In our startup story this week we have a chat with Andy Mura, the Head of Marketing at Userlane, a company that specializes in the onboarding process. Userlane has been using Pressfarm to help push their PR campaigns through media outreach and list building. As technology has grown to become an integral part of the 21st Century, a lot of awareness creation and guidance has become too crucial to ignore.
The ecosystem in technology is designed in such a way that many people will not know exactly what to do and when to do it when they encounter software at their places of work or in their day-to-day. This pressing problem gave birth to documentation and manuals that live on various parts of the web or in software help centers.
However, for the Software-as-a-Service industry, commonly referred to as SaaS, the thought that you need to refer to a manual or documentation every time you encounter something new in the software is quite cumbersome.
This idea has given birth to several SaaS applications that live within other SaaS applications to help guide users step by step on how to do various things in the software. Today, these have come to be known as user onboarding applications.
One such application is Userlane, which is an onboarding application for both customers and employees. In our chat with the Head of Marketing, we delve into the Userlane story.
The inspiration behind Userlane
“The main idea behind Userlane is instant accessibility,” explains Andy. “Technology is only useful if everybody can have direct access to it without any barriers. For example, using an ATM or your favorite movie app requires minimal onboarding or few instructions.”
“Business software, on the other hand, can’t be completely intuitive. Despite all the attempts to create a user-friendly user interface, the sheer amount of required integrations, all the specialized features we need, customization, updates, and legacy issues all contribute to creating complex systems that simply can’t be operated right off the bat.”
Andy and the team at Userlane believe that software needs to adapt to people and not the other way around. Up until now, people have been adapting to software, trying to catch up with the never-ending updates and features sprouting from secret places.
“The inspiration for Userlane came from the navigation system for modern cars. Road systems are complicated to navigate, but with turn-by-turn instructions, we can now find our way around in any town or city, no matter how large it is,” explains Andy.
Userlane is closing the knowledge gap between humans and machines by allowing anybody to operate any software without any training, handbooks, or video tutorials.
“Our platform uses step-by-step on-screen interactive guides that basically work as a navigation system for software.”
At Userlane, the team wants to provide a full-fledged solution to their customers. With each plan, customers have access to customer success agents and solution architects who become an organic extension of the customer.
“Our customer success agents and solution architects help each customer set their own goals and metrics and make sure that they achieve them with Userlane. Our customer success agents guide customers through implementation, project management, and the creation of interactive guides, and they also schedule regular check-ins to monitor progress and drive success,” explains Andy.
Several onboarding SaaS services work only by giving tips or pop-up texts/instructions within the software when customers first create accounts or access a particular feature. However, Userlane customers get access to an entire team of UX experts who will work for and dedicate their time to them. As Andy elaborates, “Our platform offers a fully interactive experience, unlike other onboarding applications that simply offer tooltips. Our interactive guides steer users through all processes they are required to interact with, all in real-time, live within the application they’re using.”
“We want to make sure that everybody is successful with our product and that they achieve the highest ROI from working with it. Due to this high-touch approach, Userlane is usually not suitable for startups and small businesses.”
Userlane has a startup program that young companies can apply for. However, generally speaking, Userlane is the best solution for mature mid-sized companies and large enterprises.
Andy adds, “Our first customers were banks and insurance companies. Our software, therefore, has built-in functionalities and a core structure geared toward security, scalability, and stability. This is why our solution is very appealing to enterprise customers.”
On onboarding both employees and customers
In several instances, we see onboarding software geared towards training customers or users of particular software. Many times, onboarding takes the customer-first approach. That’s why Userlane is focusing its efforts on employee training as well. Companies need to navigate their way through this complex era of digital transformation, and Userlane wants to be an integral part of helping companies and employees navigate their way through all this digitization.
“Our primary focus at Userlane is supporting the end-user independently from the specific stage at which our interactive guidance is implemented. Userlane can implement easily by corporations that want to support their employees in business applications. It is completely secure and provides actual step-by-step interactive guidance (unlike onboarding software solutions that only show suggestions and tips).”
Can product managers make the onboarding process more purposeful?
“Everything starts with developing specific customer personas and understanding their needs and intents. Different user segments use software to achieve specific goals, and the onboarding process needs to consider the expectations of different target groups,” states Userlane’s Head of Marketing.
“It’s important to map the discovery journey for each target group and visualize the processes to understand. What information every user will need at each stage to quickly proceed and achieve their goals,” he adds.
“Software should not provide options but answers. You can’t present thousands of options and features and expect users to make their way through processes quickly.”
The message for product managers, therefore, is to minimize the number of options, features, or clicks that a user needs to get through in order to get something done.
This translates to making the product information relevant, contextual, and limited. Users only need to access the information they need to proceed to the next step and get closer to their goals.
“After mapping all the processes and making sure users take the shortest route that leads to quick-wins, you need to define what tools you’re going to use.”
He adds, “Interactive guidance can combine with onboarding emails and webinars if necessary. Additionally, advanced users (admins for example) might also require specific technical documentation or on-screen support.”
“The most important thing is testing. Companies that don’t extensively test their onboarding process lose the majority of their potential customers right after signup.”
Userlane case studies
“In a way, every customer story becomes a perfect case study,” Andy remarks.
He continues, “But it’s true that some use cases are more relevant than others. The deeper you integrate Userlane, the more results you can achieve.”
As Andy explains, companies that only use Userlane to present features are not as successful as companies that fully leverage the power of interactive, step-by-step guidance in processes such as onboarding, training, customer support, customer engagement, and customer success.
“With Userlane, some SaaS providers managed to increase conversion rates and engagement rates by over 70%. Others used Userlane to reduce support tickets by over 50%. Other customers have seen a 70% increase in completion rates for onboarding tasks within the first 48 hours after signup.”
“place (a project and collaboration management platform) managed to integrate Userlane directly within their own dashboard. This helped them create a deep integration with their own software platform.”
“But when it comes to software adoption, we love to mention industry giant, Allianz. Allianz managed to successfully roll out their new intranet to almost 20K users without any training and delays.”
“We also often cite a study we conducted with Deutsche Bahn (German railway transportation) that compared software usage with and without Userlane. Employees’ average task completion in Jira (the specific solution that was used for the study) went from 45% to 97%.”
“This means that all users, regardless of their level of competence and previous exposure to the system managed to operate even the most advanced features without any formal training.”
“The difference was striking for beginners (users who mentioned that they had no experience with the software). In this case, adoption increased from less than 20% to 100%.”
These are just a few case studies that indicate the success companies have had – and continue to have.
Onboarding as an ongoing regular process
The idea behind user onboarding usually focuses on new customers or new employees. But does it end there? How can user onboarding become a regular and consistent part of a business for users who are regularly engaging with the product or for employees who already understand the product?
“Onboarding never ends,” emphasizes the Head of Marketing. “SaaS solutions are characterized by continuous improvements and new features. Users constantly need guidance to be productive with regular updates.”
“Additionally, users often change their behavior in software based on new needs, and they might need to master new processes.”
“Users need to have access to on-demand assistance each time they need to become familiar with a new process.”
Feedback as a part of onboarding
“Onboarding requires lots of testing to address all specific needs of different target groups. That’s why it is important to collect feedback and continuously re-evaluate the onboarding process to optimize it.”
Onboarding hack for SaaS companies
A lot of SaaS companies still struggle with the onboarding elements. This is a continuous challenge that they continue to optimize on a daily basis. Of course, the back and forth is healthy if it is generating feedback or data.
An important piece of advice Andy has for all SaaS customers is to consistently focus on customizing the customer journey. “This is extremely important. That’s why we spent so much time on improving our segmentation features,” he says.
“Nowadays, users expect tailored experiences. People don’t pay for a software application; they pay for the outcome they achieve. In order to make sure they achieve their goals quickly, you need to be able to gauge their intent and guide them seamlessly to success.”
Andy says that the company will be focusing on the following things in the coming months:
- Introducing smart features that simplify the process of guide creation and management even further.
- Adding plenty of custom features that have been requested by some of Userlane’s accounts. These will be beneficial for every other enterprise customer.
- Focusing on a software solution that is capable of working with every single digital process in every platform, without any constraints.
Entrepreneurship lessons from building Userlane
In conclusion, Andy shares some important lessons he and his team have learned during the growth of the company.
- “Prioritization and consistency are the key factors to developing a great product. If you’re truly aware of your mission and you know what problems you intend to solve for each specific customer group, then you can define clear rules that will guide you through the process of prioritizing features and decisions.”
- “You need to know your customers and their needs and collect as much data as possible. Gut feelings should not play a role in decision-making processes that determine the future of your product.”
- “Don’t fall in love with a vision unless this reflects exactly what your customers said they need from you.”