7 Common Customer Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

If your new customers slowly but surely drop your product, you may be failing to train them how to effectively use your product.

learn more about Eric Siu

By Eric Siu

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

Eric Siu

CEO, Single Grain. Founder, Growth Everywhere.

Eric Siu is the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Grain. Single Grain has worked with companies such as Amazon, Uber and Salesforce to help them acquire more customers. He also hosts two podcasts: Marketing School with Neil Patel and Growth Everywhere, an entrepreneurial podcast where he dissects growth levers that help businesses scale. 


Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Have More Responsibilities at Work, But No Pay Bump? Use This Script to Get the Raise You Deserve.
Black and Asian Founders Face Opposition at All Levels — Here's Why That Has to Change

Invest in Yourself: 10 Things Every Working Woman Should Do This Year

When striving for success, it is easy to forget about your mental and physical health. But without health, you cannot fully succeed. Follow these ten lifestyle strategies for success in your personal and professional life.

Growing a Business

Why Organic Growth Is the Key to Success in a Competitive Market

Here's why you need to focus on organic growth in order to stand out from your competition.

Thought Leaders

5 Small Daily Habits Self-Made Millionaires Use to Grow Their Wealth

We've all seen what self-made millionaires look like on TV, but it's a lot more subtle than that. Brian Tracy researched what small daily habits these successful entrepreneurs adopted on their journey from rags to riches.

Growing a Business

8 Secrets to Success in Business

Follow these secrets to success to make 2023 a standout year for your business. Remember, success is achieved in your personal life as well as your professional life. Be sure to enjoy the entrepreneurial journey along the way.

Business News

'Don't Go to Mars': Bill Gates Shades Elon Musk's Plans to Spend Money on Mars Missions

The two billionaires have had a longstanding feud after Musk accused Gates of shorting Tesla stocks last spring.