Data Onboarding

Data Onboarding: An Underrated But Crucial Part of the Customer Experience

Sheila Lahar

Posted 7/22/2021

A gold-standard customer experience is crucial to your business’ ongoing success. Great customer experiences can take many forms--and so can failed ones. The data onboarding process is an often overlooked but important part of the overall customer experience, and for many companies, it’s a daily challenge that they need to solve.

According to our State of Data Onboarding report, more than 90% of respondents have to transfer data from one system to another at some point, and 54% say they upload data every single day. Approximately 20% import customer data multiple times per day. And yet a staggering 78% have problems with their data onboarding process “sometimes” or “often.” 

A better, faster, more streamlined data onboarding process can make a huge difference in your customers’ overall experience with you.

Bottlenecks and barriers to data onboarding

There are often bottlenecks that slow down the entire data onboarding process, like importing data manually, hunting down errors, and dealing with finicky custom importers. They create extra work for you, or the client, or both, and the tedium can be aggravating for any or all parties. None of that adds up to an optimal customer experience. 

Because the data onboarding process is one of the first meaningful interactions a customer has with your company, it functions as a critical first impression. You’re setting expectations for what it will be like to work with your company going forward. If data onboarding is a frustrating experience, what does that say to your customer about what it’s going to be like to work with you? Worst case, you’ll end up with costly churn.

An outsized impact

A difficult data onboarding process can have an outsized impact on the overall customer experience. A Flatfile customer learned quickly that importing data seems easy enough but can have serious consequences if not handled correctly. The team was using a homegrown importer and consistently ran into trouble with the tool’s rigid requirements. The result was a lot of back and forth with their clients. 

Even though the data import was a small portion of their application - less than 10% - it was quickly becoming the number one issue that their clients were frustrated with. So, less than 10% of the application experience was resulting in 75% of the customer complaints. Thankfully the company acted swiftly - relying on Flatfile - and ensuring that their customers could seamlessly import their data and start getting value from their application.

Relieving the customer support crush

Poor customer experiences also place an additional burden on your company’s customer support teams. When your team is tangling with complaints and problems about data issues, that’s just wasted time and expense, especially when there are ready solutions they could deploy to proactively solve them.

For Customs City Global Solutions, a company that helps other companies manage customs compliance, this was a frustrating problem until they used Flatfile to avoid upload failures and more easily validate CSV files before saving them to their database. The amount of custom support time Customs City regained with Flatfile was significant. Customs City president James May said that before, they might end up spending four or five hours troubleshooting file uploads for each client. “Add that up among a handful of clients and we’re probably saving 20-30 hours of support time per week,” he said.

Time spent on data import-related support also means that there’s less time for other support tickets. Inkit is a company that makes a SaaS product to help automate direct mail to connect digital applications with the physical world of printers, brokers, and postal services. Before they switched to Flatfile, their customer support team was overwhelmed with data import requests--up to 30 hours per week as the company began to scale--and struggled to turn their attention to other support tickets.

Opportunity cost, opportunity lost

As an organization, you don’t want to waste the abilities of your strongest swimmers in shallow waters. But that’s exactly what happens when your crack customer support team spends all their time messing about with individual customer data import issues instead of focusing on more value-add activities. They’re pulled away from developing new products, features, and services, as well as from tasks that could improve the customer experience, like creating guides that can help customers.

That opportunity cost can be just as deep if your team tries to build and maintain its own custom importer. Flow offers a task and project management system that streamlines companies’ workflows, but the company hit a hard bottleneck when it started to onboard customers who were jumping ship from a competitor. The lack of a smooth data onboarding process stood in the way of converting those interested parties to subscribed customers. 

All of Flow’s resources were tied up in working on their flagship product’s core features; there simply wasn’t anything left that they could devote to spinning up a custom data importer, let alone to maintain and improve one over time. 

That’s what pushed Flow to turn to Flatfile’s data importer. “It removes a huge, long-term burden for us which allows us to focus on things that truly move the needle for our customers,” said Flow CEO Daniel Scrivner.

Lasting first impressions make for good lessons

The data onboarding process is an experience that people have with your company, and it’s not perfunctory--it’s absolutely a critical part of the overall customer experience. It’s important that the first impression customers have with you is untainted by bottlenecks, barriers, and blocks. A smooth, efficient, and accurate data onboarding solution can also free up internal resources and allow you to focus your energy on growing your company and its products and services.

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