Onboarding and Waitlists

Jesus christ not another "white glove experience"

I tried to get Superhuman like, four times. I literally just wanted to pay for the app. I knew I’d use it, I knew I’d like it, and yet every time I tried to line something up with someone, it just fell through because I didn’t want to make it a priority in my Calendar.

I fucking HATE that

Recently, I did the same with Rippling. I wanted to try their software, it took 7 back and forth emails and a call, then I got on and realized it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. And now I’m pissed enough to write a blogpost about it.

I get it Companies, you’re trying to minimize churn and maximize users engagement with your product, but the churn you’re getting from this experience has to be huge because you’re probably not measuring the drops from “Schedule a Call”. Even if you are, those aren’t going to be shared with your VCs. You get to artificially cap the “user signup” metric and decide what the flow outward is, leading to graphs that make will make your VC go “Wow omg zat growth”.

And…I don’t blame you. Lots of VCs, in my very limited experience, seem to get in this weird “TAMs and Metrics” mindset where they’ve got some numbers they’re looking for and you need to make them look good, because that’s the closest mathematical approximation we’ve got for solving “Is this product good?”.

It’s largely one of my gripes with venture capital: these incentives actually pull your product away from selling your products to customers (the main quest) and start adding this meta layer of bullshit to sell the companies to VCs (the side quest). Waitlist as a service is driving people off the wall.

I’ve done it for products, mostly because I know my node app will fall over, and I’ve always hated it. It’s gotta stop. It’s bad incentive alignment and it fucking ruins products. So, what’s your alternative?

  1. Make your application self serve

  2. Make your application white glove

Just, do both? There’s actually probably a really cool product in here. If you can create a synchronous experience where a user can say “Hey I want help now” and have a queue of people potentially ready to onboard them, that’s going to be WAY better than 5 emails trying to find a time to chat with Brad from WidgetFactory.com.

Think of Intercom, except it’s a part of the onboarding step:

  1. Sign up for the product

  2. Two options: Live assisted onboarding (Agent Online Now) and Self Serve

  3. Clicking the Live assisted onboarding pings someone in Slack with a Zoom URL, and it can dump them right into a chat together.

Bonus points: Build this out as a JavaScript library that is easily installable like Stripe and you can start doing really cool stuff. You can drop a camera bubble (A la Loom), let people draw, share their cursor, etc and the user and expert can navigate the website together.

Holy fuck talk about a powerful onboarding experience.

My problem is: If you built this, I don’t think people would use it. I think the waitlistware is entirely a function of VCs wanting these numbers. Yes, of course it’s under the guide of companies getting usage feedback, but I think broadly, that’s why it happens.

I’ve been thinking about NUX (New User Experience) and onboarding a lot, and I think we want to make something similar to what I’ve described above. If you’ve ever put up a waitlist, I’d love to hear why. I suspect it’s something like:

  • Build hype 👁️👄👁️

  • Our shitty node servers will fall over immediately

  • We want to see people use the application

  • We, subconsciously or consciously, want to make our VC metrics look good

Roughly in that order. And those are all fine, but you shouldn’t kneecap your users ability to user your product because of it, unless you’re trying to do virality by exclusivity.

Put more effort into onboarding, and not just by throwing a sales team at it.