Problematic onboarding experiences aren’t unusual.

Does this sound familiar?

Your company invests heavily in building awareness of a new digital product. The product has a compelling brand, and a campaign that’s been generating an impressive number of quality leads. The sales team has been converting at a higher-than-average rate, and the number of new, signed customers is exceeding forecasts.

Flash forward to 18 months later: while initial sign-ups were great, the number of people actually using the platform is below expectations, and revenue is disappointing.  A series of promotional emails to spur activity falls flat.

We’ve spoken with a lot of companies who have this issue. When one of our large clients launched a digital foreign exchange platform, everyone was excited. They were generating a lot of leads and had an easy-to-use platform that tested well. But there was a weak link in the chain: their onboarding process for new users was messy and frustrating.

Problematic onboarding experiences aren’t unusual. But for this particular company, a bad experience had a serious negative revenue impact. They found if clients didn’t transact in the first 6 months, they never would.

When we mapped the onboarding experience from the customer perspective, we surfaced some systemic issues:

  • A piecemeal experience, with customer touchpoints spread across siloed teams with no clear best practices for when, why, and how to transition
  • Communications that were simultaneously overwhelming with information about features and functions, but under-informing about key pieces of the process
  • A disconnect between the benefits being promoted and the triggers for customers needing to transact
  • An overall lackluster experience that didn’t live up to the company’s reputation for superb world-class service

Based on our findings, we created 5 principles to guide their new onboarding experience:

1. Better transparency & expectation-setting—one of the biggest insights from our research was that customers wanted a much clearer idea of when things would happen, how long they would take, and what information was necessary to facilitate the process.

2. Greater consistency across different touchpoints—Our client’s customers were receiving emails from the company’s central marketing group, their relationship manager, and auto-generated emails triggered by the platform itself. Each one had a different header, different language tones, and different calls-to-action and contact information. This may seem small, but in foreign exchange, where there is a lot of uncertainty around where money is going, it made customers question the reliability of and investment in the platform.

3. Information delivered in context—our client had developed helpful FAQs and guides, but they were buried as PDFs in a “help” section of the platform. Instead, we recommended they create contextual help throughout the experience; for example, if a customer was unfamiliar with a type of bank account information that was being required for a payment, they could roll over the form field to get immediate guidance. They also split welcome emails into action-based steps based on the customer’s stage in the process.

4. Trigger-based communications, not time-based—initially, our client was sending email reminders at 30, 60, and 90 days if customers hadn’t finished sign-up. We recommended they shift to a trigger-based reminder process, where emails were initiated based on an action or lack thereof; for example, if they had started to create a payment but never sent it. Additionally, while our client was sending promotional emails rewarding transactions within a specific time frame with more points, customers had very little control over when payments needed to happen.

5. “Wow” at key moments—in onboarding, it’s important to ask two questions. Am I meeting my customer’s basic expectations for an easy experience; and what are the calculated moments I can go above and beyond to make the process not just smooth, but memorable and shareable?

Here’s the biggest question to ask about your onboarding process: do you really know what it’s like? Our client was shocked and appalled when we mapped theirs and revealed that customers were getting, in some cases, 17 emails and 7 phone calls from up to 6 different people. In a large and silo-ed organization, it happens more than you think.

Luckily, this case had a happy ending: our client prioritized a handful of key changes and created an onboarding experience that reduced customer service email and call volume by more than 50%, and allowed their sales teams to re-focus on growing accounts instead of salvaging them.

If you think your company has an onboarding problem, feel free to reach out.