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Customer Experience

6 Ways Your Customer Onboarding Can Go Wrong

2 minutes read

[Editor's note: Keep an eye out for our article next week on the difference between customer and user onboarding!]

Congratulations—you have a new customer!

But your happiness may be short-lived if you do not train them to use your product or service. While convincing your customer that they need your product is sufficient to convert them, onboarding them with the right tools is important to engage and turn them into a lifetime customer.

Forrester Consulting has published a number of reports over the years that look into customer onboarding. One study found that onboarding institutional clients can cost as much as $25,000 and up to 34 weeks to complete. 

We are of course talking about manual onboarding processes. Organizations that have full end-to-end client lifecycle management solutions (including automated onboarding tools) spend less than six weeks to onboard.

Another study looked at consumer onboarding for mobile apps and found that mobile apps lose close to three-quarters of their active users within the first three days of installation and as many as 90% of users within the first month. 

The researchers attribute this to poor onboarding practices.

Not investing in automated customers onboarding tools is one of the most common mistakes organizations commit. But implementing such tools is only half the battle. Here are a few other ways customer onboarding can go wrong.

1. Failure to integrate seamlessly

According to the AIDAS theory of sales management, there are five stages in a successful sales process. The ‘S’ in AIDAS stands for ‘Satisfaction’ which essentially occurs after a customer buys your product or service. The theory states that only a satisfied customer can be a regular customer over the long-term.

The problem however is that without proper onboarding, customers may never be in a position to experience your product or service completely. This is especially true for businesses that are completely online where face-to-face interactions between the business and the customer is virtually non-existent.

Under such circumstances, customers tend to start using the product even before they get familiarized with the various features. The onus is on the business to integrate this user experience with onboarding features. By introducing users to the various options and features while they are in the process of using them offers a better experience compared to detailed tutorials shared over emails or blog posts.

2. Sharing all lessons at once

If you have purchased an electrical item like a TV or washing machine in recent times, you may have noticed that a lot of your familiarization with the new product came from trial-and-error. Despite the fact the all these products come with a detailed technical manual, very few consumers actually take the time to read the manual to understand the features.

This is because dumping all your onboarding lessons in one document never works. Modern pedagogical approaches recommend microlearning, or bite-sized learning as the most effective means to learn. According to these educators, lessons that are targeted at one specific objective and spans between 3 to 6 minutes are most effective.

From an onboarding perspective, customers need to be familiarized with one specific feature at a time. You may, for instance, set up a newsletter that discusses one product feature each day. Alternately, if you have institutional clients, your classroom or eLearning systems could organize your chapters by the feature list so that your customers can spend sufficient time on each component of your product or service.

Online collaboration service Process Street does a great job onboarding its newly registered users with short newsletters every day. Their first email (“Getting Started With Process Street”) is sent a day after registration and following that, users are educated about various aspects of the tool (like adding a team, assigning checklists, working with customers, etc.) each day.

3. Not engaging with your customers

Automated customer onboarding is extremely effective in helping new users get used to the various features on your product. But no matter how well your onboarding is set up, there are always questions that a new customer need answers for. Without an instant support channel, your business may fail to onboard these customers successfully.

One way to resolve this is by having a dedicated onboarding support channel that these customers may reach out to during their first few days. If a 24x7 customer support channel is not feasible, you may also look at deploying a community board on your website where your customers may interact with and learn from other users of your product.

4. Not educating your customers about your team structure

In a traditional B2B setup, the sales development representative (SDR) is responsible for recruiting new clients to your business. But once this is done, the onus of onboarding clients and managing this relationship falls on an account manager. In some cases, the account manager may only be responsible for deployments and the responsibility for fixing client issues may lie with the support manager.

In the absence of proper familiarization processes, the customer may continue to seek help from an SDR even after they have been signed up by the business. This creates a dissonance between the business and its client since the latter does not get all the help they need from the SDR. 

As part of the customer onboarding process, it is also important to introduce your customer to the various departments they shall be engaging with and clearly noting the roles each of these departments will be handling. It is also a good idea to set up face to face meetings, wherever possible, between the customer and the account manager.  

5. Overwhelming the customer

As a general rule of thumb, it is always better to over-communicate rather than under-communicate with your customer during their onboarding process. But there is a thin line that separates over-communication from overwhelming your customer.

A lot of organizations make the mistake of using onboarding as an opportunity to upsell their customers. One popular way to do this is talking about features that do not exist on the customer’s plan and subtly nudging them to upgrade to a higher priced plan to avail these features.

This can be completely overwhelming and defeats the purpose of onboarding. In one study of over 7,000 consumers, it was found that ‘decision simplicity’ was the single biggest driver of stickiness. 

In other words, the objective of an onboarding process is to train customers to perform the most important and critical tasks on your product platform. Educating your users on the dozens of other features that they do not frequently need or have not paid for overwhelms them and veers their focus away from the most important features. This brings down stickiness which, in turn, impacts their loyalty towards your product.

6. Not personalizing your onboarding

Every client is unique and so are their motivations to sign up for your product or service. Given this scenario, it is extremely important for your onboarding to be customized to their unique needs. One way to do this is by structuring your onboarding lessons based on a client survey. You may also classify each of your customers under specific buckets (based on their demographics, industry, etc.) and create unique onboarding campaigns for each of these buckets.

Understanding your client’s existing setup, their goals, and vision will help you structure your onboarding lessons in a format that they will find insightful.

Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a free to use project management tool for small businesses. Hubbion has been ranked in the top 20 in its category by Capterra.