9 Customer and User Onboarding Challenges to Overcome (2024)

9 Customer and User Onboarding Challenges to Overcome (2024)

Acquiring new customers is just half the job done: soon after, you have to onboard them—that is, teach them how your product works, coach them to navigate interfaces, perform basic tasks, and get a working grasp of how they can use your product as part of their day-to-day workflow.

Otherwise, it’s hard to justify their investment and your high churn rates would quickly halt your company’s growth.

A working customer onboarding strategy will help you remove common obstacles from your user journey, reduce your customer retention costs, and scale up faster since you’ll get to spend more on growing your business vs. struggling to keep churn under control.

What are the most common customer and user onboarding challenges?

  1. Lack of understanding about the product or service
  2. Lengthy sign-up process
  3. Unclear instructions and documentation
  4. Ineffective communication with users
  5. Limited customer support
  6. Lack of contextual onboarding
  7. Inadequate training
  8. Technical issues
  9. Security and privacy concerns

What Is Customer Onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the first few stages and series of exercises you make new users pass through to get set up to start using your product, learn how it works, and how to make it a part of their workflow. It serves as a way to familiarize and train new customers with your product’s features and functions and how they can help them.

9 Common Customer and User Onboarding Challenges

Here are nine common customer, client, and user onboarding challenges:

1. Lack of understanding about the product or service

According to data collected by the Technology Services Industry Association, the average renewal rate among trained subscribers is 12% higher than untrained subscribers, while 68% of trained customers reported using products more often; 56% said they use more features, and 87% stated that they are able to use the product more independently.

Judging against that backdrop, if you have an inadequate training regimen (or none at all) that doesn’t explain what your product or service does in detail, your customers may struggle to establish a strong argument to justify your product’s ROI enough to complete the onboarding process.

2. Lengthy sign-up process

A study of 79 SaaS companies by product analytics startup Heap shows that the companies in question converted 36.2% of their interested visitors into signups. More interestingly, they realized that common signup tactics increase conversions, such as offering third-party OAuth (+8.2%) and splitting the signup experience across many pages (+4.8%). Conversely, requiring a company name (-3%), a job function (-5%), or a phone number (-6.8%) reduced signup completions significantly.

signup form conversion rate

In other words, longer signup flows that ask for too much at once is like asking someone to marry you on the first date, especially if they’re just shopping around. It’s a long shot and you shouldn’t be surprised when they say no.

3. Unclear instructions and documentation

A 2013 survey by Xerox showed that a third of customers are less likely to buy a product if the instruction manuals are unclear or difficult to understand. If we extrapolate that to the world of digital products, there are many opportunities to unwittingly confuse your customers with larger-than-life design elements, long-winded product docs, and technical guides that the average user might need help with to grasp.

4. Ineffective communication with users

Research by Statista shows that ineffective assistance (27%) is by far the most common frustrating customers face—far ahead of slow responses (12%) and inaccurate fixes (10%). In other words, your customers expect your support team to know enough to pinpoint and fix issues without having them jump through hoops.

In a world where 65% of your customers have higher expectations of customer support, you need to use inclusive language, personalize your onboarding experiences, and create multiple versions of the same resources to cater to technical and non-technical audiences.

5. Limited customer support

According to Gartner, failing to respond to customer queries via social media can lead to a 15% increase in churn among existing customers. Forrester reports that 42% of American online adults say it’s important for retailers to offer live online chat on their websites and that an even greater number (45%) would abandon a purchase if they can’t find answers to their queries on demand.

In other words, customers want answers to their queries on as many channels as possible and they’re willing to abandon your business for brands that can offer it.

6. Lack of contextual onboarding

Contextual onboarding is a radically effective tactic because it reduces the mental work users need to do and nudges them towards the features they need to try out and the actions they should take—right inside your product’s UX.

Suppose your product’s onboarding experience depends primarily on formats such as text. In that case, your users will have to get imaginative to plot your written product guides to the UI they have on screen and can get fed up if their expectations aren’t met quickly.

Contextual experiences are one of the tenants of user onboarding best practices, yet many product teams continue to take a one-size-fits-all approach to their in-app onboarding.

7. Inadequate training

The training stage is critical to the entire customer onboarding process since users gain the experience they need to confidently explore a product, customize it to their own use cases, introduce it to their coworkers and team members, and make a stronger case for adopting it.

Whether your training program depends on self-serve courses, 1:1 coaching, or digital webinars, you could think of it as a growth and adoption tactic that helps you make your products stick with your customers.


8. Technical issues

Apart from basic issues where users simply don’t know how a feature works, technical issues are more of a pain point for product teams since you need to abstract them, test to ensure it’s not a client-side variable causing it, before it starts the long journey from product, to engineering, and finally, to testing.

Consequently, since technical issues take longer to fix, they might give your users the impression that your product is poorly built or that you don’t have the resources to support an organization of their size.

9. Security and privacy concerns

There are medium- and enterprise-scale companies that wouldn’t even try out your product for organizational use if you don’t have data protection protocols like SOC 2 and ISO27001 in place.

Even if you do, you still need to reassure your customers that their data is collected, processed, and transmitted securely, and that you won’t share any personally-identifiable details that will hurt the prospects with any third parties.

How to Overcome Common User Onboarding Challenges

Customer and user onboarding challenges can lead to unsatisfied users and high churn. You can tackle and overcome these challenges by following a few user onboarding best practices, including:

1. Use product analytics to understand user events and flows

No matter how experienced your support team is, it’s a given that they will often encounter unforeseen exceptions, technical issues, and edge cases that have no prior fix.

That’s where a product analytics suite comes in: product analytics tools let you look into your product’s core, observe issues from your customer’s perspective, and reproduce it for your engineering team to fix.

  • Replay session recordings to review reported bugs or errors from your users’ perspective
  • Use heatmap software to track parts of your product’s UX that users aren’t interacting with
  • Collect feedback by using polls and surveys strategically served after action completions
  • Segment customers and use cohort analytics models to understand why customers who share specific characteristics (ex., acquisition batch, pricing tier, etc.) are prone to specific behaviors

If you manage to nail that aspect of your customer experience, up to 93% of your customers are willing to become repeat buyers (or long-term subscribers). In comparison, 78% will be ready to keep doing business with your brand, even if you make mistakes in other aspects of your operations.


2. Contextual onboarding flows for different user types

No matter your product’s niche, you’ll soon realize there’s a significant variance in the kind of users you attract. They’ll vary either by their company size, location, budget, use cases, or by their prior experience with your product and similar competitors.

A personalized user onboarding checklist and experience will help you teach these customers just enough to make them succeed without boring them and leaving them stuck with less-than-adequate training.

  • Design different welcome screens for users based on their role
  • Serve unique onboarding experiences tailored to suit their niche, company size, location, pricing tier, etc.
  • Vary the lengths of onboarding sequences users have to undergo based on their prior experience using your product or your competitors
  • Use contextual cues like tooltips and hotspots to highlight different elements in the order specific user personas will find them most useful

Create contextual user onboarding flows, drive adoption of new features, and make in-app announcements with Whatfix

Whatfix is a no-code digital adoption platform that enables product managers to create contextual in-app guidance, product-led user onboarding, and self-help user support – all without engineering dependencies. With Whatfix, create branded product tours, user onboarding checklists, interactive walkthroughs, pop-ups, smart tips, and more – all enabling customers and users with contextual guidance at the moment need. With Whatfix, analyze, build, and deliver better user experiences.

3. Streamline the sign-up process

How long should the ideal, short-and-snappy signup last? Or, how long is too long for a signup? Like most customer experience and growth questions, the answer to that question is that it depends.

But, if you want to put a number on it, Visa estimates that, on average, customers abandon digital onboarding processes after 14 minutes and 20 seconds—in fact, if your onboarding process lasts up to 20 minutes, you’d have lost 70% of your interested customers.

That doesn’t remove the need to try getting as much information as possible so you can segment users, recommend helpful resources, and even personalize the onboarding experience for them. But, if you don’t want your convoluted signup process actually to become a customer experience challenge, you need to:

  • Break up your signup process and progressively collect more information the deeper users go
  • Reduce confusing design elements and make it easy for users to choose how they want to get started
  • Use one simple CTA
  • Get of unnecessary fields you can promote down the line—it’s easy to ask users to follow you on Twitter; just don’t do it right at the moment they’re filling out a form to try out your product

4. Provide on-demand help and support documentation

While analytics-powered support can help you beat your customers’ expectations, on-demand assistance goes a step further by giving your customers the resources they need to fix their issues. This can be in the form of:

  • Content libraries with videos, explainers, and guides, AI-powered chatbots
  • Documentation that offers a deeper look at how your product works
  • Interactive walkthroughs and product tours
Whatfix interactive walkthrough

6 Best Practices For Successful Customer and User Onboarding

1. Conducting user research

Research is the best-kept secret of great user onboarding. Whether you’re a five-person startup or a 5,000-enterprise, you can start engaging with your users, either via 1:1 conversation, questionnaires, polls, or NPS surveys, to understand what they liked or would prefer to change about your onboarding experience.

And in a way, user research becomes a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop since it helps you design better onboarding experiences, creating more opportunities to collect product feedback.

2. Simplifying the user interface

An experiment by Yuppiechef, a South African kitchen equipment retailer, showed that removing the navigation bar from their website doubled signups—from 3% to 6%. They might have thought of it as an accessibility aid that helped users navigate faster, while it was just visual clutter that gave visitors too many directions for their brain to process.

And, if you’re in doubt regarding what needs to be axed from your product’s user interface, A/B testing can help you serve different buckets of users with unique versions of your product (i.e., with and without the control feature) to see how certain elements affect the onboarding experience.

3. Optimizing the sign-up process

Instead of trying to show off modern design trends, your goal should be to get your customers’ feet in the door with as little friction as possible, using tactics such as:

  • Enable signup via one-click, third-party OAuth accounts your users already have (ex., Facebook, Google, etc.)
  • Split the signup process into incremental, bite-sized steps that show up the longer a user tries out a product
  • Gamify the signup flow with progress bars, onboarding checklists, and redeemable points (ex. from Airtable—invite a teammate and get a $10 credit)
  • Wait until users are immersed in your product before asking for more information

The simpler and shorter your signup flow, the faster users can learn how your product works. Otherwise, you’ll lose a significant chunk of customers (who’d have probably loved your product) simply because of how drawn-out the signup process is.

4. Creating user-friendly documentation and instructions

Whether it’s a knowledge base, tutorial, or troubleshooting manual that you’re publishing, you need to ensure that it’s:

  • Explained simply enough for technical and non-technical users alike to understand
  • Concise—long enough to offer help; short enough to be read or watched at one go

Some more helpful tips that’ll help you create user-friendly product documentation include:

  • Embed your documentation and content library inside your product’s library so that it’s easy for users to access help without losing context
  • Make your support content searchable for easier accessibility
  • Incorporate visual elements (ex., images, GIFs, etc.) to illustrate concepts
  • Use a voting element to collect feedback on how useful your product docs are

5. Providing multiple channels for communication

Modern SaaS helpdesk software platforms (ex. Freshdesk, Zendesk, Intercom, etc. ) have made it possible to integrate different support channels into one interface where you can reply to messages from your live chat widget, WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook, Telegram, etc.

You can leverage multi-channel support to engage users wherever they are, especially when they’re most impressionable, i.e., while they’re early into their customer journey.

6. Offering personalized support

It’s amazing how customers tend to have radically different use cases for the same product, which, in some cases, are quite different from what their makers had in mind.

For instance, a designer might use Dropbox to store projects and collaborate with clients, while a young couple would probably use it to store memories as their kids grow up. On the other hand, a salesperson might use Loom to record demos for new customers, while a manager would use it to create step-by-step explainers for their juniors.

As a result, a one-size-fits-all support process will alienate your customers since it’ll make them jump through hoops to explain their use cases to your support team. Conversely, research by Epsilon shows that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.

Here are some personalization tactics you can use to streamline the customer support process:

  • Use user behavior analytics to track where customers encounter issues
  • Segment users into buckets based on shared characteristics like location, age, pricing tier, etc.
  • Recommend actions and strategies based on user history
% of customers who are more likely to purchase when branbds offer personalized experiences
Personalize Pop-up and Tooltip content with Dynamic Variables
Streamline Your Customer and User Onboarding Process with Whatfix

The ultimate secret to building an effective user onboarding strategy is analytics—both product analytics and user behavior insights help you understand how users interact with your product’s interface, the obstacles they face, and where they drop out of the funnel.

Whatfix helps you streamline your user onboarding with behavior analytics insights, so you can:

  • Track user actions such as clicks, page visits, and mouse movements without writing code
  • Guide users through your product with step-by-step product tours and interactive walkthroughs
  • Nudge users towards unused features with non-intrusive cues like tooltips and hotspots
  • Embed content widgets inside your product’s library so that users can find the resources they need without breaking their focus, and
  • Automatically translate product wikis, guides, docs, and tutorials into 70+ languages

Learn how Whatfix can transform your onboarding experience with an analytics and product guidance suite built for growth-focused product teams.

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What Is Whatfix?
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that provides organizations with a no-code editor to create in-app guidance on any application that looks 100% native. With Whatfix, create interactive walkthroughs, product tours, task lists, smart tips, field validation, self-help wikis, hotspots, and more. Understand how users are engaging with your applications with advanced product analytics.
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