Product Teams

User Onboarding – The Real Story

Published Feb 7, 2017


As a marketer, one of the things I pay close attention to is which topics are generating a lot of interest and discussion in the marketplace.  In the product world, one topic that comes up over and over again is user onboarding.  We see lots of Twitter and LinkedIn discussions, lots of searches, lots of onboarding “takedowns”, but what we don’t always see is some detailed data about onboarding.

At Pendo we have a core value of “show me the data”, so obviously we think this is a miss.  A lot of our customers are interested in onboarding as well, and answers to questions like: Who should own onboarding? How much of your resources should you dedicate? Does better onboarding really drive business outcomes? aren’t readily available.  So, we decided to run some research.  Back in the fall, we surveyed 150 product management and customer success professionals about their onboarding practices.  Some of what we found was expected, and some of it was really surprising.

The Expected Results

Unsurprisingly we found that not everybody does onboarding.  In fact about 33% of companies reported that they have no specific onboarding process or experience for new users at all.  Fewer companies tailor their onboarding to different user segments.  Only about 40% of companies indicated that they tailor portions of their onboarding experience to different segments.


Customer success was the primary department that had ownership and resources for user onboarding, with product, marketing, and customer education teams (where they exist) having a stake as well.  The biggest onboarding hurdle that companies reported was dealing with software complexity – especially for enterprise applications.

The Unexpected Results

The biggest surprises we saw, came when we compared the responses and results for companies that had effective onboarding programs and those that didn’t.  We had expected that companies who were better at onboarding would have better results, but the difference was dramatic.  Companies who were good at onboarding reported 4x greater profitability and 4x faster growth than their competitors.


The other big surprise had to do with the practices of companies with the best onboarding programs.  Even though customer success had ownership for onboarding, companies that were the most effective were much more likely to invest product resources (product management, ux, and development) in the onboarding process.  They treated onboarding as an integral part of the product, rather than an add-on or afterthought.  Companies with the best onboarding were much more likely to use a wide array of channels for onboarding content – including in-application guides to match the different learning styles of their users.

See the Full Results

So there it is, some data to add to the onboarding discussion. Click here to download the full report and see how your user onboarding programs stack up.  Hopefully you’ll find the results as interesting as we did.