning experience needs to be intuitive and easily accessible in order to engage them throughout the training program. The customer experience starts with the registration process. Keeping login and registration steps as simple as possible will enable you to maintain a smooth experience from initial sign-in through completion.
Making content easily discoverable and ensuring that the value of a course is obvious (and relevant) to the customer also helps drive customer engagement.
In situations where training is required for customers, such as certification programs or security protocol like HIPAA, the customer experience remains paramount as completion of training modules may directly impact the safety and security of the company.
4. Develop Multiple Learning Paths
To create a truly effective onboarding program, consider working backwards from the goals and value you would like your customers to accomplish. Given the complexity that often accompanies SaaS platforms, as well as the variety of job roles that may use a particular software, it is important that each role or team in an organization is presented with a training program that addresses their specific needs and goals. By customizing training paths by job role, knowledge-level and goals, you can improve everything from course registration and completion rates, directly product adoption.
5. Integrate Customer Education Data with Existing Systems
An effective training platform does not exist in a vacuum – it is integrated with your systems of record and action across teams and departments. Incorporating customer onboarding, training and certification data into your other business systems will enable you to track the impact of education on customer health and engagement, not to mention allowing education teams to evaluate how their program is contributing to the bottom line. Common integrations for customer education data are customer relationship management, customer support, marketing automation, and customer success platforms.
6. Adopt a Continuous User Onboarding Mindset
To create a long-term, successful customer training program, you need to enable continuous learning for your customers as their needs evolve, their expertise grows, and as the software itself changes. Also, although the first 90 days of a customer’s journey are critical, you also need to be prepared for the turnover of product users due to role and employment changes. An on-demand training program will let you engage with customers as their needs change and also as new individuals come online.
While virtually every organization can benefit from offering training during customer onboarding, there are a few use cases that are especially relevant. For complex products, products that require group adoption, and business-critical products, speed and effectiveness of customer onboarding are particularly important. When done right, customer education can help you create engaged product users and a higher resulting customer lifetime value.
Sandi Lin is the CEO and Co-Founder of Skilljar, the leading customer training platform used by companies like Cisco, Verizon, and U-Haul to accelerate product adoption and deepen customer engagement.