Leveraging Product-Led Onboarding to Improve Customer Retention


Onboarding is all about how you guide customers to use your product or how they’ll move through your services. Of course, the better you guide customers through this onboarding process, the better your customer retention and satisfaction rates. 

Within most organizations, the entire onboarding process is team-led and requires coordinating schedules between customers and the onboarding team. If meetings are missed or rescheduled to accommodate various schedules, it severely impacts timelines and delays the onboarding process. If steps are missed in onboarding, customers need even more support. Training your onboarding team can be time- and cost-intensive.

The list goes on, and it’s easy to see why “traditional” team-led onboarding can be expensive and inconvenient to manage. 

With product-led onboarding, on the other hand, the product itself helps customers direct themselves through their onboarding. Think of the latest app you downloaded or that SaaS subscription you use. As the customer, you were directed through important features or tutorials as soon as you entered the product. For your customers, this means faster onboarding, easier action-taking, and more confidence in their investment.

A well-designed product-led onboarding process is convenient, saves time, and can help customers reach wins more quickly than a traditional experience. But is it right for your organization and how can you leverage it? Keep reading.

How is Product-Led Onboarding Used?

Product-led onboarding is most helpful when a product (it’s all in the name!) requires somewhat of a learning curve — or has specific features that need to be introduced to a new customer. 

SaaS companies, banking sites, healthcare portals, and other products can use this form of onboarding to:

  • Direct users through a new platform
  • Highlight changes and updates  
  • Guide users through a checklist of onboarding actions
  • Prompt users to read tutorials and steps to ensure proper use 
  • And more

Studies show that confusing or unclear onboarding causes as many as 80% of users to abandon an app or service, making product-led onboarding a great way to increase retention and wow customers. 

Product-led onboarding is also incredibly useful in reducing company hours required to onboard a new customer. It can even help with long-term customer retention, as product-led onboarding can help introduce current users to new features that benefit them.

Graphic that promotes a blog, "8 Ways Customer Onboarding Strategies Are the Keys to Efficiency."

Enhance Your Product-Led Onboarding for Better Results

Many organizations worry that switching to product-led onboarding will lead to lower customer retention — customers want to talk to a human. They may leave if they have questions or concerns about the product and are only onboarding themselves.

They’re not wrong: In 2022, 90% of businesses said new customers abandoned products and services during onboarding because they experienced too much friction. The solution here isn’t to abandon product-led onboarding but to do it better

To optimize your product-led onboarding (and avoid friction as much as possible), follow these tips:

1. Optimize onboarding from the very beginning

The onboarding process is longer than you may realize, starting from the user’s first point of contact with your company. Your content must connect with the right type of users and accurately represent how your product works and how it can help them. 

This ensures your end user is someone who can benefit from and also has clear expectations about your product. This makes onboarding much smoother and primes them for entry into your product. 

Man with a GUIDEcx polo shirt, sitting at a computer.

Consider optimizing onboarding at very early touchpoints by offering:

  • Free trial periods 
  • Image or video demos before the sale
  • Accessible tutorials 
  • Content specifying the problem your product solves

2. Give users a warm welcome

Don’t underestimate the importance of welcoming your users to the onboarding experience. A proper welcome message will help users feel confident they are making the right choice to use your product. 

Your welcome message needs to accomplish the following:

  1. Tell users where they are so they know they’re in the right place
  2. Repeat the product promise and its relevance to the user
  3. Let them know what to expect and do right after
  4. Share ways to contact your team should they run into any issues

Keep the message simple, concise, and immediately actionable to help users quickly understand how to take the next steps.

3. Craft product- and user-specific onboarding experiences

No two customers are the same, which is why so many companies struggle to create a solid, effective customer onboarding process. Rather than forcing users into a one-size-fits-all product onboarding, try tailoring the experience where you can.

For example, if you have a product used by multiple verticals (healthcare, business, banking, etc.), you could create onboarding experiences for each. You may also have different roles completing the onboarding process, such as a project manager or account executive rather than the CFO. Catering an onboarding experience to their roles and how your product can help them be successful is key.

Not sure who is using your products? You can customize onboarding by using forms to collect user data, such as user roles and goals, at useful points during the onboarding process. You can segment users this way, which can help you craft a more custom experience down the road.

GUIDEcx Empowers Our Customers To Realize:


Reduction in Onboarding Time


Increase in Project Manager Capacity


Fewer Onboarding Meetings


On-time Delivery Rate when 5+ Users are Invited

4. Leverage quick wins to encourage further onboarding

When it comes to onboarding, quick wins are one of the best ways to incentivize your users to continue with the onboarding process. 

You can help users experience a quick win by understanding their onboarding goals and creating a direct path to their “A-ha!” moment, or activation point. This is when users begin to fully realize and experience your product promise.

Their activation point might happen with the following: 

  • Unlocking premium features
  • Completing their onboarding checklist
  • Completing specific tasks (actions, tutorials, etc.)
  • Adopting a specific feature
  • Recurring use within a specific timeframe
  • Personalization or customization of account
  • Gamification of use (emails/pop-ups announcing they’ve used your tool for one week, or they completed their first streak of actions)

How will you know when you’ve identified an activation point? You’ll notice faster adoption of your product, increased feature use, more frequent logins, more users added to their accounts, and so on. 

After identifying the activation point, you must evaluate your onboarding processes to help users reach it quickly. You can do this by providing tools (checklists and other resources) to help them see how the product is helping them reach their goals or increasing incentives that have resonated with current customers.

5. Don’t forget the power of human connection

One man sitting at a desk, smiling at a computer. Another man stands behind him.

There is bound to be a time during onboarding when some users may benefit from (human) customer support. Your onboarding process must make it clear when they should consider getting in contact with your team and how to reach out. 

Be sure to use a dedicated system to communicate with customers. For example, when your organization uses the GUIDEcx platform for onboarding, you can access integrated communication features that allow users to comment on tasks, ask questions, and “@ mention” individuals in charge of their onboarding.

This helps customers feel that they can reach someone when needed, and reduces team time simply checking in on customers when they don’t need help.

6. Collect feedback and adapt

Be proactive in collecting information about how users feel about your product-led onboarding process. Customer surveys are one of the best ways to identify trending issues and flag major hiccups before they become detrimental to the onboarding process. 

Plan to collect feedback at key points throughout your onboarding, such as after they complete their “activation point,” after a month of use, and so on. This can also be automated with your onboarding tool, further removing your onboarding team’s need to follow up personally with new customers. 

Of course, collecting feedback is only the first step. Ensure that your onboarding team, product development team, or marketing team are aware of friction points to lessen the impact as soon as possible.

7. Go through the process yourself

You can better understand the customer experience by going through your onboarding process yourself. Plan for you or someone on your team to complete your onboarding and note any challenges, delays, or potential problems that might occur. Flag where you need to update or fix the onboarding process, and then delegate to the appropriate team.

8. Allow future access to onboarding materials

You want new customers to get the most out of your product early on, allowing them to quickly experience the value of your solution. However, this also means users may not thoroughly understand every product feature at the start. Sometimes, they may need access to materials shared during the onboarding process to fully implement the features they are most interested in using.

For this reason, it’s important to provide an option for users to go through the onboarding process as often as they need to, or to provide a library of resources they can easily access.

9. Avoid these common product-led onboarding mistakes

As with any sort of system you implement in your organization, there are going to be challenges, changes, and frustrations along the way. However, we want to ensure your product-led onboarding implementation is as smooth as possible.

Make sure to avoid

  • Creating long, complicated onboarding processes. Help users quickly learn how to solve their most important problems, or direct them to the most important features to help them get started. Sharing too much will cause overwhelm and increase abandonment.
  • Desktop-only processes. More than 60% of people prefer using mobile apps, so consider how to improve your customer experience and onboarding process for non-desktop users. This is especially relevant to organizations that don’t use apps as their main form of product delivery, but rather browser-based experiences. 
  • One-size-fits-all direction. Customers will all consume information in different ways. While some may appreciate in-app directed tutorials, others may need videos, while others want to browse your product library or talk to a human. Ensure there are multiple mediums in which you’re onboarding people to your product.
Graphic promoting the blog, "The Hidden Costs of a poor Customer Onboarding Process."

Use GUIDEcx to Improve Customer Retention

The onboarding experience is one of the most critical steps in establishing lasting relationships with the right customers. However, it’s important to understand that the onboarding journey goes beyond your customer’s first interaction with your product.

Effective onboarding begins from the first touchpoint and can continue until well after they’ve started using your product. A key aspect of this process is clear and transparent communication, as well as clear direction on how to leverage your product to the fullest. 

You can optimize the efficiency of your product-led onboarding process by investing in the right onboarding solution. GUIDEcx is a customized onboarding platform that helps you deliver outstanding customer experience — and streamline operations for your organization. GUIDEcx also helps your customers achieve those “A-ha!” moments that help reinforce the value of the onboarding experience.

Talk With a Guide Today

Discover how GUIDEcx can help you improve efficiency by reducing your customer onboarding timeline and increasing the capacity of your project managers. Our unparalleled professional resources and unwavering commitment to excellence support our industry-leading customer onboarding solution.