B2B customer onboarding explained
For the sake of this article, we're going to start off by offering a simplified definition of digital customer onboarding in a B2B context. Why only digital? Well, to be fair, global digital transformation has led to customers' expectations of being able to do things online nowadays being taken for granted, including B2B tasks, purchases and signups. In other words, get on the train or get left behind!
B2B digital customer onboarding entails the process of getting a prospect from the decision being made to actually completing a signup, purchase or membership registration for example. An example could be attempting to open a business bank account online.
Customer onboarding has changed rapidly in recent years. In some areas, especially in the B2C, providers are creating simple, low cost, intuitive digital experiences that have fueled the growth of their business and brands. Seamless checkout solutions and customer onboarding processes have created a gap between customer expectations and the reality of what most B2B organizations offer. This shows in various surveys, revealing that between 40 and 60 percent of B2B prospects abandon digital customer onboarding processes. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that the most common reasons for abandonment are:
- Onboarding takes too long
- Contains too many steps to go through
- Requires more information than the prospect is willing to give
"Customer onboarding examples"
Why is this relevant?
The customer onboarding experience can be a “make it or break it” factor for the potential or ongoing relationship the customer has with the organization. Key variables like customer loyalty, experience, referrals and profitability have been strongly linked to the company’s customer onboarding process in several studies. Furthermore, a study by Price Intelligently, shows a similar connection, as they found that a 1% increase in customer acquisition generally translates to a 3% improvement in your bottom line.
In other words, B2B customer onboarding done the wrong way will drive clients away and reduce your overall business performance. Customer onboarding done the right way, will bring great business value!
Common mistakes in B2B customer onboarding
We've seen lots of businesses make mistakes that are negatively impacting their customer experience, conversion rate and in turn their bottom line result. Here's a few of the most common ones we've experienced.
Asking for too much data
As listed above, time spent and amount of information required to complete a customer onboarding are crucial factors in regards to abandonment rates. Still, it is one of the most common mistakes we see in B2B customer onboarding, as companies tend to ask their prospects for A LOT of information as they sign up or attempt to complete a purchase.
Far too often we find onboarding-flows that include filling out dozens of documents, identifying yourself multiple times and awaiting assessment for weeks before being approved or declined as a new customer. This process is time-consuming, complex, costly, prone to duplication and redundancy; the result is delays in onboarding a new client or onboarding abandonment.
"Multiple fields to enter manually"
Lack of "companylization"
Personalization is widely used in digital B2C buying experiences. However, in B2B the phenomenon has not yet taken flight. While high degrees of personalization in a B2C setting requires data to be collected over several purchases or visits, B2B personalization - or "companylization" as we like to call it - is actually simpler in some ways. Local offers from a company address or product recommendations based on company industry or size are just a few examples of how to do it.
A lack of "companylization" results in a customer experience that feels generic, interchangeable and unfortunately not customer centric at all. Wouldn't you like to know when signing for a service up if there was a special offer for your kind of business? Or that a certain product or service would suit your company best? Or that your specific business location opens up different possibilities?
It is time for B2B to follow in the footsteps of B2C in this regard, and create personalization on a company level in their customer onboarding processes!
Relying on manual processes
Customer onboarding flows that aren't a 100% digital or involves a degree of manual work, are always risky (due to the human error factor), time-consuming and therefore costly. We've found a number of cases, especially when legal or financial aspects are involved, where manual assessment is used as standard procedure, even when the prospect seem to have everything in order.
This is partially of course due to manual data entry requirements implemented in the customer onboarding process by B2B companies, but also as a life line or safety measure to avoid risk. However, bottom line is that most manual processes in customer onboarding processes tend to impede customer experience, increase churn and in turn, abandonment rates. Why await results of a pending application for a company credit card if you know another vendor who can approve it straight away?
"Pending application awaiting manual assessment"
How to avoid them
Bare minimum approach to data collection
Use a bare minimum approach to data collection in your customer onboarding process, to get your prospects through as smoothly as possible. If you are somehow required to collect a lot of data, e.g. when legal compliance requires it, you can avoid interfering with the customer experience by collecting data automatically in the background. API solutions are a great, intuitive and seamless way of doing so.
Identifying your customer is a must, and a starting point which can trigger collection of other data, such as the identified persons company engagements, from which a company id, address and more can be retrieved.
Using a combination of internal data and external data can help you create a tailored, "companylized" experience in your B2B customer onboarding. Using what you know about your customers and qualifying them in their onboarding process through external data collection, creates opportunities for customized offers, additional sales and an overall better customer experience.
Offer specific products, services or discounts based on your prospects company size, industry, revenue, number of employees and location for example. Other data that could be of interest includes demographics, firmographics, behavioral data and contextual data.
Automated data collection and assessment measures
To avoid churn and abandonment rates, most of the data you require to collect in your process should be retrieved automatically and in the background of your onboarding flow. Fetching data automatically through API's is the way to go in our opinion, which can be done smoothly and lay the foundation for potential assessments of the company that are signing up or completing a purchase.
As an example, you want to make sure that a company applying for a credit card at a bank, meets the requirements to do so. Conducting audits on the companies financial information, representatives and their engagements and PEP & Sanctions Lists screenings are potential things you want to look at, which can be done through API solutions.
To avoid manual assessments of applications like the example above, you should consider setting up rules on your end, to be able to make decisions real time when a potential customer "checks out" so to speak. Meaning, if a prospect meets all your criteria for a specific product or service, you can approve them directly in your digital customer onboarding process and reduce frustration from time-consuming manual assessment.