September 19, 2017
The early stages of any relationship are critical. Whether it’s personal or professional, the first few few interactions set the tone of a relationship, and go a long way towards determining the nature of a relationship and how long it lasts.
In business, the successful onboarding of customers is the best way to make a great first impression. It’s the first time you get to really show what your business can do, and to let your customer use your products or services. With attention so hard to win in this day and age, you have to make a good first impression or chances are the relationship will not really progress.
Bear in mind that the flow of information goes both ways. “During onboarding, the seller is learning about the buyer as much as the buyer is learning about the seller,” according to senior lecturer in entrepreneurial management at Harvard Business School, Frank Cespedes. This means that every touch point, every interaction and request for information sends a signal of how consumer-centric your product is.
Companies need to be very clear about exactly when the onboarding process actually starts, how many steps there are to complete it, and that you can define successfully when the relationship is moving into a ‘business as usual’ phase.
Most digital onboarding processes can be broken down into the following steps:
Strategy #1: Work through your onboarding workflow systematically so that each individual aspect of it is working towards the final result.
When you’re planning an onboarding strategy, try and strip the information you need to gather down to the bare minimum, at least in the very beginning. Nothing is more off-putting for consumers than complicated sign-up forms that require unnecessary information. Your goal should be to move the prospect one step closer to your final goal of turning them into a loyal customer.
Strategy #2: Capturing the wrong information during onboarding is one sure way to not make a good first impression.
Customers lose faith rapidly when they are not sure how to take the next step, when they judge it will be too hard to sign up for your service, and the when lines of communication between both parties are not opened. It’s even worse when a few days later, they discover there were mistakes in capturing their data that they need to rectify.
Automation of the process is a very effective tool to eliminate errors and streamline the onboarding process. Yet in a recent study commissioned by AI Foundry and conducted by Forrester Research, it was discovered that approximately one third of the onboarding process was executed manually in the financial services, health and insurance industries. “Not only does manual work increase data latency,” the study notes, “but it’s prone to errors, which further compounds the issues employees have in feeling confident in their data.”
Many of the leaders surveyed in the report recognize that the current manual onboarding process needs to be automated in order to speed up the ability to mine the data, and deliver on the reasons that the customer is onboarding in the first place.
The following graph indicates that at least half of onboarding processes should automated.
Strategy #2: Eliminate Manual Data Capture
The data that organizations capture from new customers must provide actionable insights for the company that can be used to make the offering better for the user and in so doing, cement the relationship between the business and the consumer.
So, what are the problems that employees encounter when trying to access that valuable data?
The issues vary, but they are very often the result of manual onboarding processes that are open to human interpretation and human error. 53% of respondents said they had trouble aggregating data from multiple silos, just under half (47%) found that access levels vary depending on the type of data gathered, while one in every three employees finds that data is presented in hard-to-read, or incompatible, formats.
As a result, the research established that many employees lack sufficient confidence in the data to use it, “whether that is confidence in finding the data they need quickly, identifying sensitive data, or using data in a consistent way” to get better results.
Strategy #4: Openly and Transparently
One of the most challenging aspects of effective onboarding is in communications. What channels to use, how often to be in touch, when is the best time? All these questions around a communications strategy need to be A/B tested again and again, until the results validate the approach.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review noted that “Achieving high-quality communications, both internally and externally, is a major challenge during onboarding, and all companies may struggle with it.”
One easy strategy is to find companies that you most admire, and emulate their onboarding practices, while shaping them to your unique offerings. Spend some time breaking the process down into component steps and approaching them systematically. Prioritize your workflow so that only the most vital information is captured first, and the process remains as simple and effortless as possible.
When you’re developing your strategy, it helps to think of good onboarding as having two aspects that work together. Firstly, there should be a personalized, intimate stream, where consumers benefit from individual, human support. A good example of this is Voice or Chat Support via the Help Center, with a neutral, information-driven aspect that can make use of automation to deliver more general support and insights to a wide audience.
BobsGuide, an industry thought leader that is connecting buyers and sellers in the Fintech sector, wrote a strong piece on onboarding in the banking sector. They found that “customers want a global experience. The system needs to have all their information no matter where they are... Robotics combined with Know Your Customer (KYC) technology signifies faster onboarding, competitive advantage, regulatory compliance, and, ultimately, customer centricity in a digital age.”
Decision makers in the financial services, insurance and health sectors recorded similar findings in the AI Foundry Report. In particular, they agreed that there is ‘an inverse relationship between manual work and efficiency’, that real-time insights are harder to come by and to act up on when data is manually captured and that automation of onboarding processes can provide data that provides opportunities to ‘delight customers’.
Download the complete Transform Content Into Insights report from AI Foundry / Forrester Research.