Data Onboarding

How to Tackle Data Chaos in Customer Onboarding

Sheila Lahar

Posted 9/16/2020

Every day, humans produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Your customers produce a fraction of that daily global statistic, but even a fraction is still a lot.

The sheer volume of data alongside lackluster data management processes together lead to what’s known as data chaos, and it can cause a terrible experience for new customers, both those who need to onboard their own data and those who expect a white glove level of service from your customers success team. 

What on earth is data chaos? (You probably know it well)

Data chaos is the web of confusion and missed opportunities created by mass volumes of data, especially unstructured data and data that is not stored in a meaningful or useful way. 

Truthfully, we’ve all experienced data chaos at some point in our careers, if not monthly or even weekly. 

It can show up when you’re migrating from one tool to another, when you encounter challenges with internal knowledge sharing, and when you seek to make data-driven decisions. 

But in this blog post, we’re looking specifically at how data chaos affects customer onboarding.

Signs you’re experiencing data chaos during customer onboarding

Not sure if your organization has this common customer data onboarding problem? Let’s take a look at these sure signs that you do:

  • The process for Customer Success Managers (CSMs) onboarding customers’ data looks different every time.

  • You don’t have technology and procedures in place to deal with the data chaos handed over to you by customers who are eager to get onboarded quickly.

  • It can take longer than a couple of weeks to onboard new customers. 

  • Customers love your product, but you’ve gotten negative feedback about your customer onboarding process and the time to value.

Top risks of data chaos during customer onboarding

Seventy two percent of companies surveyed by Forrester said that customer success is their top priority. And for good reason. Acquiring a new customer tends to be anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing customer. 

Without customer onboarding tools and processes in place that can dispel the data chaos, organizations risk frustrating the new customers that they should be impressing. This can result in immediate churn. 

Even when contracts are in place, customers may be unsettled if there are any headaches or slow downs in the data onboarding process as part of the broader customer onboarding. They might feel swayed by competitors who can back up their promises of fast and easy onboarding with proof of their superior processes.

How to handle data in an effective customer onboarding program

For many different types of products, an effective customer onboarding program needs to put data in the spotlight. 

From marketing and sales to inventory management to HR to product development, there are thousands of SaaS tools that can’t offer any value until their customers’ data is ready to use. 

This is especially true with enterprise customers, who…

  • Already have loads of critical data (since they aren’t new or small businesses)

  • Need to utilize all available data and integrate it smoothly, instead of keeping it siloed in different solutions

  • Expect hands-on assistance with onboarding 

An effective customer onboarding program takes all of these factors into account and simplifies the process of data onboarding for customers as much as possible. Essential components include a collaborative workspace for customers and CSMs, well-trained CSMs, and excellent communication throughout the process. 

Let’s take a look at the top tools and techniques.

Tools and techniques that prevent data chaos during customer onboarding

When customers come to you—yes, especially enterprise customers—their data chaos becomes your problem. You need to offer a structured process for wrangling and utilizing their critical datasets. 

Some aspects of data onboarding invariably fall on the shoulders of your customer. After all, you don’t have access to all their systems. However, you can give them a roadmap for the data they need and offer technological solutions to minimize the amount of manual effort required from them.

Data onboarding process how-to: Create a collaborative space for customers and CSMs

Email, Google docs, and PDF handouts are not an effective way to communicate with customers about the data onboarding process. 

These methods aren’t trackable or clear to understand. For the same reason that project managers use task management tools to assign tasks instead of communicating via email, CSMs shouldn’t communicate using this outdated method either. 

Instead, look for a collaborative data onboarding workspace that offers a single shared view of all pending data imports, completed data imports, expectations,and timelines.

Flatfile Concierge for example offers the following features to CSMs who want to uplevel the experience they deliver to customers during the onboarding phase:

  • A single home for all enterprise customer data

  • Transforms CSV, XLS, TSV, and more into clean, validated output

  • Auto-matches 95% of imported data fields

  • Browse and search import history

Creating a Concierge Workspace

Data onboarding process how-to: Offer a powerful CSV importer

Depending on how tech savvy your customers are, you can upload data for them or allow them to do it themselves in your collaborative workspace. Some customers are naturally more self sufficient, which is why you’ll want this option. 

Your collaborative workspace isn’t just a project management tool. It needs to include a robust CSV importer that turns requirements into uploads and into usable data that’s ready to go in your client’s account. 

While the CSM is there at every step of the way, customers will often need to upload some files themselves. You should have a CSV importer that is user-friendly and intuitive. It should help users easily diagnose any issues to minimize frustration. There should also be very specific messages within the importer that help users know exactly what they might need to fix before uploading data.

Upload and reviewing data in Concierge

Data onboarding process how-to: Effectively communicate with customers about data requirements

Communication is critical. You need to know customer data is required to enjoy full use of your platform, what data is desirable to help your customers avoid internal issues with knowledge sharing, data utilization, and data silos, and what data is simply a “nice to have” but isn’t high priority.  

Apply your knowledge of the industry and the data that matters to what you know about your customers’ businesses to determine the data requirements. 

You should assign these to customers in phases based on the priority level and you should also know which customer contact is in charge of which data source, or have a single point of contact who can point you in the right direction. 

Again, a collaborative data onboarding workspace is ideal. You can use this platform to assign the right data requirement to the right person with the right deadline.

Data onboarding process how-to: Make sure the CSM is well-trained in handling data

Dealing with your customers’ data chaos is even more complicated than dealing with your own, because it’s not your data; you might not be familiar with it. 

CSMs who want to go above and beyond for their customer accounts during the onboarding process need to be experts in data handling and data importing. As a team, you can create dummy data to work with so that you don’t jeopardize customer data during training. 

Focus your training on the type of data that yields success for customers, the format the data should be in, and handling any issues that arise during the data import process. 

A great CSV importer can make this responsibility easier on your team by minimizing the required manual work. Your data importer should handle data parsing, data mapping, data structuring, data validation, and data transformation, but your CSMs still need to be trained in helping customers collect and prepare the data.

Take care of data security and data privacy

When it comes to touching your customers’ data, security and privacy need to be top priorities.  Make sure to only exchange data with customers in a secure environment. Your collaborative workspace should have built-in security mechanisms like authentication flow and verification. 

This helps you ensure that only authenticated users can access customer data. You’ll want to make sure that outside contractors, for example, have no access to the collaborative platform with customer data, and that only internal employees are granted access. More specifically, you’ll only want people on the CS team handling customer data.

As companies create more and more data, the chaos isn’t going away anytime soon. What matters is having the right technology and systems in place to help your customers deal with it so that they can successfully use your product - sooner rather than later!

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