10 ways to eliminate dropouts in your customer onboarding process

Customer Experience
Digital Transformation
November 22, 2020
minutes read

Dropouts are a huge opportunity in any onboarding process. Most of the cost of acquisition has already taken place so you’re unlikely to have a better return on investment on anything to increase your sales. From over a decade working in customer onboarding, Michael Common shares 10 ways you can reduce dropouts:

1. Challenge if you need information or documentation

It seems obvious but it’s actually often very hard to do. Different departments have different agendas when it comes to onboarding. The thirst for data and documentation is insatiable. Marketing wants to know everything about the applicant. Sales want to cross-sell everything they can. Legal and compliance want pop-ups and terms and conditions for every conceivable interpretation of every law and regulation. Credit risk wants to know everything about the applicant’s circumstances. Fraud wants to eliminate any possibility of a person being impersonated. Servicing want to know every possible future contact point. Suppliers and partners often have their own demands based on their own internal departmental agendas.

The pressure of these agendas for those designing and running onboarding processes is great. It is easy to coalesce and end up with an incredibly painful journey for the applicant. This result is significant dropouts and lost sales. You need to be able to articulate the cost of losing valuable sales against the value of asking for all this data.

Ideally, the best approach is to launch with the absolute minimum amount of data. That way it is easy to size the value being missed by various departments. When changes are made increasing the data being asked for, the impact that has on increased dropouts is easily measurable. It is also worth considering if there are easier to source data points that can deliver at least some of the value being requested.

2. Make it easy to start and return to the process at the applicant’s convenience

Assuming your application process takes over a few seconds, you have to make it as simple as possible for an applicant to dip in and out of the application. There is nothing more infuriating than having to start from scratch. Many will choose not to if you insist on this.

NOTE: this doesn’t demand you to be ‘omnichannel’. Despite the buzz in recent years, I’ve never seen evidence that applicants choose to flip between different channels on a whim. If an applicant flips to a different channel it is because they couldn’t get done what they wanted to in the channel they started in.

3. Minimise fragmenting the process

Enforcing a stop in the process for a subprocess to run will inevitably result in dropouts. This should be avoided. If you have to split your process into fragments then key questions to ask are:

  • Can I merge two fragments together or eliminate the need for a fragment by doing something different at an earlier stage e.g. credit scoring earlier or asking for a key bit of data earlier (like bank transactional information, or information that would disqualify the applicant from the product)?
  • Does the activity necessitate the fragmented part of the process deliver value equivalent to the cost of the dropouts? If not, drop it.
  • Can sub-processes that are causing the fragment to be kicked off early such that they have a chance of completing come to the end of the process e.g. an identity check that can be complete by the time the application is done?

On complex processes, using a Lean methodology to analyse and continuously improve the process minimises wasted time, effort, and the overall end to end in-process time.

4. Be digital first

In the modern age, the vast majority of people will want to take a product digitally. Most of the time those people will opt to do that over a smartphone, as long as they believe the process can work well on a smartphone (60% of the internet traffic in the UK is now on a smartphone). That’s because this is the most convenient and personal channel for people to use. It’s the channel that’s on them all the time and it’s unobtrusive in their busy days.

Whilst the laggards will exist who prefer phone calls or branch, it’s a diminishing minority. The primary focus of the onboarding experience should be digital on smartphones.

5. Eliminate intrusive process steps and don’t rely on printers

It shouldn’t need to be said but it still happens so often. Many people don’t have a printer these days. If they do, it’s likely out of paper or ink. Even if they have it functioning, it is still a time consuming, laborious activity. In a modern-day era likely to be more focussed on home working, you can’t even rely on people having readily available access to an office printer. It’s also very bad for the environment. Don’t make people print if at all possible.

Forcing yourself on people with branch and telephone appointments is also to be avoided. Sometimes this is seen as part of the process to build a relationship. To do that though, you don’t necessarily need calls or branches. If you think about how most people communicate today it is via messaging. That’s because messaging is unobtrusive, quick, and easy. There’s no need for appointments. If you’re in a messaging conversation and the person wants a call, then that’s an easy thing for them to ask for and arrange. Few will.

6. Be clear and pithy in language and avoid jargon

Another thing that is easily said but hard to do. It takes a lot of thought to say something in as few words as possible, really clearly. It is worth the effort though. Applicants won’t commit the time to read verbose information and won’t be able to decipher jargon. Even the simplest process can have significant dropouts if this isn’t done well.

Using placeholder text well in form fields can reduce clutter on a form and is in a great position to ensure it is read.

7. Give clear feedback through the journey

We all know technology can be frustrating. Most of the time that is down to a lack of feedback on what is happening. If something is processing, make that clear. If there’s an error stopping progress, then make that clear including what to do to resolve it. The next action the applicant needs to take should be really obvious. If something is going to take some time, be really clear on how long that is.

Once a design is in place, sit with users as they use it. I’m always amazed how obvious usability issues are missed by those designing and building something because their perspective is so different to the actual person using it for the first time.

8. Have a way to re-engage dropouts

Despite your best efforts, people will still drop out. Yet as per the introduction, these people were right at the end of your sales process. They had a need and were ready to invest in your product. They just felt let down by the extent of the investment needed in the onboarding process.

If you make sure you have a way of re-engaging these people, with clear information on what went wrong or what’s left to do, you will win a significant proportion of them back. So often I see processes where applicants are just given up on as soon as they drop out. These dropouts are the easiest, hottest leads you could wish for and they’re completely free!

9. Be personal – don’t make humans impossible to reach

Be digital-first, but that can’t come at a cost of hiding away your human support. Hiding human support behind impossible to find links or phone numbers, or annoying IVRs, call queues or chatbot menus drives people up the wall. They will only contact you if they have to.

By hiding away human support, or even not offering it at all, you will incur dropouts. Importantly as well, you will not get the feedback as to why they wanted to speak to you in the first place. This feedback will tell you what caused the failure in the digital process so you can fix it.

By making sure human support is obvious and readily available, you can both optimise your digital process as well as giving the applicant a great first impression of the approachability of your business.

10. Don’t forget onboarding isn’t over until the applicant is using the product or service

Whatever the product or service is, it is imperative that you don’t drop the customer once the product is set up.

Regular and relevant contact making the customer feel good about their purchase, as well as providing guidance to ensure they get the value they expect, makes sure you don’t end up with customers quickly leaving your service, never paying for it or returning goods. When doing these communications, don’t overwhelm the customer with everything you want to tell them on day 1. Keep messaging as simple and light as possible. Stagger messages too. Ideally, this should be based on trigger points as the customer engages with your product and service, ensuring the information arrives at the point it is most likely to be relevant to them.

If there’s some level of fulfillment, e.g. some physical items that have to be distributed, do this quickly. Clearly signpost how long it will take at the end of the process.

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Written by

Michael Common
CEO & Co-Founder, Nivo