Skilljar Blog

Escaping Help Center Hell: Onboarding Customers in a Stress-Free Way

Posted by Linda Schwaber-Cohen on September 22, 2016

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A new customer lands on your application and he’s ready to use it. He starts looking around and clicking buttons here and there. Maybe he even had a virtual training session with a member of your team last week, and he sort of paid attention as he was shown around the product. But that was then and this is now, and he’s not sure where to start, so he goes to your help center. Once he arrives, he’s greeted by hundreds of articles and has to search for something, but he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He’s stuck, frustrated, and now has the impression that your product is - gasp - “not intuitive.”

Those of us who think about onboarding day in and day out dread this experience. We want our customers to have an easy road to value, and we understand that when they first land in our products, they need some guidance to help them achieve their goals and see success. Here are the steps you can take to drive your customers toward healthy usage.

1. Identify essential knowledge

Before you can do anything else, you need to identify what specific knowledge and skills your customers need first. Think about what they need to be able to accomplish with your product and why they bought in, and what specific things they need to know in order to actually be successful. Too often, training sessions are full of general information - a full tutorial about where they can find everything in your product. Nobody can remember all of that, but they can remember a few steps to get them toward a desired outcome. The other features will come into play as new goals arise. So make a list first of those essential pieces of information. Some questions you can ask to guide your thinking are:

  • What is the value for my customer and what is the path of least resistance to getting them there?
  • Is there a setup process they need to complete before they can see value? What do they need to do or know to get that done?
  • Is there any low-hanging fruit – something you can teach them that can give them some easy wins right from the start?

2. Curate an experience for acquiring this knowledge

Curating your customer’s experience with onboarding and learning aids in understanding and success, and leaves less room for undesirable outcomes. Once you identify the essential knowledge in step one, create content for educating customers in feature-based chunks. If you already have a great help section, you can use videos or text you have there as a great starting point.

Now for the curation – the objective here is to combine several feature-based pieces of content into a goal that represents value for the customer. Present that goal and list the content needed to achieve it. You can choose to have a general onboarding flow that you want to guide customers through, and within that flow, consumable chunks of knowledge. Think about how much time your audience can comfortably dedicate to consuming this information in one sitting, and how much information you can deliver in that amount of time. A good rule of thumb for onboarding is 20-30 minutes.

3. Host the experience

Now that you have your content, you’ll need to host it somewhere. Your best bet is a Learning Management System (LMS) that will help you record progress and be able to measure customer progress in a uniform way. Integrating your LMS with your Customer Relationship Management System will make that much easier.

A more minimalist approach would be to create a unique help article that links to all the other help articles, but you’re then sacrificing a lot of the record keeping and analysis you would otherwise have with the LMS approach. Your decision here will depend on the volume of customers you’re serving, and the sophistication of your customer success and training programs.

4. Market, market, market

Now that you’ve created these pathways, you need to make sure that customers know about them. You can incorporate them into email templates that your sales team sends, and put them in Customer Success Manager email signatures. You can leverage in-app messaging services, or create blog posts to promote them. With the right LMS technology, you can even trigger email campaigns based on progress to draw new customers in. The possibilities are endless.

Conclusion

When you launch a program like this, you’ll want to measure your own progress to goals as well. Take time as you plan to understand what success looks like for onboarding in your organization and build on successes to further training and education for your customers. They’ll appreciate the guidance, clarity and on-demand nature of your efforts, and you’ll show up exactly when they need you time and time again.

Topics: Training, Advanced Topics, Creating Content

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