- By Keith Kirkpatrick
- September 1, 2022
For telecommunications companies—which are always in fierce competition to attract and retain customers—the onboarding process is the inflection point in the customer relationship. If the interaction goes smoothly, it can engender positive feelings about the provider, reinforcing the customer’s purchase decision. If the interaction is stilted, confusing, or tedious, it can frustrate the customer, taint all future interactions, and may help drive the customer into the arms of a competitor.
As such, designing a process to onboard customers quickly and efficiently should be at the top of any list of initiatives to improve the customer experience. By making the initial customer interaction smooth, it lays the groundwork for a long and beneficial relationship for both the customer and the provider.
The onboarding process itself has many components, but can be defined as an end-to-end process that encompasses:
- Helping prospective buyers understand the features and benefits of the offering
- Educating both buyers and users—who may be different people—on the product or service that has been purchased
- Providing specific guidance, tips, and help on how to get the most out of the offering while avoiding potential pitfalls and problems
- Detailing low-effort procedure for securing assistance if and when they encounter problems or challenges
Above all, onboarding should be considered a continuous process that begins during the marketing and sales steps of the customer journey. The individual elements of onboarding should also be available to customers throughout their lifecycle as they add or upgrade additional products or features.
This is particularly important with telecommunications customers, as well as other more technical products and services. Often, issues or problems are the direct result of customers not fully understanding how to accomplish a task, rather than due to the breakdown of an internal system. For example, customers have not read or watched the materials made available to them, such as the user contract, instruction manuals, or “getting started” video, and thus simply choose to contact the provider for assistance.
However, some organizations often create onboarding problems, due to structural issues, faulty assumptions, or a lack of importance attached to onboarding. For example, marketing and sales professionals may not be willing to proactively share any limitations with a product or service, for fear of jeopardizing the sale. Moreover, product managers and designers may falsely or overoptimistically believe that users read messaging associated with a product, such as the product manual, service contracts, or product quick-start guides. Finally, the responsibility for overseeing and managing the onboarding process may be muddled or siloed, thereby impacting the ability to consistently provide a good onboarding experience.
The absence of an effective onboarding process can have a profoundly negative impact on a telecom provider’s efforts to achieve and sustain high levels of customer satisfaction and retention. That is why organizations should take several steps to improve their onboarding efforts:
Identify customers who need onboarding or reboarding
There are at least five scenarios where customers should be targeted for onboarding or reboarding, including:
- When customers sign up for products or services or submit a signed contract
- When a warranty registration is submitted
- When a customer purchases an upgrade, downgrade, or adds additional features
- When a customer reaches out with a question, via digital or traditional channels
- When a customer takes delivery of a physical or digital product
Motivate customers to participate in the onboarding process
Companies should provide messaging to highlight the benefits of participating in onboarding efforts, such as pointing out that customers may encounter more issues if they skip messages or tutorials. Telcos may want to provide discounts or other benefits, such as extra features,) for participating, which can help reduce calls or inquiries to support.
Provide basic education on how to avoid common problems
One way of addressing ambivalence or resistance to onboarding efforts is to put easily consumed product and services information in front of customers just when they need it, either in the form of hyperlinks in a follow up email or receipt for purchase, or full instructions printed on a card delivered with a physical product.
Offer guidance and onboarding assistance via the channel preferred by the customer
Today’s customers are increasingly demanding to interact with providers through the channel of their choice. Provide customers with guidance across multiple channels, and utilize resources beyond written text to offer assistance, including videos, animations, and even gamification tools, in order to meet your customers where they prefer to interact.
Assess the onboarding process
CX is all about accountability, and accountability can only be achieved by regularly monitoring and analyzing what is and is not working with your onboarding efforts. By gathering feedback on the onboarding process, and then making changes where needed, onboarding can be another tool used to continually improve CX.
Customer onboarding can be an opportunity to make a great first impression with customers, while also laying the groundwork for a long and fulfilling relationship. By identifying the right customers for education and onboarding, offering innovative methods for motivating and delivering onboarding services, and analyzing and assessing the use and impact of onboarding programs, customer retention scores can be improved, support costs can be reduced, and overall CX can increase dramatically.
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