11 Simple Questions to Improve Your SaaS Onboarding

by Sujan Patel /
November 1, 2016 /
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“The reality is, you’ll never retain all of your customers, and some of those reasons you can’t control.” That solid advice comes from former ConversionXL editor Tommy Walker. Even if you improve free trial signups, you won’t save them all — and you will waste a lot of time trying. Because the fact is, some things are simply out of your hands, like budgetary issues, or the possibility that your solution doesn’t quite fit the customer’s needs.

But, by asking the right questions, there’s still plenty you can do to improve retention. An examination of your onboarding process can reveal a lot of leaks and opportunities to reduce that early churn. Here are 11 questions that you should ask as you audit your process:

1. What is the one thing a user expects as a desired outcome?

Users subscribe because they believe your product offers a solution to a problem they have identified. That problem might be a little different for different users. While you’ve created your product to provide a specific solution, it’s important to understand what the user expects as the ultimate outcome of using the service.

With this in mind, you can provide case scenarios, tips and more vital information during the onboarding process to help customers utilize the product for specific types of issues relating to your solution.

2. What are the main objectives users are trying to achieve?

Know the common objectives among users who are tackling the big problem with your solution. You’ll typically see common milestones for deployment and execution of the solution you offer. Use this information to create custom content that can be delivered in the midst of onboarding, as well as at the top of the funnel.

3. How will users measure success?

Execution is only part of the process for users. You need to be able to clearly communicate how they’ll be able to see results and measure their success with your solution.

4. What metrics are being measured by the user’s boss?

Data from your own solution is helpful, but you can improve onboarding by demonstrating how users can combine third-party metrics with your own data in order to present their success to leadership. Show them how to continue selling the benefits and success of the product.

5. What keeps users awake at night?

Identifying major pain points isn’t just for top-of-the-funnel content marketing. What are the biggest issues that are distracting your users and preventing them from being successful? Directly identify these problems so you can provide custom engagement and content to address those concerns.

6. How should the customer use the product?

You can streamline your onboarding process by clearly explaining to a user how to use your product, and what its benefit will be. When your customer suddenly understands what you’re providing, he or she will have an “aha” moment, and all of the pieces will start making sense.

“If a customer doesn’t understand the context of your app, can’t immediately see its benefits or has a bad initial experience [slow loading times, clunky interface, etc.], you’ve likely squandered your only chance from the get-go,” says Lesley Park, former marketing consultant at Framed.

7. How are you communicating value?

With everything you’re trying to communicate during the onboarding process, it’s easy to miss important elements. Look at the materials you’re sending and sharing: How clearly is your value proposition being communicated?

If you’re only promoting value at the top of the funnel, then you’re missing opportunities to reinforce that message along the way. Make sure value is promoted clearly and consistently, and find ways to improve the value to your customer in order to reduce churn.

“To improve customer churn, improve your value,” writes Ross Beard, marketing specialist at Elucidat. “Improving value doesn’t necessarily mean adding new features or services; it can also mean improving your existing product or service offerings.”

8. What are the main causes of churn?

Examine your current customers: how they use the product, where they typically drop off and their behavior in using the product leading up to the drop-off point. Use this data to identify the major causes of customer churn. Fixing something like a misunderstanding of features can lead to improved communication and direction during onboarding.

GrooveHQ used this kind of monitoring to reduce churn and create emails that improved onboarding and encouraged continued use.

9. What are the steps to reaching completion?

You don’t want to overwhelm your users with task-heavy steps during the onboarding process. Audit your onboarding steps to determine where drop-off occurs most often. This is the approach Patrick McKenzie took with Intercom.io, and he was able to take completion of onboarding from 82 percent to 90 percent with some simple UI tweaks.

10. What is the sticking point for new users?

There are two major milestones in the lives of customers: when they sign up, and when they see their first success. What you do between those two points, within your onboarding, will directly impact your retention rates. Identify what that first success is for users and target that sticking point. Provide content, education, and direction to help every user get there.

11. How are you building relationships with users?

Your users are busy; there’s a lot going on in their worlds when they’re not directly engaged with your product. Evaluate how you’re working to build a relationship with all users, so that you’re consistently delivering value through social channels and via email. Education, through multiple channels, is the key to successful onboarding.