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Data exchange

Why customer success leaders hate their customer onboarding processes

Face it: Getting started with new software can be a pain for everyone involved.

Between cookie-cutter onboarding, manual data migration, and emailing sensitive information back and forth, a lot has to go right for a new customer to find value quickly. And you don't want them to feel buyer's remorse.

You know your new customers are asking themselves these questions post-purchase:

  • Will I get a return on my investment?

  • Will the product really work the way they say it will?

  • Will my team see this as helpful or just another step in their day-to-day duties?

  • If this doesn't work out, how will it reflect on me?

As a Customer Success (CS) leader, the last thing you want to do is implement a customer onboarding process that your customers hate.

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If your onboarding experience looks anything like this, your customers probably can't stand it:

  • Boilerplate processes that often don’t fit

  • Very little flexibility to respond to customer’s unique needs and challenges

  • Excessive onboarding email back and forth

  • Complicated, painful data cleaning steps and requirements

Onboarding issues like these cause a lot of pain for CS leaders everywhere. If customers hate how they're onboarded, it's unlikely that they'll feel satisfied or stick around for long, and that can cause customer success and implementation teams a lot of frustration.

So, how can you improve your onboarding flow? Let's start from the beginning.

If you want to learn more about how CS leaders can improve customer experience with a successful data onboarding process, download our free guide today.

The importance of customer onboarding

Customer onboarding is how your new customer is introduced to your product or service. It involves getting comfortable with the new tool, understanding what it does, knowing what buttons to push to make it do what you need it to do, and so on. It's the hand-holding between you and your client.

SaaS onboarding is a pivotal moment in the customer journey. You have the critical task of building and maintaining a solid relationship. You can do this by showing them value in your product as quickly as possible, and when this happens, it builds trust between you and your customer.

There will be times when a new user may feel overwhelmed or confused. However, the important thing is how you respond to alleviate those concerns as quickly as possible. What's at stake? Well, if a client isn't onboarded smoothly, they won't see the full value of your product or service and are more likely to churn, and your company will have lost valuable time, resources and relationships. Implementing a data onboarding strategy that works means dollars saved and increased revenue for the business.

How to address your customer onboarding process

For most business activities, it's important to test, analyze results, and iterate. The same goes for your customer onboarding process — see what's working, what needs work and switch it up.

First, examine how quickly your customer can move through the onboarding phase and into the value-driven adoption phase. The timeframe can vary depending on the product or service, company, scope and effort required on both sides, but as a general baseline, you want to aim to keep onboarding under 30 days. Just remember: The quicker your customers see value, the better for everyone.

Next, one of the best ways to measure your onboarding process's effectiveness is simple: ASK. 

As a CS leader, it can be very helpful to take the time to ask your customers about their onboarding experience. Customer feedback from simple questions like these can offer valuable insights:

  • Is it helpful?

  • What works?

  • What would they change?

Getting genuine answers to these questions will help you iterate your process and improve.

How to determine any weak points in your customer onboarding process

Successful customer onboarding requires a clear plan for your new customers that is grounded in your experience of how to get a new customer up and running most effectively. It should include structured plans and guides that help your customers understand what is required. At the same time, as a CS leader you know how valuable it is to discover your customer’s specific goals, pains and problems and help them see how your product can help. 

Here are a few onboarding metrics to help you identify any weaknesses in your client onboarding: 

Product adoption

Consider the speed and volume of usage of your product. Are they using it daily? Have they been using it since day one? These could be indicators of a solid or weak customer experience during onboarding. (Note: A client might already be satisfied with one feature of your product and happy to pay for it. It's your job to surprise and delight them by helping them realize the added benefits of other features so they never leave.)

Look at CSAT scores

If your Customer Satisfaction Scores are steadily dropping, you may want to take a look at your onboarding process. Satisfaction starts from the very beginning, and you only get one good first impression. Make it count. 


This one's pretty simple: If your customers stick around, they probably had a good experience during onboarding. Sure, there are ways to turn things around after a poor start with your brand, but it's not easy. In general, better customer onboarding leads to more loyal customers and less churn.

Keep it exciting

One underrated but very valuable thing to keep in mind is the idea of maintaining excitement. A common way that customers lose their excitement is by making them feel like data wranglers. Telling your new customers that to get fully onboarded, they have to not only take the time and effort to collect all the data needed to get the new system up and running, but that they also have to spend the time to get it in exactly the shape that is convenient for you. This can make anyone lose interest fast.

A decision-maker might have some anxiety about rolling out a new product or service, but if you approach it the right way, you can feed off the excitement post-purchase. Remind them what got them pumped about signing the dotted line and show them there's more where that came from.

How to create a customer onboarding process that CS leaders don’t hate  

Once you analyze your customer onboarding process, you may find it difficult to implement the necessary improvements, especially at scale. You might need to find the right balance between truly personal one-on-one onboarding and automated processes.

One way to approach this is to identify frequently asked questions and create guides, downloadable content or videos that answer them. That way, you don't have to type out the same answers over and over again.

Another option is to take advantage of a data file exchange platform like Flatfile, which is designed to help you build the ideal data onboarding experience for your use case and requirements. It's a collaborative, secure platform for data exchange that helps companies speed up every part of data migration, from data submission to cleaning, mapping, validation and transformation.

You spent the time, energy, and resources to acquire a new client. If you can help them find value quickly and easily, your team will have a much easier time of keeping that customer for life, and you’ll have a customer onboarding experience that might set your software apart from the competition.

When it isn't handled correctly, onboarding data can be a painful process for both customers and team members. By improving the process, customer success leaders can reduce costs, accelerate revenue and significantly increase customer satisfaction. Download this in-depth guide to find out how CS leaders can address data onboarding challenges, reducing costs, accelerating revenue and significantly increasing customer satisfaction.

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