Boosting customer satisfaction and retention: 7 key phases of the SaaS client onboarding journey

Ryan Forsythe, Content Marketing Specialist, Moxo

Launching a cutting-edge SaaS application into the market is just the beginning. In the fiercely competitive SaaS industry, the real measure of success lies not just in acquiring customers, but in retaining them long-term. And the first step to ensuring customer loyalty starts with a stellar client onboarding process.

Business-to-business (B2B) professionals widely acknowledge that client onboarding plays a vital role in establishing enduring customer relationships. According to a survey by the Harvard Business Review, over 80% of executives emphasized the positive impact of effective onboarding on revenue, referrals, renewals, and loyalty. Unlike simple automated emails, high-touch client onboarding demands careful planning and organization.

In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through a thoughtfully crafted client onboarding strategy, which can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and pave the way for improved retention rates. We'll explore the seven crucial phases of the SaaS client onboarding process and how you can optimize each stage to create a seamless and remarkable customer experience.

Understanding the SaaS Client Onboarding Journey

SaaS client onboarding is more than just an orientation to your product — it's a strategic experience that sets the tone for your customer relationship and influences how your product or service is perceived. This multi-stage process involves guiding clients from the point of sale to their first success with your software.

Defining Your Client Onboarding Goals

Before you can start enhancing your onboarding process, you must define what success looks like. Are you aiming to reduce churn, drive product adoption, or simply make it easier for your new clients to get started? The goals you set will inform the strategies you employ.

The Client Success Team

Your client onboarding team will be at the front lines of ensuring success. This could encompass sales, customer support, and success representatives, who'll need to be equipped with the right tools and resources to guide clients effectively.

Metrics for Success

To measure the success of your onboarding process, you'll want to look at metrics such as time-to-value, usage rates, and customer satisfaction scores. These will provide insights into areas for improvement and help you refine your onboarding strategy.

7 key phases of the SaaS client onboarding journey

A well-crafted onboarding process is essential for setting up SaaS customers for success, emphasizing collaboration, personalized training, and regular follow-ups.

1. Execute a formal transition of the client ownership from the sales team

The formal handover of clients from sales to customer success teams, known as the sales-to-customer success (CS) handoff, equips CS teams with vital insights about the client's business, requirements, key stakeholders, and more. This information enables them to craft a tailored onboarding experience. Here’s a handy template to get you started:

There are no set guidelines dictating when customer success teams should assume responsibility for clients from sales. In certain organizations, customer success may engage early in the sales process, participating in demos and sales meetings. Conversely, some sales teams may defer the introduction of customer success until after the client has finalized the contract.

When transitioning to managing clients post-sale, it is crucial to gather comprehensive information about the customer and the deal. Arrange a meeting with sales representatives or review digital resources such as sales notes, transcripts of sales meetings, and demo recordings.

To ensure a seamless handoff and avoid overlooking critical details, develop a sales-to-customer success handoff document outlining the necessary customer information that sales teams should gather prior to the transition, including details about the customer's business size and pain points.

2. Initiate customer onboarding with a kickoff call

The kickoff call presents an opportunity to introduce your Customer Success team to the client's team, fostering familiarity and setting expectations. Ideally scheduled within 48-72 hours of contract signing, this call jumpstarts the collaboration process. Recording the call, taking comprehensive notes, and sharing them with the client post-call are recommended practices.

According to CSMPractice, the kickoff call should provide a high-level overview of the onboarding journey, key contacts, and anticipated milestones. After initial team and product introductions, encourage the client to express their needs, objectives, and challenges. Validate information obtained from sales and ensure alignment with the client's goals and stakeholders.

During the call, maintain focus on overarching objectives rather than delving too deeply into specifics. This approach allows for a productive discussion and emphasizes the broader strategy.

3. Develop customer success plans aligned with client objectives

Once customer goals are defined, it's crucial to craft an actionable plan to guide them towards success - a customer success plan. Establishing this plan early on demonstrates your commitment to their success and instills confidence. Identify the key objectives your customer aims to accomplish with your product in order to formulate their personalized customer success plan.

Subsequently, outline the essential steps and details required to reach the customer's objectives to construct the customer success plan. This may include details about key stakeholders, implementation timeline, training sessions, check-in frequency, and more.

Establish quarterly or semi-annual target dates for customer goals and monitor their progress using the devised plan.

4. Delegate implementation tasks to customers and customer success managers

For a successful product implementation, collaboration between clients and customer success managers is vital. Here is a breakdown of tasks that your team and the client's organization need to accomplish during the implementation process:

  1. Compile a list of implementation tasks, including setting up tracking codes on the client's website and integrating with specific apps.
  2. Ensure the client completes tasks such as granting permission to access their software and systems.

Once the task list is ready, share it with the client for approval. Assign deadlines for each task to establish accountability. Follow up with clients regularly to ensure the implementation progresses smoothly according to plan.

5. Host training sessions for new clients

Live training sessions assist customers in mastering your product and maximizing its utility. For local clientele, opt for on-premise training sessions, while remote live training serves non-local users. Simplify training scheduling by offering multiple time slots and requesting their preferred timing and delivery method (remote or on-premise).

Customize training based on user roles (admin, manager, employee), the client's primary use case, and the crucial features for their team. This tailored approach is particularly vital for impressing high-value customers.

6. Offer self-help resources and tutorials.

A high-touch onboarding process does not entail requiring customers to contact support for every minor query. Providing self-help tools and tutorials empowers customers to troubleshoot product issues independently and learn how to use the product at their own pace. Various self-help tools can be utilized to equip clients, including in-app training, knowledge bases, chatbots, and help documentation with videos.

To motivate clients to engage with product training materials, develop concise tutorials that employees can easily consume in minutes. When implementing self-service options, remember that this training can also be personalized. Tailor in-app training based on an employee's role and their specific use case for the product.

7. Perform routine follow-ups on implementation, training, and objectives

Client onboarding extends beyond just scheduling training sessions or sharing learning resources. It's a continuous process involving monitoring the client's implementation progress and addressing any obstacles hindering their goals. Utilize brief emails for weekly check-ins, while considering face-to-face meetings for monthly and quarterly reviews when feasible. Below are key check-in points for new clients:

  • Weekly or bi-weekly check-in: Follow up to ensure completion of assigned implementation tasks.
  • Monthly check-in: Assess training progress and address any challenges faced.
  • 90-day check-in: Monitor goal progress and usage of tools, resolving any technical issues and celebrating milestones together.

Check-ins provide an avenue to educate clients on new features, reaffirm goals, and adjust plans as necessary. Centralizing check-in discussions facilitates progress tracking for both clients and customer success managers.

Optimizing your SaaS onboarding process

Turning these concepts into a reality requires careful planning and execution. We will now explore some practical strategies you can implement to optimize each phase of your SaaS client onboarding.

Employ onboarding software

Invest in software that specializes in client onboarding. This can range from project management tools for your team to user onboarding software that streamlines the process for your clients.

Develop a scalable onboarding framework

Standardize your onboarding process to ensure consistency while allowing for personalization where needed. A scalable framework will be critical as your SaaS grows and onboarding becomes more complex.

Transparency and communication

Be transparent about your product's capabilities and any known limitations. Clear communication can help set realistic expectations and avoid disappointment down the line.

Continuous improvement

Client onboarding is not a set-it-and-forget-it process. Regularly review feedback and metrics to identify areas for improvement. Be willing to adapt and evolve your onboarding strategy as your SaaS and client base change.

Streamline client onboarding with a customer portal

A well-crafted onboarding process can be the difference between a one-time buyer and a loyal customer who sticks with your SaaS through thick and thin. By understanding and optimizing the seven phases of the client onboarding process, you set the stage for enhanced customer satisfaction and an increased chance for retaining clients in the long run. Remember, client onboarding is just the beginning of the customer journey. The goal is to create a holistic experience that not only meets but exceeds expectations at every touchpoint.

While a personalized high-touch onboarding process is crucial, there's no need to start from scratch with each new customer. Develop tailored onboarding playbooks for varying customer tiers such as Business, Premium, and Enterprise. These playbooks can be utilized by customer success managers for a smoother onboarding experience.

Moxo, a no-code customer portal, empowers you to craft customized onboarding plan templates for various customer segments. The cutting-edge solutions provided by Moxo's client portal position the company as a leader in the digital portal industry. By tackling the unique challenges of B2B relationships and emphasizing personalization, automation, integration, and data security, we are revolutionizing how businesses embark on partnerships with ease and effectiveness.

Once perceived as intricate, B2B onboarding has evolved into a strategic asset for businesses embracing our portal technology, which offers unparalleled functionality. Whether you seek to streamline workflows, bolster data security, or dazzle clients with personalized service, we furnish the necessary tools to deliver an onboarding journey that fosters enduring and prosperous B2B relationships.

Reach out to Moxo and uncover the transformative impact our B2B client portals can have on your business's growth and success.