The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the way businesses connect with their audiences.
Many were forced to swiftly pivot to digital processes to continue operating during the time of social distancing, whether this meant opening an online store for the first time or learning how to help customers navigate your products from afar.
However, as health and safety restrictions get lifted across the world, and in-person interactions become safer, consumers still desire the ability to interact with businesses digitally, whether that be shopping online or completing the onboarding process.
Companies need to cater to consumer desire and, in this post, we’ll explain how you can continue to provide these online experiences with digital customer onboarding, the benefits it will bring to your business, and explain key tools that will help you and your teams seamlessly onboard customers remotely.
What is digital customer onboarding?
Digital customer onboarding, also called remote onboarding, is the process of using online tools to get new customers familiar with, comfortable, and ready to use your products and services from wherever the customer is, rather than in your store or offices.
What differentiates digital onboarding from traditional, in-person onboarding is in the name: it is completely online. Customers are free to begin the process wherever they’d like, wherever they’d like, instead of sitting in your office or store and going through the process on your time.
In addition, digital onboarding relies heavily on automation to streamline processes, like instructional videos that can be reused and sent to all customers and knowledge bases for self-service customer experiences.
Hybrid Customer Onboarding
As digital onboarding has become more popular, so has hybrid onboarding.
It’s a mix of the process you may already be familiar with and digital onboarding. Rather than doing everything in-store or remotely online, the process is half and half. Maybe customers come into your store to make a purchase, and you give them an initial overview and send them home with further self-study resources. They then return to their preferred location and begin the process on their own time.
Given that it comes with more automation and separation from the customer, you may feel that digital onboarding takes away the critical opportunity to connect with your customers. While you may have fewer face-to-face interactions with them, it’s still possible to set yourself up for success with this strategy, and it brings a variety of benefits.
Benefits of Digital Onboarding
Digital onboarding brings various benefits, both for the consumer and your business, which we’ll discuss below.
As a business, the most significant benefit of digital onboarding is that it allows you to continue operations, regardless of circumstances. Instead of coming to a halt because you can’t invite customers in-store, they can come onboard from wherever they are, whenever they want. Even if they require a physical product, they can receive it in the mail and begin onboarding once it arrives.
In addition, digital and off-site onboarding significantly reduces costs as you can automate processes. Instead of having client success managers (CSMs) repeat the same procedures for each client, you can create overarching content, like a video, that can be sent to everyone. CSMs can instead focus more time on customers with high-priority issues and questions that they can’t solve independently.
For consumers, digital onboarding speaks to their desire to have seamless experiences when interacting with businesses. They can complete a purchase and subsequently begin the onboarding process, even if they’re sitting on their couch at home.
Digital onboarding also allows consumers to take control over their own experience. They can begin the process when they want, from wherever they want and take all the time they need to get acquainted. The time pressures they may feel to ask questions and become acquainted with their new product in-store is less.
Finally, having access to digital onboarding tools allows customers to return to them as needed if they develop further questions or want a simple refresher training every so often. They can simply access the resources you’ve provided them without needing to contact a service rep unless necessary or make the trip to return to your store.
Key Digital Onboarding Tools
While the most significant difference between digital on-boarding and in-person onboarding is where it takes place, a successful remote onboarding still follows the same best practices as the onboarding process you may already follow. You still need to know your customer, introduce their success team, and give them the resources they need to succeed.
However, digital onboarding relies heavily on various tools that may not be front-and-center to your current strategy. Below we’ll discuss key tools to consider using in your digital onboarding process to ensure clients can still be successful.
Using video is a crucial pillar of successful digital onboarding. Your in-person success teams may be physically showing a customer how to do something with your product or service, and your digital onboarding may share videos of this process.
You can transform your traditional in-person interactions to online ones by creating product demonstrations, walkthrough videos, tutorials, or host live sessions. Consumers will appreciate this — 69% report preferring to learn about a product or service through a short video, compared to 3% who prefer to download an ebook or manual.
For businesses, a benefit to creating a video is that you can recycle it. You can create one product demo and send it to all of your customers, only making edits when there have been product upgrades or changes. You’ll save time by automating this portion of your onboarding process, and reps can spend more time on high-priority customer issues rather than foundational level instruction.
A knowledge base is a self-service library that includes helpful information about your business’s products, services, and related topics. Customers have easy access to them and can seamlessly find answers to their questions.HubSpot offers knowledge base software that will guide you through the process of creating one for your own business.
With digital onboarding, this resource is an impactful tool as it is a way for customers to get answers to any additional questions they may have asked a CSM in person. Should you choose to make your digital onboarding more of a self-guided process, having these knowledge bases also reduces the need for additional touchpoints.
eLearning is delivering informational courses electronically. For digital and remote onboarding, these courses can be virtual introductions and walk-throughs that familiarize customers with what they’ve just bought. This would replace an in-person session where a customer works 1:1 with a success manager.
These courses can also be self-paced and asynchronous, so customers are free to take as much time as they need to feel comfortable with your offer — this kind of timing is not always an option in person. The image below displays HubSpot eLearning courses that teaches customers how to use Service Hub features.
If the courses you create are still available post-completion, customers can return to them when they have questions before contacting a service rep. And, as with video, eLearning is time-saving for your business as you only have to make it once, save for any product or service updates that occur along the way.
Mobile apps are a valuable supplementary tool for remote onboarding, especially because they are easy to access for customers with a mobile phone. It also gives customers an alternate way to become familiar with your product if they prefer using a handheld device over a desktop.
Using mobile apps also ensures that customers have access to onboarding materials regardless of where they are. If they have a question during their process, they can simply open the app and search for a solution. This is especially helpful if you have a knowledge base where people can quickly search through your libraries without needing to pick up the phone and call your business.
In terms of content, digital onboarding is not so different from in-person and on-site onboarding. You still work to ensure your customers can be as successful as possible with your products, but the process is simply more automated and self-guided than it would be on-site.
If you give it a try, you’ll likely find that customers can still use your products and services to achieve their goals, and they’ll be excited about interacting with you in a new way.
Originally published Jun 24, 2021 8:00:00 AM, updated May 19 2022