Using Pendo

All Aboard the onboarding ‘Orient Express’ – Part 1

Published Sep 7, 2016

Orient Express? Better onboarding = faster orientation… get it? In our case, it’s the code name for a cross-functional project that we kicked-off this quarter to re-think the way that we onboard new users into the Pendo platform. The project started with a fairly simple realization–a realization that we have spent many hours advising our customers on onboarding best practices, yet, at the same time, have not invested in building a world-class onboarding experience of our own.


We’re starting at the very beginning, working through objectives, personas, and storyboarding before we get to any design and development, and it will likely be awhile before you see the outcomes of our work in any tangible way in the product. This is the reality of user onboarding–it’s not something that is solved by just dropping in a few in-application walkthroughs or sending them to a “one-size-fits-all” training class. Onboarding is a critical part of the overall customer journey and one that needs to be addressed accordingly. I will be blogging regularly as we work through this project to document the process, and hopefully, arrive at some high-level best practices that others can leverage.

The Team

As I mentioned this is a cross-functional working team with participants from Customer Success, Marketing, Sales, Development, Product, and UX. Why so many departments? Each department has a unique insight into some portion of the overall customer journey, and a unique perspective on one of our key personas. We want to make sure that all those perspectives are captured. We also want to have all of the team members who will be implementing the experience–from content creation, to design, to the actual coding–as a part of the process from day one.

For the different customers with which we’ve worked, user onboarding is sometimes owned by customer success, sometimes by product management, and sometimes by marketing. Regardless of the overall owner, it’s likely that stakeholders from all departments will ultimately be involved. Our approach is to bring them together from the start.

Starting From the Start – Objectives

This would seem obvious, but a lot of teams really don’t think through their onboarding objectives before starting to build the experience. The objectives discussion is important not only for goal-setting and measurement but also because it surfaces potential challenges. For our working team, it helped to illuminate some scope challenges. Even without detailed persona work, we realized that we have a number of different onboarding states:

  • Brand new user (account) that needs to have Pendo installed and capture data correctly
  • Brand new user that is installed, but facing an “empty state” within the application with no tagged pages or features
  • Brand new user for an existing account which has been thoroughly setup and used

Attempting to address all of these states would be difficult for a single project or process so we needed to narrow the scope. Ultimately for this project we chose to focus on the “overview & learning” aspects of onboarding with an assumption that the user is already installed and setup properly.

Having settled the question of scope, we began working through objectives. The challenge with objective-setting around onboarding is that it’s easy to get too broad (“I want to reduce churn”) and too narrow (“I want users to progress to step 3 of a walkthrough”). Working through the priorities/challenges of each team, we realized that our core objective was not related to improving customer satisfaction, or even accelerating user proficiency. What we really needed was to make it easier for new users to succeed on their own and at their own pace. As a result, we set the following objectives for the ‘Orient Express’ project:

  • Ensure that every new user gets value out of some portion of the onboarding experience, and takes action in the product as a result.
  • Shift customer success conversations from “how-to” tactical topics to more strategic discussions.
  • Increase overall participation in our onboarding experience and completion rates.

As with all objectives, they are only valuable if they can be measured. We devised a set of metrics to accompany each of the objectives. We will be tracking:

  • Percentage of users who have engaged with and completed the experience
  • Of the users who complete a portion of the experience, what percentage of those users actually go on to complete that task outside of the onboarding experience
  • Percentage of success/support conversations that “overlap” with what is available in the onboarding experience

If our approach is effective, we should see a change across all of these measures. We are still in the early stages of our project, and I will be providing updates as the work continues. Next up… personas and storyboarding. All onboard!

Want to read more about onboarding?  Read our guide on Building an Onboarding Engine for Customer and Product Success

Follow the rest of Pendo’s onboarding journey:

All Aboard the ‘Orient Express’ – Part 2

All Aboard the ‘Orient Express’ – Part 3

All Aboard the ‘Orient Express’ – Part 4