7 Quick Psychology Hacks ​to Improve your SaaS Onboarding

Published October 17, 2018 ⚡ Updated on January 31, 2024 by Ester Brierley

Many experts stress the importance of structuring teams, upselling, cross-selling, and retaining customers. Of course, these are very important ingredients for success, however, we shouldn’t forget about onboarding — a topic which is critical for any SaaS business.

Many people start designing their customer onboarding process without a clear understanding of where to begin and how to evaluate customer experience. Fortunately, some smart tricks can help any company make its onboarding process effective. There are many different solutions which are more or less complex. Each solution mostly depends on your users.

First of all, it’s important to understand that the first login of a new user is not the hardest part. It’s not enough to just attract more users. Moreover, the onboarding process doesn’t end even after the first 90 days. It may take much more time, even years, if you want to update the existing products and to develop something new. You have to review your onboarding strategy from time to time and adjust it to your current needs.

SaaS Business Model and Its Benefits

SaaS stands for “Software as a Service.” This business model is different from the traditional model, where users need to build a server, install the software, and configure it. SaaS doesn’t imply users paying for the software. This model is similar to rental: Users purchase a right to use the software for a certain period of time. This business model has a number of benefits compared to the traditional approach.

First of all, everything gets quicker. SaaS model usually relies on cloud servers, so the software is already installed and configured, and the only thing that a user needs to do is start using it.

SaaS implies lower software and hardware license costs. Lower license costs make it possible for small and medium businesses to increase their customer base. Given that SaaS providers own the environment which is used by all its customers, maintenance costs are also reduced.

Most SaaS solutions exist in cloud environments, which creates many opportunities for integration with other services and means better scalability.

Costs associated with upgrades are lower than in the traditional model. Users love SaaS software because they don’t need to upgrade packages and install them, neither do they need to pay for the environment upgrade.

SaaS Onboarding and Its Challenges

According to statistics, 90% of apps are used only once. Thus, if you want to impress your users, you have to invest in your customer onboarding experience. Users will quickly uninstall your app if it isn’t what they expect, or if it’s loading too slow. However, you don’t need to have the best product in the world to get good conversion numbers. The most important thing is explaining why your product is valuable. During the first trial run, your users should realize its full potential, otherwise, they won’t give it a second try.

To evaluate the effectiveness of an onboarding strategy, it’s important to evaluate the customer’s success. On the other hand, your understanding of success and that of your customers may differ. Your company succeeds when customers buy a paid subscription after a free trial. In turn, your customers see success as getting the desired outcome. Therefore, there’s no single definition of the desired outcome, as it depends on your niche and your users. You have to understand what your users really experience. They will get the best experience possible if your SaaS product solves even the problems your customers have never thought about.

The initial success is especially important for SaaS products, as customers won’t waste their time trying to understand their value. You have to show it immediately, and you have to make the initial success easy. For example, if your customers cannot click “Buy Now” without providing their private information, you make achieving the initial success more difficult. We also suggest researching your potential customers even before you start developing the product. For example, Slack managed to grow from 8,000 to 800,000 users because they asked their friends to try their software in order to better understand their needs.

Quick Psychology Hacks that Will Improve Your SaaS Onboarding

1. Deal with micro-aggression

The onboarding phase is often accompanied by micro-aggression. When users try your service for the first time, they already have a clear goal. From this moment, you have to help them achieve their goal as fast as you can. The longer it takes for them to achieve it, the more negative emotions they feel. Of course, most users don’t realize these moments of micro-aggression, as they take place in their subconscious, however, they occur very fast and result in disappointment. Make achieving goals easy so that your users can feel satisfied immediately, with no moments of frustration.

2. Cognitive closure

Also known as the Zeigarnik’s effect, the need for cognitive closure was first observed when Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noticed that waiters remember all the details about unpaid orders but forget them as soon as customers pay their bills. The thing is that people are more engaged in unfinished tasks, which is a great opportunity for your customer onboarding process. You can encourage your customers to complete some tasks by leaving them unfinished. The simplest example of this trick is a checklist — people will want to complete it. Just fill this checklist with important actions that lead your users to the “Aha Moment” when they realize the whole value of your product. You can also use email requests and in-app messages to remind your users that they’ve entered the important process by installing your software, and this process is not complete yet.

3. Build human to human interaction

Of course, you won’t talk to each of your customers directly, but it’s important to keep in mind that your users are human beings. Start by addressing them by their name (or nickname) instead of calling them “users” or “customers.” These are people who use your product so you have to take into account their emotions and feelings. Entertain them, stimulate them, and form their habits. Phil Mura from College-Writers has many years of experience in SaaS. He notes: “You have to build new habits to activate your users. They will want to come back again and again if they love interacting with your product. All you need to do is give them positive emotions, and they will return to feel the same emotions again.”

4. The ambiguity effect

Simply put, the ambiguity effect is the bias towards something new. Back when humankind was at the early stages of evolution, we were surrounded by the world full of unknown things. The fear of the unknown is what saved us as a species, however, it remains an integral part of our thinking even now. For example, if Google Maps suggest a new, faster route, most people will likely choose the route they already know. You should use this effect in your onboarding strategy by offering something that users expect. Explain how you’re going to use their email address before you ask them to provide it. Show them a preview of an external website before you offer a link to it. We also suggest reducing any third-party sources as much as possible.

5. Micro-commitments and micro-agreements

In 1966, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study in which people were asked to support save driving or protection of the environment by putting up a sticker on their window. After that, they were asked to do the same with a bigger sticker, and then — to display a big sign in their front yard. Although the majority of participants agreed to do so, people who were not asked to put the sticker on their window first, refused to support the cause with the sign. You should use micro-agreements so that your users can follow your onboarding steps naturally. Don’t ask them for too much straight away.

6. Choice-supportive bias

All the people have something in common. For example, we always love our choices, even if we see that such choices were not the best ones. We always appreciate what we choose more than what we don’t. For example, if a person can choose between options X and Y, and makes a choice in favor of X, this person will likely to emphasize the advantages of X over Y while not mentioning or downplaying its disadvantages. Signing up to SaaS is also a decision, and you should design your onboarding process so that your users will get more and more confident in their decision. Surprise them, increase the simplicity, and show new advantages.

7. Time and commitment

The longer you search for a solution, and the more you know about it, the more you relate to it. If your customers explore your product quickly, in an unstructured manner, they don’t relate to the product, as they don’t feel a commitment. Interact with them, listen to their feedback and build long-term relationships.

Final Words

Some small details play an important role in customer onboarding. Although it’s easy to turn social media into a habit, it’s not as easy with, say, business software. Under such circumstances, the human element to a large extent determines the success of the onboarding process. Use our simple tips and make your customers feel the value of your product, responding to simple rewards and honest interactions.


Ester Brierley is a QA Engineer in software outsourcing company and a competent virtual assistant for College Writer. Adores researching cutting-edge digital trends and sharing them in her writing pieces as a seasoned content creator for many websites. Follow her on Twitter.

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