During the early Pardot days we’d be out pitching venture capitalists and they’d always ask about customer onboarding.
How long does it take to get a new customer live?
What are the steps involved?
How much manual labor is required?
We’d outline the process of how it’d take 30-45 days, how it was “productized services” with a repeatable template, and that it’d usually require 10 hours of manual labor plus some group webinar sessions. All in, it might be $1,000 of work to get a new customer up-and-running. Then, inevitably, the investors would ask how we can bring that cost down. How could we make it more self-service? Knowing that some could be automated but most effort is manual making sure the CRM sync was working, that the landing pages looked correct, that the emails rendered in the inbox, etc.
I felt we were inferior. We weren’t self-service freemium. We had wonderful humans helping make our customers successful, and that took time.
Only later did I realize that this was actually a positive, and not a negative.
The more effort it takes to onboard a customer, the more committed they are to the product. The more committed they are to working through the inevitable kinks. The more likely they are to renew, assuming a good experience.
There’s a direct correlation between onboarding effort and retention rates. Yes, exceptions exist but more effort to get on means more effort to leave. In SaaS, renewal rate, gross and net, are two of the most important metrics, and onboarding effort correlates with better renewal rates.
The next time the topic of effort to onboarding new customers comes up, know that in addition to generally increasing the chance of customer success, it also correlates positively with renewal rate. Put the effort in and reap the rewards.