By: Rami Bachir, Sales Manager – Middle East at Kodak Alaris, Information Management division
Customer onboarding or client onboarding (CoB), as we call the process of ‘entering’ new customers in the organization is an important moment of truth. It’s when you really make the difference, deliver upon the promises why people became a customer to start with and the stage when the seeds of customer retention and high customer lifetime value are planted. When it’s done poorly, customer onboarding is where the seed of churn are planted. In some industries onboarding takes more time and is more complicated, due to among others the complex nature of the service and the loads of information and data that are involved. It’s why there is more focus on a strategic onboarding approach in industries such as retail banking or insurance.
Customer onboarding is a critical first stage in customer experience. After all, first impressions make lasting impacts. Evidence suggests we form first impressions in about 1/10 of a second, and that they stick with us for the duration of a relationship.
Because of this, better, faster customer onboarding translates into growth: most business leaders agree it is cheaper to retain a customer than it is to acquire one. Also, 94% of customers who have a “low-effort experience” will buy from that same company again.
Not only that, but once your customers are happily onboarded, they return the favor with of lower-touch annuity revenue.
To get both sides of the equation happy, you need to make the process as easy as possible. And that starts by reducing complexity. In the Era of Data Chaos, routine processes like customer onboarding frequently become bogged down by the sheer volume of data and documents. This leads to an onboarding process that takes too many steps and zig-zags between paper and digital touchpoints. This of course is not a good start to a long-term customer relationship.
Streamline Customer Onboarding in 4 Quick Steps
The good news is that improving the customer onboarding process doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Making small improvements to customer onboarding can have a sizable impact. Change in this regard is both critical and possible - we chose the word ‘hacks’ to describe the tips below because these incremental steps have substantial pay-offs, and don’t take a great deal of time or resources.
You can move the needle - today - by streamlining customer onboarding:
1. Standardize where you can. Connect where you can’t.
Repeatability is key to increasing efficiency. If your customer onboarding looks different every time, it’s important to establish standards for interaction with new customers, including everything from the order of email and phone communication to required documentation at different stages.
It is true that some customer needs will vary and require special attention. A standard process gives you a straight line to internal efficiency, but it doesn’t give all your customers the flexibility they need in the real world. Not every customer can come into the office to make a copy of their identification, for example. But in this case, when you can accept a picture taken from a smartphone, a customer's experience is smoother, and they’re onboarded faster. Even better, modern web-capture solutions can connect to your backend systems, reducing manual effort on your part to input customer information.
2. Use paper as an input, not an endpoint.
Customer onboarding typically relies heavily on paper. In finance, examples are account/card applications, credit reports, and loan origination documents. For law firms, it could be intake forms, depositions, and release forms. Every industry has a mountain of paper documents that come with new business.
Customer onboarding with paper as an input is able to process information at the speed of business. Rather than relying on paper - which can only be in one place at once time - as a final record, modern customer onboarding uses web capture to quickly scan, categorize and distribute customer information to internal stakeholders.
3. Automate needs assessment where possible.
On a first visit with a new client, much of your upfront time may be spent asking questions that are fairly routine, or gathering documents that could be submitted before the appointment. Where possible, automate. Create an online survey for onboarding questions, or allow web submission for needed signup forms.
You save massive amounts of time on busy work, and your customers are able to complete their parts at their convenience.
4. Reach out early with helpful welcome resources.
Greeting your customers with helpful documentation and tutorials not only indicates thoughtfulness, it also improves the speed of onboarding. Welcome packets and online libraries do this by serving as customer support that works for you: customers can get their questions answered on-demand.
If left on your website or product passively, your new customers may have to go hunting for information when they need it. Much like websites, where first impressions are formed in 50 milliseconds, customers will have quick reactions to your product.
Don’t let your customers get discouraged and give up after they’ve committed to your product and your business. Proactively reach out with helpful tips and information, so they feel comfortable using your offerings and know they have support available a click away.
A great way to do this is with a welcome series of emails. After they sign up, use marketing automation tools to serve them up a collection of emails with tips on getting started and getting the most out of your service or product.
You can also bring new levels of engagement with automated physical mailer delivery. Lob.com is a new service that enables you to “programmatically send physical mail at scale.” The value to your organization is in significantly reduced costs and increased speed.
You Can Speed Up Customer Onboarding Today
As far as experience is concerned, customers need to know you’ve done this before. You are experts at delivering great experiences with your products and services. When they are greeted by a clear outline, informed of the steps upfront, and guided effortlessly through the process, the positive first impression will pay dividends.
And when it comes to efficiency, it’s a simple concept with tangible implications: making a plan is always a good first step toward improvement.