Customer Experience

Adapting Customer Onboarding for an On-Demand World

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Customer education teams can no longer rely solely on webinars and help centers for customer onboarding.

The fact is, most people want to learn about your product when it’s convenient for them. They don’t want to be forced to wait until your next scheduled training session or waste time searching for answers they can’t find.

So, how can you reach the right users at exactly the right time?

To answer that question, we joined forces with Janet White, VP of Education and Partnerships at FrontStream, and Linda Schwaber-Cohen, Senior Manager of Training at Skilljar, for a webinar where we discussed how to create an effective customer education strategy.

Sign up to watch the full webinar on demand, or read on for our recap.

1. Growth through acquisition

FrontStream provides cloud-based fundraising, donor, and volunteer management software for both nonprofits and corporations that are participating in corporate social responsibility. The company started out as a payment backend generator, and then acquired 5 individual companies in the fundraising and donor management space.

So for the past few years, FrontStream has been consolidating 5 companies into one—and more recently putting the products themselves together, so that they work in one online dashboard.

2. A need for consolidation

Consolidation for FrontStream spanned across the internal teams and the third party products they implemented in their tools.

While each company that FrontStream acquired did great job with their customers, quickly there were five ways of doing things—each one adopted from a different company.

Janet said, “There was the challenge of—hey—we're one company with one marketing department, so we need to become consistent across our products.”

FrontStream’s customer education methods have been traditional:

  • An online, searchable knowledge-base
  • Weekly webinars—both for teaching about the products and how to onboard with the products
  • Telephone outreach. As soon as a product was purchased, a member of their onboarding team would reach out to and make sure that they would be successful in the tool.

Sound familiar?

Even if you haven’t grown through acquisition, there’s a universal challenge with consolidation.

Odds are you—at this very moment—have different staff members doing onboarding and education in different ways. And the odds increase if you have more than one product, as each different audience requires a slight change in training, voice and tone, and complexity.

3. Timing and scaling education programs

Each education channel FrontStream used had an issue of its own—whether it was when to schedule it or how to grow it.

  • Weekly webinars: They never happen when you need them to. Janet related to this personally, “I love to sign up for webinars, but then your work day pulls you in other directions.” To boot, FrontStream’s onboarding webinars never were that well-attended.
  • Telephone outreach: Similar to webinars, it’s difficult to connect with people and get a time that works for them. There's a lot of back and forth and it's not very efficient.
  • Customer success: Scaling can be expensive if customer success managers have to train every individual user one-on-one, showing them how to go through certain workflows in your application, or telling them what kind of value they can expect to see from your application.

FrontStream’s 3 goals for customer education

1. Increase efficiency

Some of FrontStream’s tools are more expensive and require an implementation. For those, they understand that unscalable, one-on-one implementation with a customer success manager is best.

But some of their other tools are less expensive and built to be more self-service and templated. To add to it, a lot of FrontStream’s user base are volunteers, using their tools after hours. A one-on-one implementation with customer success just wasn’t appropriate—they needed an efficient approach. One where FrontStream wasn’t chasing their users around to set up times for education, and where users could get the answer they needed immediately.

Linda put it best:

“Customers need what they need when they need it. They don't want to take training, and then 3 weeks later actually dive into the tool. They need an opportunity to say—oh—I'm doing this thing right now. How can I get help?”

2. Increase product adoption

In addition to becoming all one company and being more consistent across products, Janet’s goal was to move the needle on product adoption by decreasing churn.

And a big part of product adoption is being able to segment audiences. Different users have different needs, so how can we make sure that we're serving them the right information?

She said, “If our customers are more successful with our products, obviously they'll stay with us longer.”

3. Lighten the support load without decreasing customer experience

The last major goal FrontStream had was to reduce support ticket volume. Not only to improve operational efficiency for the business, but also to benefit the customer themselves.

No one enjoys having to stop what they are doing and submit a ticket, and then wait several hours to get a response back from a support team. You just want an answer here and now. So, being able to kind of provide the opportunity for customers to learn in lots of different ways improves overall customer experience.

What FrontStream looked for in customer education solutions

A customizable UI that looks native

It was important for Janet to find a technology that had a modern look and feel. 

She said, “There are lots of web-based products out there, but some of them are a lot older. It was important to me to be able to match our products.”

When adding a 3rd party tool to your software, it’s important that it looks native to your app and is easily customizable. Janet found that both Appcues and Skilljar lived frictionless inside FrontStream.

Easy to use, easy to learn

Janet was looking for something that she could start using immediately, with minimal setup.

She found that Skilljar and Appcues were both easy to stand up, and anyone—regardless of past experience—could come in and get something up and running.

A holistic training ecosystem

Linda introduced the term of a ‘holistic training ecosystem,’ where targeted education creates lots of different avenues for customers to gain to the knowledge that they need.

Both Appcues and Skilljar improve adoption and reduce churn. When customers are trained and they know how to use a product, they're going to use it more.

Parting thoughts

Technology has enabled people to change the way that they're educating and training their users and customers, and the consumers’ expectations have changed, too. They are demanding better support and access to training in different ways.

Customers have choices. It's really easy for them to go elsewhere if they're not getting what they need. That means they have to know how to use your product—and get to an aha moment quicker.

To put it more simply: You are responsible for your customers' success in a way that’s never been seen before.

Editor's note: Photos/Images by #WOCinTech

Want to see how to use Appcues to educate your users right where and when they need it? Try it out for free.

FrontStream’s 3 challenges in customer education

1. Growth through acquisition

FrontStream provides cloud-based fundraising, donor, and volunteer management software for both nonprofits and corporations that are participating in corporate social responsibility. The company started out as a payment backend generator, and then acquired 5 individual companies in the fundraising and donor management space.

So for the past few years, FrontStream has been consolidating 5 companies into one—and more recently putting the products themselves together, so that they work in one online dashboard.

2. A need for consolidation

Consolidation for FrontStream spanned across the internal teams and the third party products they implemented in their tools.

While each company that FrontStream acquired did great job with their customers, quickly there were five ways of doing things—each one adopted from a different company.

Janet said, “There was the challenge of—hey—we're one company with one marketing department, so we need to become consistent across our products.”

FrontStream’s customer education methods have been traditional:

  • An online, searchable knowledge-base
  • Weekly webinars—both for teaching about the products and how to onboard with the products
  • Telephone outreach. As soon as a product was purchased, a member of their onboarding team would reach out to and make sure that they would be successful in the tool.

Sound familiar?

Even if you haven’t grown through acquisition, there’s a universal challenge with consolidation.

Odds are you—at this very moment—have different staff members doing onboarding and education in different ways. And the odds increase if you have more than one product, as each different audience requires a slight change in training, voice and tone, and complexity.

3. Timing and scaling education programs

Each education channel FrontStream used had an issue of its own—whether it was when to schedule it or how to grow it.

  • Weekly webinars: They never happen when you need them to. Janet related to this personally, “I love to sign up for webinars, but then your work day pulls you in other directions.” To boot, FrontStream’s onboarding webinars never were that well-attended.
  • Telephone outreach: Similar to webinars, it’s difficult to connect with people and get a time that works for them. There's a lot of back and forth and it's not very efficient.
  • Customer success: Scaling can be expensive if customer success managers have to train every individual user one-on-one, showing them how to go through certain workflows in your application, or telling them what kind of value they can expect to see from your application.

FrontStream’s 3 goals for customer education

1. Increase efficiency

Some of FrontStream’s tools are more expensive and require an implementation. For those, they understand that unscalable, one-on-one implementation with a customer success manager is best.

But some of their other tools are less expensive and built to be more self-service and templated. To add to it, a lot of FrontStream’s user base are volunteers, using their tools after hours. A one-on-one implementation with customer success just wasn’t appropriate—they needed an efficient approach. One where FrontStream wasn’t chasing their users around to set up times for education, and where users could get the answer they needed immediately.

Linda put it best:

“Customers need what they need when they need it. They don't want to take training, and then 3 weeks later actually dive into the tool. They need an opportunity to say—oh—I'm doing this thing right now. How can I get help?”

2. Increase product adoption

In addition to becoming all one company and being more consistent across products, Janet’s goal was to move the needle on product adoption by decreasing churn.

And a big part of product adoption is being able to segment audiences. Different users have different needs, so how can we make sure that we're serving them the right information?

She said, “If our customers are more successful with our products, obviously they'll stay with us longer.”

3. Lighten the support load without decreasing customer experience

The last major goal FrontStream had was to reduce support ticket volume. Not only to improve operational efficiency for the business, but also to benefit the customer themselves.

No one enjoys having to stop what they are doing and submit a ticket, and then wait several hours to get a response back from a support team. You just want an answer here and now. So, being able to kind of provide the opportunity for customers to learn in lots of different ways improves overall customer experience.

What FrontStream looked for in customer education solutions

A customizable UI that looks native

It was important for Janet to find a technology that had a modern look and feel. 

She said, “There are lots of web-based products out there, but some of them are a lot older. It was important to me to be able to match our products.”

When adding a 3rd party tool to your software, it’s important that it looks native to your app and is easily customizable. Janet found that both Appcues and Skilljar lived frictionless inside FrontStream.

Easy to use, easy to learn

Janet was looking for something that she could start using immediately, with minimal setup.

She found that Skilljar and Appcues were both easy to stand up, and anyone—regardless of past experience—could come in and get something up and running.

A holistic training ecosystem

Linda introduced the term of a ‘holistic training ecosystem,’ where targeted education creates lots of different avenues for customers to gain to the knowledge that they need.

Both Appcues and Skilljar improve adoption and reduce churn. When customers are trained and they know how to use a product, they're going to use it more.

Parting thoughts

Technology has enabled people to change the way that they're educating and training their users and customers, and the consumers’ expectations have changed, too. They are demanding better support and access to training in different ways.

Customers have choices. It's really easy for them to go elsewhere if they're not getting what they need. That means they have to know how to use your product—and get to an aha moment quicker.

To put it more simply: You are responsible for your customers' success in a way that’s never been seen before.

Editor's note: Photos/Images by #WOCinTech

Want to see how to use Appcues to educate your users right where and when they need it? Try it out for free.

Ty Magnin is the Director of Marketing at Appcues where he helps software products improve their new user onboarding experience. Ty was the first marketer at Work Market and has roots in poetry and film production.