Customer Onboarding: How 4 Leading SaaS Companies Design the Experience

Lessons from Intercom, FullStory, Airtable, and StoryChief

Aazar Ali Shad
Feb 26, 2019 · 7 min read
customer onboarding
customer onboarding

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by product, user experience, and customer success people trying to improve their SaaS customer onboarding experience is:

“Which software companies have the best customer onboarding experiences? Who can we turn to for some inspiration when it comes to providing a delightful customer onboarding experience?”

The answer isn’t always so straightforward.

When it comes to customer onboarding, the experience must be obsessively aligned with providing value from the first interaction. Or as we call it, the ‘Aha!’ moment.

The problem is that every SaaS product is unique in that sense. For example, it’s so much easier to show value for an app like Slack as opposed to an enterprise software that requires a bunch of integrations to experience the value.

We’ve studied several fast-growing SaaS products to uncover best practices that you can apply to your user onboarding experience.

#1: FullStory — Persona-based customer onboarding

FullStory records and reproduces real user experiences on your site, helping you support customers, boost conversions, and debug faster. Here are a few important lessons from FullStory’s user onboarding experience.

First, the landing page has a strong value proposition, with clear CTAs to signup for free or request a demo.

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The highlighted “sign up free” CTA pushes users in a subtle way to dive quickly into FullStory and initiate that first contact with the product. Users who click it are asked to enter their contact information.

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As the signup flow pauses momentarily while waiting for email validation, FullStory takes the opportunity to learn more about you with a beautiful “How did you hear about us?” modal.

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FullStory then welcomes you back after you finish validating your email. The signup flow continues with persona-based questions. This helps FullStory enhance your experience as they continue learning about your use cases.

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FullStory instantly pushes for activation. You will get almost no value without installing the script, and therefore they have included this step in the signup onboarding experience.

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  • Excels in learning about each user. This helps FullStoryu personalize the onboarding for each persona and give the utmost value for the specific use case.
  • Pushes for activation (installing the JS code) early on during the signup process. This helps FullStory show value the minute the user lands on the main product UI as they instantly start seeing real-time sessions playbacks.
  • Beautiful and trustworthy UI.

#2: Airtable — Frictionless Customer Onboarding

Airtable works like a spreadsheet but gives you the power of a database to organize anything. It’s a productivity and workflow alternative of spreadsheets. Here are a few key lessons from their signup flow.

Airtable’s onboarding video reiterates the value of the product and gets you excited for that first-run experience. It’s a great approach for users who learn best by watching.

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Similar to FullStory, Airtable tries to understand user personas and consequently the use case. Here’s the survey they ask users to complete:

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Empty states — where the user needs to enter information but hasn’t yet — are a great technique for driving action. Airtable implores a grey box with plus sign in the middle and copy that says “Add a base” to inspire the user to enter the information that they need in order to start using the product.

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  • Gets you using the product without email verification — less friction, more value.
  • Uses empty states to drive necessary user actions.
  • User persona questionnaire to learn about use cases.
  • Resource and Learning tab to help users ease into the UI.

#3: StoryChief — Activation with Checklists

StoryChief is a content marketing software for startups, SEO marketers and editorial teams. Here’s a quick breakdown of their user onboarding flow.

The customer testimonial on their sign-up page encourages users to trust the product. This displays after the user has clicked on the sign-up button on the homepage. They’ve seen your copy, understand the value proposition, and are ready to try the product. Testimonials increase the authority of your brand, and show that known brands and similar personas use your product.

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The StoryChief onboarding experience then provides a video tutorial to help users start using the product.

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After watching the video and clicking on the “start tour” button, StoryChief provides a simple checklist that guides users towards activation. This simple but effective technique helps users feel a sense of progress.

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  • Effective use of testimonials to increase sign ups.
  • Beautiful and brief product tour video to get you started with their UI.
  • Onboarding checklist accelerates user activation.

#4: Intercom — Unbundling the product brings focus

Intercom is a leading customer messaging platform. Their onboarding experience begins on the homepage with a clear CTA to get started by entering your email address.

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Intercom pre-qualifies users during the signup process. Why would they do that? So that they can show you the products and features that you’re likely to care most about.

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Intercom welcomes users with a simple modal to reiterate the value of the product.

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Users then land on a “get started” page with clear steps on how to move forward with the activation process.

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  • Unbundling the Intercom product brings focus. They have a complicated product, but they let the user focus on one product at a time.
  • Reiterates the value proposition of the product throughout the signup process.
  • Beautiful “get started” page that helps users get value from the product.

Key Customer Onboarding Lessons

What can you learn from these five companies in terms of a great onboarding experience?

  • The onboarding process starts on the landing page. Make sure your value proposition is clear and easy to understand.
  • If your product attracts different types of user personas or can be used in various use cases, personalize the onboarding process. Ask your users for information and adjust the onboarding flow accordingly.
  • Get users to that first ‘Aha!’ moment where they get value from your product as soon as you can. If your product requires an integration before you can show value, then push for activation during the signup process.
  • Use “Get Started” pages or onboarding checklists to guide users through the activation process.
  • Take advantage of empty states in your product whenever you can. As soon as you see, if there’s no data on a specific page or no real task/job.These empty states are a great way to natively push for user action.

Which one of the above best practices are you going to implement next? Do you have more examples? Feel free to share below.

Aazar Ali Shad is the VP of Growth at Userpilot, and has more than 5 years of SaaS Experience. He is currently helping 200+ SaaS companies improve user onboarding and increase product adoption.

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Aazar Ali Shad

Written by

Entrepreneur & Growth Marketing Consultant. More info: aazarshad.com — Currently growing Userpilot.com

Agile Insider

Exclusive and practical insights that enable the agile community to succeed.

Aazar Ali Shad

Written by

Entrepreneur & Growth Marketing Consultant. More info: aazarshad.com — Currently growing Userpilot.com

Agile Insider

Exclusive and practical insights that enable the agile community to succeed.