High touch or low touch – which customer onboarding model to use?

Various Featured Onboarding Online Training Training and Development Training and Education Technology Training Trends and Best Practices

For a Software-as-a-Service or a SaaS company, customer onboarding forms a crucial phase that helps set the stage for post-sales customer experience. A comprehensive customer onboarding software plays a crucial role in ensuring successful onboarding. The indispensability of customer onboarding for a SaaS company lies in the value potential the customers experience after being onboard[1]. When the customers achieve their goals, new up-sell and cross-sell opportunities arise.

According to a research[2] published in the ACM journal[3], onboarding is the first best chance to make a repeat customer. This depends majorly on the authenticity and uniqueness of customer engagements, and also with the post-sale service. As a result, a successful onboarding process ensures a longer stay of the customers. It also encourages them to advocate for your offering.

While customer onboarding may increase the sales and popularity of your products/services, and in turn, the strength of your brand, attention must be paid to different types of onboarding methods to capture customers’ attention. There are two prime models of customer onboarding — high touch and low touch. It is best to understand if you are a high touch or a low touch onboarding company to better capture the suitable market and achieve the desired level of customer onboarding.


High touch and low touch onboarding – what do they mean?

In simple terms, the engagement model that requires minimal human contact with the customers during an onboarding process would be considered a low touch onboarding whereas the one that requires more human interventions would be classified as high touch onboarding. In a low touch onboarding scenario, a customer signs up and starts using your product with minimum intervention from an onboarding specialist. On the other hand, if your product onboarding strategy entails a dedicated onboarding procedure detailing all possible use-cases along with various scenarios and engages directly with the customer right from the implementation to renewal, it is high touch onboarding.

These engagement models for customer onboarding could shape the entire customer experience. The success of onboarding, however, depends on various factors such as the type of products or services being offered, deployment strategy, and the availability of resources. Therefore, it is essential to understand what high touch and low touch onboarding entail, how to know which type of onboarding approach will work for your company, and what to do next once you have figured this approach.


High touch onboarding

High touch onboarding is an attempt at providing a personalized experience to the customers while catering to their specific needs. This not only elevates customer’s experience but also ensures a long-term relationship between the customer and the organization. With this approach, the sales representative may gauge the customer’s specific needs and pitch accordingly.

Companies that provide complex comprehensive software solutions over the cloud (SaaS), benefit greatly from high touch onboarding[4]. An organization requires high-touch onboarding when the needs of its customers are supposed to addressed at a personal level. When does this happen? If the product/service offered by the company is complex or customizable according to the customers’ needs, the company needs to understand the requirement of its customers individually and onboard them accordingly. Hence, nurturing the relationship with customers after sales is a crucial function of high-touch onboarding.

High touch onboarding contains several crucial elements such as customized onboarding material (documents, videos, help-guides, etc.), walk-through plan for familiarizing the customer with the product, and an expert consultant for support.

In high touch onboarding, the process starts the moment a deal is signed. The implementation team collaborates with the customer to design and deliver a solution that fits the customer’s requirements. In such a scenario, the revenue generated out of a deal determines the allocation of resources, for instance, the number of dedicated customer relationship managers (CRMs) who would oversee a successfully implemented solution.

Another critical aspect involved with high touch onboarding is defining success according to your customer. Preferably, during the implementation phase, a CRM can get the understanding a customer’s goals by asking questions such as their desired outcome from using your solution, and how they measure its success. These two crucial aspects must be inclusive of a successful high touch onboarding program.


Low touch onboarding

Low touch onboarding is defined as a generic approach towards customer management. Instead of personalized human interaction, resources are focused towards developing a robust automated system that adapts itself according to a customer’s ongoing interaction (Zelenko et al., 2015)[5]. Incorporating the elements of machine learning, low touch onboarding gradually eliminates the need for human intervention in the onboarding process.

If your product requires less or no initial knowledge of any unique tool or technique or consists of simple elements, then you would preferably be an organization that needs low touch onboarding. Elements of low touch onboarding would include powerful automation tools and intuitive user experience (UX) design included within the product that would assess customer’s interests by customer data. In such cases, milestones are predefined. For instance, as a customer utilizes a certain amount of bandwidth, the system automatically places that customer in the priority list while pitching solutions that would facilitate a user with high bandwidth utilization.


The way ahead

Whether or not a low touch approach would fit better compared with a high touch model is a difficult question and is entirely dependent on the product/service being offered, and the desired outcome. There are several engagement models that can be applied to an onboarding process depending on the customer and their chosen solution. It is best to define the onboarding model separately for each customer instead of applying a generic one. Again, if your solution is such that it requires minimal human intervention to implement, it is best to go with an engagement model that does not overwhelm the customer with aggressive communication. It is important to know when and how much does your customer wish to communicate or absorb. Based on this analysis, develop an effective onboarding plan that may or may not include human intervention. No touch onboarding[6], DIY onboarding and online onboarding are few such examples of various approaches towards onboarding your customer.

The concept still broadly bifurcates into two major approaches, high touch and low touch. While high touch onboarding requires investing in human capital for service assurance and solution customization, low touch onboarding would require investment in hiring skilled developers to design and implement powerful automation tools and machine learning algorithms. An amalgamation of both, blended carefully to provide an enriching experience for the customer during their journey with the organization, would result in customer satisfaction. This would ensure more business for the organization since a satisfied customer is more likely to return to you with more business. Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses and the decision to choose the right one at the appropriate time would shape your customer onboarding strategy.

[1] http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1118949/FULLTEXT01.pdf
[2] https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3027128
[3] https://www.acm.org/publications
[4] http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:1118949
[5] https://patents.google.com/patent/US8943002B2/en
[6] http://blog-sap.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/15/files/2012/08/SAP_Mobile_Is_The_New_Face_Of_Engagement.pdf

Ila Mishra

Content Specialist at WizIQ. 'Live to write and write to live' is her motto. Passionate about life and living it up!

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