When it comes to customer onboarding, the common practice is to measure customer satisfaction at the end. While this helps you know the improvements that future onboarding projects require, you miss the opportunity to measure customer sentiment during the process and potentially avoid an unfortunate issue or steer an errant process back on course. The risk is losing a new customer or unnecessarily limiting the relationship.
Today’s digital enterprise insists that all critical business functions be dashboard-driven to provide real-time knowledge with the capability for continuous improvement. Course corrections can be made on a per-incident basis and at a process level to ensure better results in the future. Marketing systems, for example, ensure that advertising spend can be evaluated in terms of the leads generated and sales results. Similarly, procurement systems minimize costs, hasten delivery schedules and help leverage relationships with key suppliers. Systems throughout the enterprise bring similar knowledge and fine-tuning.
Customer onboarding is another strategic function that can benefit from near real-time course correction and continuous improvement. In addition, the process marks a critical “first impression” experience for customers where the relationship between customer and vendor is particularly vulnerable and opinions made that may not be easily changed. Measuring customer sentiment at the end of onboarding greatly reduces the ability to ensure satisfied or delighted customers. If too many customer engagements end poorly or with suboptimal results, the company faces excessive churn, brand erosion, impaired reputation and loss of revenue.
On the other hand, measuring customer satisfaction throughout the onboarding process helps you be proactive and turn every customer engagement into a satisfying experience. Companies could embark on a “no customer lost” initiative while continually improving the experiences.
If a customer rated their onboarding at each key milestone, there are benefits beyond just knowing customer sentiment. First, there is the value of intensity. When your team knows their engagement is being measured at every point, they perform at their best level every single time. Think of preparation for a kick-off meeting where the team members know the customer is going to rate their experience versus the case when there is no such rating. Surely it can make the difference between a 4-star and a 5-star experience being delivered.
Second, when the customer is rating you at each point, they also tend to remember the positive experiences better, rather than having the overall impression colored by one bad experience along the journey. When you just ask for feedback at the end of onboarding, they may drift towards just those moments that were not so great. So, this helps your customer reflect upon the partnership in a better way at each point in time.
Such continuous measurement requires more than just a new way to gauge a customer’s satisfaction level during onboarding and spot any deficiencies or issues. Companies need a new engagement model for customers and the means to carry it out. This new approach requires three main capabilities.
First, onboarding needs to become a cohesive end-to-end process. For many companies, onboarding is an assortment of people, procedures, documents, and tools. Customer onboarding is fraught with inconsistencies and entails a reinvention of the wheel with nearly every engagement. Often, the best results come only through the heroic or extraordinary work of one or a few of the most capable onboarding team members. Fixing this is a foundational advancement that is necessary to put the effective process “horse” in front of the measurement “cart.”
Onboarding needs its own system of record to enable a single pane of glass view of the exact status of each onboarding engagement. This enables standardization, consistency, and quality control. It fosters collaboration and creates transparency and accountability. In addition, there should also be a centralized repository of standardized documents to work from, and these can be improved or adjusted over time or according to need.
With onboarding integrated, the entire process becomes more efficient and effective. This will boost customer satisfaction and also enable better monitoring (Where is the onboarding process for a given customer? What has been completed and what still needs completion?) and adjustments.
Second, companies need to make the onboarding process interactive and collaborative for customers. Onboarding information including updates, refinement of needs, and any changes should be shared in both directions—from the vendor as well as the customer. Managing the process of onboarding should be shared between company and customer. This sharing and collaboration could be enabled by having a shared workspace and establishing new procedures.
Third, a system of record and a means for information sharing and collaboration could enable assessment mechanisms, to measure customer satisfaction throughout the onboarding journey. Customers can be prompted to rate each step and provide comments or raise concerns. This assessment can be part of the ongoing shared management and done organically without being disruptive or adding extra work for the customer.
Ongoing measurement provides markedly better results and is actually less resource-intensive than measurement at the end— the latter may require considerable efforts to reactively address a problem allowed to grow larger. To occur naturally and enable helpful responses, such measurement must be accompanied by a more systematic approach to onboarding. A more consistent and systematic approach to onboarding elevates the potential for greater customer satisfaction. Evolving both the cart and horse ensures that customers can get the best satisfaction.