But, it's not like that typical product tour where the customer is forced to walk through all the features and spend most of their time dismissing popups. 

Self service onboarding

That onboarding doesn't really work today. 

There are two major reasons for this-

  • A SaaS product has various features and is used by several  customer segments. So, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to educate the customers about your product's features. Your welcome model might be intriguing their product experience and barring them from reaching their "aha moment." 
  • Traditional product walkthroughs prevent users from taking action. They just educate users about the features, which they will eventually forget without letting them do it themselves. That's why most of us either skip or click on "next" to get past the product walkthrough. 

So, what can we do-

Adopt a self service  SaaS learning model that addresses on a specific action at a time. Maybe it helps to set up a profile, understand the dashboard or learn about product’s unique features. This makes it more likely that people will keep using your product and get more out of it faster. 

Self service onboarding is tricky; let's discuss its type, steps to set up, and some excellent examples from which you can take inspiration. 

#1 What is self service  onboarding? 

Self service  onboarding means familiarizing customers with your product's features, navigation, or settings through automation and the product itself. The product drive customer-onboarding, so instead of following a pre-set path, customers get to understand the product according to their end goal. 

You can understand that self service  onboarding is similar to having personalized interaction with the support team but without an actual support team. When a user signs up, your SaaS product should recognize their interests and allow them to learn about the product accordingly.

For instance, check out Salesforce, a popular CRM platform with dedicated product videos to solve customer problems. You will also find a list of resources and a  contact us page to chat with their agents. 

Self service onboarding. Salesforce

Types of self service  onboarding

  • Onboarding checklist- You can set up an onboarding checklist for your customers where they can select what they want to do on your app. Each selected activity will have a product tour to guide the user toward achieving their desired results. 
  • In-depth feature list- You can add features related to the feature, introduce what it does, and include help articles with FAQs or product tours for new features.
  • Help centre- At every page of your SaaS product, you can link to help articles where they can learn more about the product or launch your support chat window for a quick chat with your chatbot. 
  • Video Gallery- Videos are the best way to educate your user or product. You can add video content explaining your product if you think the steps are complex. 
Self service onboarding types

#2 What is white-glove onboarding

White-glove onboarding is an example of high-touch onboarding where the sales or customer team handholds the customer and guides them through the product. This approach is often used by an enterprise-level application with high-profile customers where onboarding cannot be automated. White-glove onboarding is often not scalable because it takes a lot of work to deal with each customer individually. 

A perfect example of this would be Vinteum, a property management solution for both homeowners and property managers. 

With a dedicated onboarding process, the platform helps users figure out what they need and set up their accounts with all the right information. They also host training meetings and assign a dedicated account manager for their users. 

Vinteum white-glove onboarding

White-glove onboarding makes sure that users get immediate value from their products by giving them constant support and holding their hands throughout the customer journey. 

#3 Self service  onboarding vs white-glove onboarding

Many SaaS owners are confused about whether they should opt for self-service or white-glove onboarding. They seem similar but are quite different. 

Self service onboarding vs white-glove onboarding

Self service  onboarding

Self-service onboarding, also called tech-touch onboarding, is where your SaaS product identifies your users' needs and guides them to achieving the desired results. It is not low-touch onboarding where the product handholds the user into doing things even if they don't want to. Instead, it gives the customer the authority to understand the product at their own pace through dedicated product tours for various sub-categories. 

Who should choose self service onboarding?

  • Your SaaS product is easy to understand and doesn't require a one-to-one interaction. 
  • Your customers don't include big sales teams or CS managers that require extensive training. 
  • You can't afford dedicated onboarding support for all your customers; instead, fine with customers finding their way through self service onboarding. 

White-glove onboarding 

White glove or high-touch onboarding refers to hand-holding customers to understand the features of your product. It can be done in person, via video calls or emails from a dedicated sales rep or CSM. This process cannot be automated since the support team must gain a deep understanding of the business, its goals, challenges, and objections to suggest the solution that best fits their business needs.

Who should use white-glove onboarding? 

  • Your product is too complex for users to quickly get value. 
  • Your product is a blank slate. The users have to enable multiple options to start receiving value. For instance, integrating a CRM with your system requires many steps, which can only be discovered when the users know what steps to take. 
  • If your product is expensive, then customers will surely want special treatment. Here, self service can backfire if the product is difficult to navigate or users feel disrespected for the money they are paying. 
  • Lastly, if your business deals with big contacts, can afford personalized training sessions and is not yet looking to scale, white-glove onboarding would be preferred. 

#4 Why is self service onboarding more effective? 

Self service onboarding has benefited both sides, the customers and the company. So, no matter which side you are on, it's a win-win. 

Let's discuss the benefits of both in detail.

Benefit for the customer

Today's customers are active, informed, and tech-savvy. They are less willing to wait for someone to show them the way to their goals. They want more value but cannot spend much time figuring things out. 

Self service gives SaaS companies a chance to put customer support back in the hands of the customers. And this doesn't come with them putting in a lot of effort.

Self service onboarding automates the workflow and guides users in all directions without getting frustrated. It provides customers with instant gratification, which traditional customer support cannot fulfil. 

More than 60% of US consumers choose digital services over other options when given a choice. This shows the customer's knack for speed and the ability to solve problems quickly without reaching out to representatives. 

Benefits for the SaaS company

Self service onboarding has everything that a SaaS company would dream of; customer satisfaction, low cost and less churn rate. 

Self service offers businesses an exciting opportunity to reduce their spending drastically. The cost of self service is in pennies, while the average cost for a live interaction is over USD 7 for a B2C company and USD 13 for a B2B company. 

Also, businesses that have put money into self service onboarding have been able to get rid of unnecessary friction in the live support queue As customers handle most of their issues themselves, the support team can devote their time to queries that are harder to solve. 

The live service interaction has rarely changed, but the gap between customer expectation and experience has definitely gotten closer. 

With increased customer satisfaction and instant gratification, SaaS businesses have seen lower churn rates. Customers can quickly get started with whatever features they intend to use and reach their "aha moment" faster. 

#5 Steps for seamless self service onboarding 

Self service onboarding has become mainstream. As much as it helps customers take control of their onboarding, you cannot entirely leave it to users to figure out everything themselves. That's why it's crucial to streamline the onboarding process so customers can easily take advantage of self service. 

1. Understand your customer segments 

Most SaaS products can be used in different ways by unique audiences. To give your customers the best onboarding experience, you need to know who they are, what they want to achieve, and what steps will help them get there. 

If you don't already know your customer segments, you can follow these steps to identify them-

Always remember that your customer segments need to be identifiable, substantial, accessible, stable, differentiable, and actionable. 

  • Collect customer information via welcome streams. This way, you can get to know customers on a personal level, like their role, company size, and for what they are using your product. 
  • Understand customer actions through product analytics. Watch your customers from when they join to reaching their aha moment. You can then note down all the touchpoints in the customer's journey. 
  • Now divide the customers into groups based on common characteristics but make sure each group is different from another. 
  • Use the customer data to create buyer personas that depict different customer behaviours, needs and anticipated desired results. This information can then be used to design marketing content for actual people instead of assumptions. 

After successfully creating customer segments, it's time to build a customer onboarding playbook that lists the tasks, best practices, and steps every customer segment must take to get the desired results.

2. Integrate interactive onboarding flow for personalization

As soon as a customer signs up for your SaaS product, you can give them a personalized experience by giving them an interactive onboarding flow. The onboarding phase is also a time when you have a high risk of losing your customer, especially when they don't realize value from you quickly. 

The interactive flow will help you understand which customer segment this user falls into, so you can run a personalized onboarding campaign. You can ask them about their job profile, the purpose of using your product, and what results they expect. Lastly, talk about the features they will be most interested in and help them realize the value of your product. 

Check out Canva's onboarding flow; it starts with understanding your role in using the tool. It then lists the features of using Canva for the role, followed by what the user might want to design. This information helps Canva recommend templates that best suit customers' needs and reach their aha moment faster. 

Canva self service onboarding

3. Use interactive walkthroughs, not product tours

A simple product tour won't be enough if you want your customers to get deeply involved with your product. Instead, use interactive walkthroughs created per customer's needs and desired results. 

You don't want your customers to spend their time dismissing popups. Include self service onboarding for customers by letting them choose which features to explore through interactive walkthroughs. 

But that doesn't mean leaving them all alone. Give them enough information so they can make the right choice. 

  1. Measure success and remove friction 

After integrating self service onboarding, it's crucial to measure its success. Go back to the first step, where you defined various customer segments and their end goals. Your task is to measure how many customers can achieve their goals without friction. 

You can keep certain user actions or key lifecycle events that a user needs to do to get the most value out of your product. Study their actions and find flaws that need to be removed. You can also measure customer onboarding KPIs for successful customer onboarding, like-

  • Time to value (TTV)
  • Retention rate
  • Engagement rate
  • Activation rate
  • Free to paid app conversion rate

#6 Top self service onboarding examples

Let's discuss some of the top SaaS products to look out for self service onboarding.


Self service onboarding. Wrike

This project management solution has adopted the self service onboarding model pretty well. They have included a personalized onboarding flow that helps them understand your role and the size of your company. Wrike offers users an educational video to learn more about the feature, with dedicated product tours for successful self service onboarding. 

IBM's Cognos Analytics

Self service onboarding. IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM is an AI-based business intelligence solution that helps businesses collect clean data that helps visualize where your business stands today. IMB's onboarding process is self-driven, which allows customers to take control of their onboarding. Users can prioritize features and learn about the product at their own pace. 


Self service onboarding. Trello

Trello's templates contain resources and tips that help users understand how to go about it without losing control. If interested in any features, they are given instructions to dig deeper. 

Wrapping up 

No matter how your customer onboarding looks today, you can still optimize it for self service customer onboarding. Allow your customers to choose what they want to see and use on your SaaS tool, not the other way around. Product tours are cool, but self service is personalized so that customers can easily get to their activation and realize the value of your SaaS tool. 

If you want to learn more about your customers and customize their onboarding experience, it can be helpful to use a pre-built MarbleFlow template. They are simple, easy to use, and can provide an excellent ROI for your business. 

Written by Rashi Jaitly.