Customer Experience

7 Common Customer Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

As an entrepreneur, there’s nothing more exciting than putting the finishing touches on your new product and seeing your vision come to life. But all too often, this excitement becomes a trap. Spending all of this time honing and polishing a product can leave business owners woefully unprepared for one of the most important factors in a product’s success -- the onboarding process.

Related: Creating Customers for Life: 50 Resources on Loyalty, Churn and Customer Retention

“Onboarding” refers to the process through which you give new subscribers the knowledge and skills needed to become effective users. If you’re having trouble converting new leads into permanent customers, it might not be market competition or other external circumstances to blame. The problem could lie in one of the following common onboarding mistakes:

1. Overpromising benefits.

It’s easy to get carried away when writing your product’s marketing copy. You’re excited, so it’s hard not to slip in adjectives like “groundbreaking,” "revolutionary" and “better than sex.”  

But beware of falling into this trap, as users who don’t experience the value they expect upon sign up aren’t likely to stay onboard for long. The solution? Have an acquaintance with no stake in your company read your copy and describe back to you the benefits he imagines enjoying. If his descriptions match up with your understanding of your product, you’ve got a marketing disconnect that needs to be resolved.

2. Ignoring slow load times.

According to a Radware case study, even just a 2-second delay in load times can lead to page abandonment rates of up to 87 percent. Essentially, if your product is slow to load, your users are going to be frustrated. And since frustrated users aren’t good for your business’s growth, invest the necessary resources into bringing your product’s performance up to an acceptable level.

3. Making assumptions.

Don’t confuse your passion for your product with an actual understanding of your customer’s needs. Even companies that have done extensive buyer research and profiling can make the mistake of getting so excited about shiny new bells and whistles that they forget to ask whether customers even want these features in the first place.

The only solution to this mistake is to make regularly engaging with your customers a priority. Reach out to them by email, call them up on the phone or solicit their opinions via social media. Then, take what they tell you -- as well as your personal insights -- into consideration as you make changes to your product.

4. Throwing spaghetti at the wall.

Every step in your onboarding process should represent a thoughtful addition to your conversion funnel -- not something you’ve added because you think you should (or worse, because your competitor did). If, for example, you aren’t 100 percent sure that having a phone number field on your sign-up form contributes meaningfully to your conversion rates, take it off (or, better still, test it).

Related: 4 Steps to Knowing What Your Customers Want Better Than They Do

While simpler tends to be better when it comes to increasing sign ups, don’t assume that a frictionless experience is the ideal in every situation. Take the example of brain-training app Lumosity. By adding a lengthy survey to the sign-up process, the company was able to increase paid subscriber rates by 10 percent.

5. Making users work for their rewards.

Unfortunately, users aren’t blessed with unlimited attention spans. As a result, it’s up to you to get them signed up for your product and then experiencing its benefits as quickly as possible. Onboarding isn’t about training them on every feature of your user interface right away -- it’s about getting them to the first small win that demonstrates your value as fast as you can.

6. Failing at follow-up.

Customer communication is crucial -- and that goes double for messages that go out during the onboarding process. If all you do is send out a subscription confirmation email and a “trial expiring soon” message a few weeks later, you’re missing out on some important opportunities.

So when should you send out extra messages? Think about those “small wins” described above. Create autoresponder messages that help them move towards these actions and then, if possible, send them triggered emails that congratulate them on their achievements.

7. Responding slowly to customer comments.

A recent survey conducted by The Social Habit found that 42 percent of respondents who use social media to send questions or complaints to companies expect a response within 60 minutes. Further, 67 percent expect a response within the same day.

If you miss these critical opportunities to connect, you risk tarnishing your brand’s reputation and losing would-be customers during the onboarding process. Don’t just say you offer support via email, chat, phone or social media -- actually back up your promises by committing to a response time of less than one hour.

What did I miss? Share other mistakes you’ve observed in the comments below!

Related: A High Churn Can Cause Your Business to Crash and Burn