6 Actionable tips to Improve Customer Onboarding and reduce SaaS churn rate

Last updated on June 13th, 2023

Natasha Hoke
Natasha Hoke

From working at a SaaS company, I can tell you, that poor customer onboarding can be your fastest downfall.


A study by SaaS Capital, revealed that a “1 percent difference in churn can have a 12 percent impact on company valuation in 5 years.” So, it is essential that SaaS companies take action to reduce churn for growth. And, not surprisingly enough, it all starts with onboarding.

First impressions are everything

There is nothing worse than spending all of your time and effort getting customers to start a trial of your product, to then not have a clue how to use it. No customer is going to stick around, despite how perfect your product is for their issues, if they don’t understand it.

From the moment a customer opens your app, the relationship between the business and them, has started. You’ve worked hard on the product, developing, designing and testing it numerous times. Many sleepless nights have led up to the moment of the product release. It happens, and everyone is excited to see how well it’s going to do.

Then, you realise that maybe users are leaving and not converting the way you had expected. Perhaps you check your analytics to see what is causing the bounce rate? And, after a pretty clear argument in your head about the hundreds of possible reasons, you soon begin to realise that there is something wrong with the customer onboarding. Something that can be changed to improve retention and conversion rates.

1. Test Out Competitors’ products

This has to be done long before your onboarding process begins. Have a look at your competitors onboarding process. Make notes of things that you like and don’t like, how certain text and images made you feel, and whether there is something that you should be doing from their onboarding process.

The sooner-the-better with this one. The earlier you become a “customer” of your competitor, the more you’ll be able to see, including their transitions and improvement. The only time that this **doesn’t **act as an advantage:

  • You do not have competitors.
  • The other solutions (competitors) are not to the same standard as your product.

2. Know your USP (Unique Selling Point)

So, what is your competitive advantage? There must be something that your SaaS product has, that makes it different to your competitors.

Think about it, like this: When KissMetrics first launched, it had competition. Google Analytics was the leading web analytics, and was free. KissMetrics USP, was that they offered web metrics that showed website owners how to turn figures and charts into actionable data. This is how KissMetrics survived the competiton.

So, when you’re starting or re-thinking your customer onboarding, ask yourself why customers should choose you over your competition? And, remind them of the unique value your SaaS product will give to them. This increases your chances of retaining them.

3. KISS (Keep it Short and Simple .or. Keep it Simple, Stupid)

I know, I know. It’s a sales term. But it also works in this instance too. There is no point in confusing potential leads or customers. Clearly explain how your product works and highlight the value of it upfront. This first step process for the customer should be quick and painless.

“Simplicity is hard to build, easy to use, and hard to charge for. Complexity is easy to build, hard to use, and easy to charge for.”

Chris Sacca

The easiest sign up situation for potential customers is to ask a minimal amount of information. We’ve all been there, filling out tedious forms that you sometimes give up on half way through. You don’t want to frighten customers away before they’ve even seen the product.

Make sure you have the following:

  • You clearly explain how to use the product
  • Highlight the value of the product
  • Your marketing copy makes the product even easier to understand.

4. See that red flag and deal with it

A user won’t randomly decided they don’t want your product and just leave. They are usually unhappy or confused for a while. They’ll eventually get bored and irritated after a while, and that’s when they decided to leave. Just like with a real-life relationship, if you identify and address any issues beforehand, you stand a better chance at salvaging the relationship.

This then leads to the question, when is someone about to leave?

Well, there are a few signs. You can always take a look at your analytics and see these red lights. They are usually:

  • (Reduced) Time spent by a customer
  • Time spent on the landing page
  • The way the user is using your product. If it has decreased significantly, it’s not looking great.

These signs could mean that your customers are about to churn. So, in order to reduce the churn rate, you should take action asap. Consider the following:

  • Reach out to customers who didn’t complete your onboarding process
  • Reach out to those who haven’t been active/logged in for a while, and encourage them to use your product more.
  • Check in with those customers who are not as used to technology/ have had issues with your product in the past, and offer them help.

At Upscope, we use Intercom to onboard our customers. By following these simple steps with metrics in mind, we have drastically reduced our churn rate. Honestly, you will never retain all of your customers, as there are some reasons you can’t control. However, there are many cases you can control, and it is important to do so.

5. Don’t overwhelm your customers

Customer onboarding is a ongoing process. So, it is important to keep your customers informed about new UI features and improvements, and generally how to make the most of your product. The best way to do this, is one at a time. Slow and steady wins the race here! These small progressive wins are more likely to keep your customer using the product and unlikely to confuse them.

The following emails are what your going for:

  • Sign up/in
  • Welcome emails
  • Marketing emails
  • Feature updates

6. Keep going, testing and continually improving your customer onboarding process

Onboarding is never going to be a one time thing. You can’t design the process and forget about it. You have to continually improve.

A great way to do this, is to ask people you know, to try signing up for your product, and see how much they understand etc. SaaS products are new to many people, so make it as simple as possible, and keep in mind those who may not get all of the terminology that you might first time round.

You can also use continuous user testing or A/B testings to improve. So long as you experiment, test, record and optimize your ideas.

And Lastly…

Even though a customer buys your product, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily going to understand/adopt it successfully. By investing in customer onboarding, you’ll reduce SaaS churn and increase customer retention.

Natasha Hoke
Natasha Hoke

Natasha Hoke was Upscope's head of marketing.