Have you ever bought a new product or service where you LOVED the experience? From how you were greeted, to the service you received and finally, the actual exchange of money.
An amazing buying experience can be the difference between a one time purchase and becoming a customer for life. Tweet This
And while we are talking about real life purchases here, the same principles transfer over to online purchases where we can look at the user flow through your web or mobile app.
Before we get into that though, let me tell you about a recent amazing buying experience that I had.
For most of my adult life, I have been getting my haircut at a “Supercut”. Those are the hair salons inside malls. They are cheap, fast and somewhat efficient which is likely what attracts so many guys.
However, I wanted to do something different. I didn’t love the haircut I got from them. They were ok and I knew I could do better. So I decided to book an appointment at a more upscale barber shop near my house. This haircut was going to be double what I usually paid for Supercuts.
Honestly, I was worried that I was just wasting my money and time.
All of these doubts disappear the moment I walked in. I was greeted warmly by the receptionist who was actually expecting me! She took my coat and offered me coffee or a beer. I thought it was a bit early for a beer so I settled on the coffee. Supercuts never offered me any free coffee and they didn’t even know my name!
I waited for a few minutes while drinking my coffee and then it was my turn to get my haircut. The hairstylist spent a few minutes understanding what I wanted to do and even recommended a few ideas that would look good on me.
Forty-five minutes later, the hairstylist was done. It was one of the best haircuts I had ever received. Not only that but I loved the experience! It felt amazing to get such special treatment instead of just feeling like another transaction.
Was it worth the money? Absolutely.
Did I recommend this shop to my friends? Yes and happily.
Do I think this company intentionally planned every step of this experience? 100% yes.
And that’s what I wanted to talk about today.
We all know that first impressions matter and yet, we don’t spend nearly enough time optimizing the first impression that our customers get.
It doesn’t matter if you sell web and mobile apps or if you have a physical product like a barber shop. All customers have to go through a first time onboarding experience. This is their first impression and it can determine if a customer stays with you or moves on to a competitor.
I’ll focus primarily on the world of web and mobile apps and how to design a great onboarding user flow through 3 different exercises.
Let’s jump into the first one.
Exercise 1: Reverse Engineering from a Successful User Flow
Our first exercise will start by taking an existing successful customer (the criteria is determined by you) and reverse engineering what they did to get there.
This customer can become the model on which everything is based upon including getting more users like them. Your copy, your marketing, and your onboarding user flow can be tailored for this kind of customer. You’ll even be able to learn what factors drive your user retention.
Start by getting basic demographic data.
- Who are they?
- Gender? Age? Interests?
- If they are a company, how many employees do they have? Revenue? Key roles?
- How did they learn about your product?
- Why are they using your product?
You then want to understand their first few days or weeks with your product. In most cases, you should be able to look at your product database or other sources of data to see what this customer first did after signing up for your product.
- Did they fill out their profile right away?
- Did they invite friends or coworkers into the product?
- What else did they do within the first 7, 14, 30 days?
Related: Tools like Mixpanel can make it easier to track all of this activity for current and future usage. If you need help implementing Mixpanel, I created a 3-hour video course that will teach you everything you need to know about Mixpanel.
Finally, you can look at the questions that they asked or struggled. In a lot of cases, your customer support team will have a pretty good idea of the most common questions that come up for new customers. These are the kinds of questions that you want to address during the onboarding experience.
You can then repeat this process for your second best customer, your third best customer and so on. Within time, your onboarding user flow should resonate very strongly with a certain customer segment. This can also lead to a high customer loyalty which you can measure through metrics like NPS.
Exercise 2: Client 1 Philosophy
In our second exercise, you can use a concept that I like to call the “Client 1” philosophy.
Think back to when you first started your business. Do you remember your first client or paying user that wasn’t your Mom? Did you go above and beyond for this client/user.
Chances are that you did. The service that we provide our very first user is usually very different from the service we provide our 100th user. This is normal to an extent. A lot of the things we did for client 1 may not scale.
However, you can definitely look into bringing some of the actions that you applied for client 1.
Let’s imagine that you spent a lot of time on emails and phone calls with client 1. You were constantly answering their questions, guiding them along in the product, checking in with them and ensuring that they were getting a lot of value out of your product or service.
Focus on what is happening during those human interactions.
- What questions are you answering?
- What roadblocks do you think they are facing?
- When you check in with them, what are you asking them?
- How did you guide them during the first few days?
You can then take the answers to these questions and automate them. You might build them into your onboarding user flow as an actual step or you might leverage notifications like email or SMS to nudge and guide your users in the same way you would do it in person.
The goal here is to try and bring the same level of attention and care that you had for client 1 to client 100 and beyond.
Exercise 3: Handcrafting 11-Star Experiences
Our third exercise comes from Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb. He shared this idea in a podcast called “Masters of Scale which is hosted by Reid Hoffman. You should check out the whole episode but I’ll give you a summary of the exercise that Brian talks about.
The “Handcrafting 11-star” exercise is one that Airbnb started using during their early days and they still use today especially around their new product appropriately called “Experiences).
Start by taking one aspect of your product or service. For this example, we’ll focus on the onboarding experience for a new user or customer.
Then, brainstorm what different star experiences would like. For example, we would ask “what would a 1-star experience look like here? Brian from Airbnb tell us what he considers 1-star, 2-star and 3-star experiences:
“So a one, two, or three-star experience is you get to your Airbnb and no one is there. You knock on the door. They don’t open. That’s a one star. Maybe it’s a three star if they don’t open, you have to wait 20 minutes. If they never show up and you’re pissed and you need to get your money back, that’s a one-star experience. You’re never using us again.”
You then want to continue going up on the star scale. Let’s imagine that we are now asking what a 6-star experience would look like. Let’s go back to Brian and see what he considers a 6-star experience:
“So we thought, “What would a six-star experience be?” A six-star experience: You knock on the door, the host opens. “Hey, I’m Reid. Welcome to my house.” You’re the host in this case. You would show them around. On the table would be a welcome gift. It would be a bottle of wine, maybe some candy. You’d open the fridge. There’s water. You go to the bathroom, there are toiletries. The whole thing is great. That’s a six-star experience.”
Finally, we keep going up. As you get higher and higher, the experience has to be more incredible, more memorable. At the end of the day, you’re trying to brainstorm what a 10-star or 11-star experience looks like for your product. Tweet This
What would a 10-star and 11-star experience look like for Airbnb? Let’s go back to Brian one last time:
“A ten-star check-in would be The Beatles check-in. In 1964. I’d get off the plane and there’d be 5,000 high school kids cheering my name with cars welcoming me to the country. I’d get to the front yard of your house and there’d be a press conference for me, and it would be just a mindfuck experience. So what would 11-star experience be? I would show up at the airport and you’d be there with Elon Musk and you’re saying, “You’re going to space.””
Your 10-star or 11-star experience will likely be crazy. It will be an amazing experience for 1 person but you’ll struggle to scale it to thousands of paying users. That’s normal.
Instead, focus on the elements that came up during the 6-star, 7-star and beyond. Perhaps you can implement emails that replicate some of the same ideas. Maybe you can hire people to do certain things like planning or preparing customized welcome gift packages.
The point of this exercise (and the other 2) is to get you brainstorming of how you can design an amazing onboarding experience (or user flow). Like everything else, this is an iterative process. You might find yourself doing a lot of manual things in the beginning and slowly automating as you grow.
Now I want to hear from you! What are the best (or most memorable) onboarding experiences that you have seen as a customer or user? They could be from any kind of business: web and mobile apps, services businesses, restaurants, etc.
Let me know in the comments below.
I find most companies are stuck with high-level metrics and they aren't able to properly understand what actually drives user growth for their web and mobile products. To do that, you need the right data and the right tools.
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