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Best Practices for onboarding Equipment Users

Best Practices for onboarding Equipment Users

Best Practices for onboarding Equipment Users

Founded more than 70 years ago, Fender is probably the most popular guitar maker in the world. But Fender's revenues are down since 2011. Almost half of Fender's sales are to brand-new guitarists - but 90 percent of them quit the instrument within a year. (Source: Zuora case study). Fender realized that people quit guitar because it is a hard instrument to learn. Cutting the abandonment rate became the key priority.

The solution? Teach users how to play guitar so that they remain Fender's customers for life. Fender launched Fender Play, a subscription-based service (both online and app), with the promise "Learn to Play in 7 Min a Day". The iOS app has 4.7 stars (out of 5) from more than 10,000 ratings. Not bad for an onboarding and support app!

While onboarding tools have become standard practice for digital products such as web-based software and games, physical product companies have been slow to adopt onboarding strategies. Strategic user onboarding is very important for physical products as well, especially technical and scientific products like life sciences instruments and medical devices.

With a bit of concerted effort, physical product and support teams can create onboarding experiences that can make life much easier for customers as well as themselves. Onboarding is not just about making sure customers can use the products; it's about finding ways to make sure the customer is making progress and achieving results he/she expects from the product purchase. Ensuring that customers are successful not only reduces support costs but also encourages more equipment and reagent usage, which of course translates to increased revenues.

Onboarding Strategies for Physical Products

A good onboarding process must be able to help customers overcome the following:

Reduce effort in switching from the current methods to the new product.
Help overcome the doubts and anxiety customers feel about the new product.
Help them realize the value of the product

Instrument or equipment product teams can accomplish these goals with a variety of onboarding strategies including:

Classes and online training courses: Online courses are a great way to teach customers how to get started and get the best value out of the product.
Companion apps: Like the Fender Play app, a companion app can help the user learn more about the instrument, access manuals/guides, get tips on using the instrument, and even get live support from the vendor support team.
User communities: Specialized user communities enable users to get help as well as help other users. Learning from other customers' experience works really well for new instrument users and also users switching to a new technology platform.
Personalized emails: A drip email campaign to offer tips and assistance ensures that customers are on track and they do not feel left out.

Since many companies already provide online or in-person training through field specialists, let us focus on the use of mobile companion apps to take onboarding experience to the next level.

Developing a Companion App:

A well thought out companion app achieves both the company's as well as users' objectives.

In general, a companion app should accomplish the following:

Getting started: Help users overcome the initial hurdles and start using the product by providing personalized content such as videos, case studies, and tips. Personalize the content based on the user's workflows and experience level.
The How: Provide all basic tools and documents such as manuals, calculators and other tools the user needs to get her work done using the equipment. The key here is easy access and ease of use.
Ongoing assistance: Provide ongoing support to help users overcome any obstacles while using the product. This includes live chat/video support, and tools to help customers report issues easily with pictures/videos.

You can create a custom app from scratch working with your internal IT team or a vendor. Another option is to use an application platform (such as SnapSupport) that enable you to launch your companion app much faster. Either way, the key is to create an onboarding experience that enables users to become successful; using your product.

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