7 Deadly Onboarding Sins and How to Avoid Them

By Mark Mitchell
Dec 7, 2021

We’ve all heard the adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, right? That statement holds true in so many different situations: meeting new colleagues, brokering new relationships with clients, and even introducing those new clients to your company’s product or system through your onboarding process. 

While you might have made a killer first impression when you sold that new client on your product, a lackluster onboarding process can actually result in an unhappy customer. If you want to keep your new customers excited about using your product, there are seven deadly onboarding sins you must avoid. Let’s explore each and learn how to avoid them. 

Don’t Keep Secrets

Keeping secrets is never healthy—unless we’re talking about the surprises and mysteries surrounding things like Santa Claus, birthday surprises, and maybe Colonel Sanders’ fried chicken recipe. When it comes to your onboarding process, customers need to know exactly what will happen. 

Remember that the person who originally signed the contract purchasing your product may not be the person with whom you’ll be working during the onboarding process. They might not have had a taste of your “secret sauce,” so it’s best to make sure you have buy-in and participation from the right stakeholders during the implementation process. Transparency, too—especially when it comes to timelines, goals, and what the finish line looks like—will help increase investment from the team and alleviate frustration. 

Don’t Steal Time

We all know how precious time is, especially when you’re waiting to be seated at a busy restaurant and your toddler is on the verge of launching into a hangry tantrum. You want to know exactly how many minutes until you’ll be seated. Your new clients want the same kind of information. They want to know exactly how long their wait will be before their new product is fully implemented.

By clearly defining timelines and milestones and setting delivery deadlines from the very beginning of the onboarding process, clients will know exactly what to expect throughout the process.

Don’t Hide Your Work

We all remember back in our grade school math classes when our teacher asked us to show our work for the answer to that tough equation: no shortcuts, cheating, or using your calculator. The same belief holds true for how we are sharing information with clients. No matter how perfectly your internal processes are running—hand-off from the sales team, launching the timeline, hosting kickoff calls, and more—your client needs clear visibility into the onboarding process. If they can’t see the steps, they might assume shortcuts are being used.

By automating processes and using templates, you can eliminate any gaps between contract signing, the onboarding launch date, and the go-live finale. Creating transparency by using tools like automated welcome emails, making internal tasks visible to clients on the project dashboard, and sending weekly project email updates will help customers feel confident throughout the entire onboarding process. 

Don’t Forget to Outline Success

There might have been one specific reason your new client opted for your product or service—one striking feature that was the biggest selling feature. But, after signing that contract and kicking off the onboarding process, there likely have been other stakeholders within the client’s company who are also eager to jump on the implementation train. Even before that train leaves the station, it’s time to thoroughly map out your customers’ expectations and what they view as success using your product. One key element to remember is that you are ultimately working with individuals who each have specific ideas, needs, and expectations they hope your product will meet. 

We’ve outlined three detailed questions you should always ask a client prior to embarking on the onboarding process: What are their desired outcomes? Why did they sign up? And what are their timelines? Read more about those questions and their importance here

Don’t Rely on Spreadsheets

There is a saying that the dullest pencil is better than the sharpest memory. That theory is true in all aspects of list making, but when it comes to the onboarding process, don’t simply rely on pencils and paper or spreadsheets and email reminders. Eliminate the clutter and confusion that can happen by instead providing clients with a single source of truth—one location for every update, task, and detail—that can be accessed by email, web browser, or mobile app.

Don’t Create Delays 

Keep that onboarding timeline top of mind for everyone on the implementation team and eliminate any possible bottlenecks by providing detailed descriptions of the entire project and individual tasks in a single glance. Deadlines, assignments, tasks, and details can now all clearly be viewed by the client through a comprehensive dashboard. Complemented by automated task reminder emails, tasks are sure to get completed, and you can still check off that item from the list, just virtually. 

An onboarding platform that gives a comprehensive view of the whole project ensures everyone sees where things are getting stuck and can help when something or someone does get stuck. 

Don’t Cause Extra Work

Do you often compare your job description to babysitting? Is your daily routine centered around making phone calls and composing emails just to keep your projects moving along? Do your customers have to check in with you for implementation status updates? If so, it’s obvious that your current onboarding process is broken. Let’s face it: We all have way too much work on our schedules to add more tasks. 

Step out of babysitter mode by setting up tasks, direct your customers on what they are responsible for, and then let them complete everything on their own time. By making those project steps clear and deploying automated task reminders and status updates, you’ll find your customers may just complete their responsibilities before the deadline. Set up tasks, let your customers know what they need to do, and let them complete the work on their own time. 

Keep the momentum of that incredible first impression going strong by further wowing your new clients with a seamless onboarding process. Simply avoid these seven deadly onboarding sins to create an effective and efficient process sure to create long-lasting, satisfied customers.

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