5 Laws of Highly Effective Onboarding Plans

Here’s your checklist to help drive happy customers with your onboarding plan.

Stuart Balcombe

July 28, 2022

3 minutes

  1. Identify the outcome your customer wants to reach
  2. Get to a quick win, don't boil the ocean
  3. Don't just assign work, tell the story of why
  4. Create an experience that makes "what's next" accessible
  5. Capture feedback and iterate

Over 90% of customers feel that the companies they buy from ‘could do better’ when it comes to onboarding new users/customers.

So, let’s create an onboarding experience that breaks from the norm.

Here’s your checklist to help drive happy customers with your onboarding plan.

🎯 1. Identify the outcome your customer wants to reach

Your customers signed up to solve a challenge they’re currently facing in their business. They need to see specifically how your product will help them. A one-size-fits all experience isn’t going to reinforce why your product was the right investment for them.

  • Add a “Which challenge best matches why you signed up?” question to your onboarding flow.
  • Ask “What was going on that made you sign up today?” in your welcome email.
  • Explicitly ask what success looks like on your kickoff call.
  • Don’t forget to record these responses against the customer record in your CRM.

🏆 2. Get to quick win, don’t boil the ocean

Your customers don’t have the time or attention to learn your entire product on day 1. They need clear direction on how to get to their first “aha” moment in as little time as possible. But what if your product takes a long time to implement fully? Guide your customers to see how it will work for the smallest possible use case. Building momentum in onboarding is key.

  • Identify - what does your customer need to do today
  • Show - how to complete the steps to get a win
  • Do - give your customer a clear task to complete

🔑 3. Don’t just assign work, tell the story of why

We always want to tell customers things are quick to set up or easy to integrate which isn’t always the case. But even when it’s not, customers are more likely to invest their time and attention when we frame the work in the outcomes they will achieve as a result.

  • Keep customers goals front and center in your plan
  • Show the implications on the outcomes (delayed timelines, reduced impact) of not completing key steps.
  • Build the narrative for transforming their current frustrated state into their desired outcome

📍4. Create an experience that makes “what’s next” accessible

An onboarding experience that’s spread across emails, spreadsheets, and ad hoc conversations quickly becomes overwhelming for customers. The more overwhelmed they become, the more likely they are to check out and shift their priorities.

Build out a shared plan for each customer that provides a high-level roadmap AND allows them to quickly take action on what’s next.

If it takes customers more than a few minutes to access what’s next when they want to make progress… they’re not going to access it.

  • Introduce a shared onboarding plan as early in the customer journey as possible (ideally in sales)
  • Include a link to the shared plan in every customer communication
  • Integrate your onboarding plan in the places customers already visit (your emails, calendar invites, customer portal).

💭 5. Capture feedback and iterate

Building a great onboarding experience isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it deal. It needs to be updated regularly as you identify bottlenecks and common questions that come up for your customers, not to mention new features and changes released in your product.

The goal is to build a short loop between onboarding each customer and improving the experience for future ones.

  • Host a regularly scheduled meeting with your onboarding team to discover what’s working well, where they're spending extra time, and the sentiment customers are sharing!
  • Add timestamps to entry and exits from each stage in your onboarding process. Create a dashboard that highlights how long customers are spending at each stage. • Explicitly ask customers for feedback when they complete their onboarding experience, not just a score, but what could have been improved and where do they still have questions.

Building a documented and repeatable onboarding plan sets your team, and your customers up for ongoing success, especially when things around you are uncertain.

Because happy, successful customers are more likely to see you as a trusted partner than just another vendor.

Related resources

Your customers will be happy you subscribed to our newsletter.

Join 6,000+ subscribers who read the Happy Customers newsletter—it's jam-packed with tips-and-tricks about onboarding, HubSpot, and making happy customers at scale.

Meet our happy customers

Learn how other companies have scaled with Arrows, so their teams can help customers be successful at every stage of their journey.

Read customer stories
Hillary Engelman
CS Team Lead, Involvio
Allison Howe
Con Cirillo
Head of CX, Carro
Matthew Watters
AE, humanpredctions
Hardik Patel
Head of CX, Carro