Design Considerations For Your Customer Onboarding Process


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In last week’s post, I wrote about the importance of proper customer onboarding, as well as the benefits of doing it right and the pitfalls of doing it wrong or not doing it at all. In this post, I’ll answer a few important questions, namely: who’s responsible? is automation OK? and what are the key design considerations for this process?


Like with a lot of other things, customer onboarding is ideally a team effort. Different skills and knowledge sets across various departments ensure that customers are prepared for integrating your product into their organizations. It’s crucial for these teams and individuals to work collaboratively and communicate effectively to deliver a cohesive onboarding experience. Customer onboarding is not a one-time event but an ongoing journey; just like with employee onboarding, customer onboarding isn’t just a day long “event” but a process that needs to be well-planned and well-coordinated. Here are some of the players involved in the process.

  • Customer Success Managers (CSMs): Customer Success Managers play a central role in customer onboarding. They are responsible for understanding the customer’s needs, guiding them through the onboarding process, and ensuring a smooth transition from the sales phase to product adoption. CSMs focus on building strong relationships with customers and act as advocates to ensure their success over the life of the relationship.
  • Sales Team: The sales team lays the foundation for customer onboarding by understanding the customer’s requirements and expectations during the sales process. They hand over relevant information to the customer success team, enabling them to customize the onboarding experience to align with the customer’s needs. This is so important and often one of the handoffs that is broken and mishandled.
  • Product Specialists/Trainers: If your product requires specialized knowledge or training, product specialists or trainers might be involved in the onboarding process. They provide in-depth training and guidance to customers to help them fully utilize the features and functionalities of the product.
  • Marketing Team: The marketing team can support customer onboarding by providing educational content and resources. This includes product tutorials, knowledge base articles, and instructional videos that help customers learn about the product and its benefits.
  • Customer Support Team: Customer support may be involved in addressing any immediate issues or questions that customers have during the onboarding process. They often complement the efforts of the customer success team during the process.
  • Technical Team: For more technically complex products or services, the technical team may be involved in setting up and configuring the customer’s account, resolving any technical issues, and ensuring a smooth integration with existing systems.
  • Management and Leadership: They provide the necessary resources, support, and alignment across departments to ensure the onboarding process is effective and customer-centric.

So, onboarding is a team sport that requires everyone in the organization to be aligned on one goal: the customer’s success.


As with other processes in your business, customer onboarding can be automated – to some extent, depending on the context and the complexity of the product. Automation saves time and money and adds efficiencies where you need them most. Consider automating these parts of the customer onboarding process:

  • Welcome emails or messages: This is a common practice. These messages can include essential information, links to resources, and instructions on how to get started.
  • Account setup: Automation can handle the process of creating user accounts and profiles, assigning access permissions, and setting up user preferences.
  • Educational content delivery: Companies can use automated systems to deliver educational content to new customers, such as tutorials, video guides, or knowledge base articles, based on the customer’s needs, preferences, and place in the journey.
  • Product feature guides: Automated product tours or feature guides can help new customers familiarize themselves with the key functionalities of the product.
  • Chatbots or virtual assistants: Chatbots or virtual assistants can provide instant support during the onboarding process, answering common questions and guiding customers through setup procedures.
  • Milestone notifications and tracking: Automated systems can be set up to track customer progress and trigger milestone notifications, offering encouragement or additional assistance when needed.

While automation can bring significant benefits to the onboarding process, it’s essential to strike a balance and not forget about the human aspects of the experience. There are situations where human interaction and personalized touch are crucial for a positive customer experience. Consider this when automating onboarding:

  • Product complexity: If the product is relatively simple and straightforward, automation can work well; however, for more complex offerings, some degree of human guidance might be necessary.
  • Customer preferences: Know your customers. Some prefer human interaction during onboarding, especially if they have specific questions or unique requirements.
  • Customization and personalization: Automation may not address individual customer needs and preferences effectively, so strike a balance between automation and personalization.
  • Technical limitations: Ensure that your automated systems are robust, reliable, and capable of handling potential edge cases or errors.

Automating parts of the customer onboarding process can mean working smarter not harder, but it needs to be done thoughtfully and strategically. Find the right balance between automation and human touch, considering the nature of the product, customer preferences, and the overall customer experience goals.

Here’s a great conversation to tune into (between Donna Weber, a customer onboarding expert, and Dickey Singh, CEO of to learn more about onboarding and how automation can help you scale your customer success operations and, specifically, the onboarding process.


Designing an effective customer onboarding process requires careful planning and consideration. Some key pieces of information and considerations include:

  • Onboarding Playbook: Customer success managers have playbooks for how they will service their customers over the life of the relationship. The first playbook should detail the onboarding process and what it entails.
  • Customer Segmentation: Understand your customer base and segment them based on their needs, preferences, and characteristics. Different customer segments may require tailored onboarding approaches to address their unique requirements.
  • Customer Personas: Develop detailed customer personas that represent typical users of your product. Personas outline your customers’ goals, pain points, and problems to solve or jobs to be done, which can inform your onboarding strategy.
  • Product Complexity: Assess the complexity of your product or service. If it’s a relatively simple offering, the onboarding process can be more streamlined. For complex products, you might need to allocate more time and resources for onboarding.
  • Journey Mapping: Map out the customer journey from the initial contact with your company to becoming a fully onboarded customer. Identify touch points, potential challenges, and opportunities for engagement and support.
  • Success Metrics: Determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your onboarding process. These may include customer activation rate, time to value, customer satisfaction, and retention metrics. Success metrics help you measure the effectiveness of your onboarding efforts.
  • Goals and Outcomes: Clarify the specific goals and desired outcomes of your onboarding process. Is it to help customers understand the product, achieve a specific outcome, or reduce time to first value?
  • Resource Allocation: Assess the resources available for customer onboarding, including people, technology, and tools. Adequate resource allocation ensures you can deliver a smooth onboarding experience without overwhelming your team.
  • Automation: Determine which parts of the onboarding process can be automated, allowing you to save time and resources; just make sure it doesn’t compromise the customer experience.
  • Communication Channels: Know customer communication preferences and choose the most appropriate channels for onboarding interactions, e.g., emails, in-app messages, chat support, or phone calls. Consistency across channels is essential for a seamless experience.
  • User Feedback Mechanism: Set up a mechanism to gather feedback from customers during the onboarding process. Feedback helps you identify pain points, refine the process, and make improvements.
  • Education and Training Materials: Prepare educational resources, training materials, and documentation to assist customers during onboarding and beyond.
  • Onboarding Duration: Determine the ideal duration of the onboarding process. While you want customers to get up to speed quickly, rushing the process might lead to confusion or dissatisfaction.
  • Continuous Improvement Plan: Create a plan for continuous improvement of the onboarding process. Regularly review performance metrics, gather feedback, and iterate on the process to enhance its effectiveness over time.

Remember that onboarding is a journey that can/will take several months, so it’s essential to monitor how it’s going and also adapt it as your product, services, or customer base evolves.

If a customer doesn’t understand the context of your app, can’t immediately see its benefits, or has a bad initial experience, … you’ve likely squandered your only chance from the get-go. ~ Lesley Park

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


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