More than ever, with the added stress and uncertainty of a global pandemic, customers really, really do not like unpleasant surprises.
Stuck at home, they are more carefully exploring products and services, especially on social and review websites, and when they are unhappy, more and more people post to those same social and review sites, as the 2020 National Customer Rage Study warned.
There are four rules to remember for successful customer onboarding process:
- Bad news does not get better with age;
- Assume customers DO NOT read any of the fine print;
- Just-In-Time education is much more effective than initial mass education; and
- Warning customers of possible problems is a major delighter and usually strengthens sales.
An Example of a Totally Bad Experience with a Customer Onboarding Process
A friend of mine recently had two sump pumps installed in his basement as a first step in a major six- month home renovation.
He and his partner, who is an urban planner, read the three-page contract and were happy to experience the concrete pump boxes poured and the pumps installed and connected on time.
While the sump pumps were being installed, my friends happened to mention that the general contractor was arriving in two days to start framing the cabinets in the same part of the basement.
The sump pump contractor interrupted and said, “Weren’t you told? – the concrete takes four weeks to fully cure, so you can’t start until next month!” This “minor detail” created a firestorm of online criticism and customer angst.
Making Lemonade Out of Lemons
On the other hand, when we worked with SoCal Edison (SCE) upgrading their smart meters and online billing system we found that bad news, properly packaged, can reduce complaints and increase customer satisfaction.
SCE would receive energy utilization data from each home every 15 minutes and could identify homes that were using significantly more energy than they had in the past.
This continuous flow of information allowed us to identify homes that were going to receive a bill in two weeks at the end of the billing period which would be much higher than normal, a very unpleasant surprise.
As an experiment, we conducted an A/B test comparing satisfaction and complaints for over 20,000 customers receiving the surprise high bill.
The experimental homes received an email two weeks in advance of the bill with the header, “Your bill is going to be much higher than you expect, and we’re concerned!”
The email then suggested how to reduce energy consumption and initiate use of budget billing. The control group was not warned and simply received the higher bill at the end of the billing period.
Both groups were surveyed on their satisfaction and views of SCE’s concern for conservation. Those customers receiving the email were 30% more satisfied with service and SCE, while only about half as many high bill complaints were received from them. Also, over 40% of customers had opened the email, about 10 times their normal open rate.
What Can We Conclude From These Examples of a Customer Onboarding Process?
Proactive education and a customer onboarding process for new customers (or customers where there is turnover in staff) reduces unpleasant surprises and enhances customer satisfaction.
Practice the 6 steps of a Successful Customer Onboarding Process:
- Flag customers that need onboarding or education;
- Motivate (via scaring, bribing or humoring ) those customers to get educated;
- Provide basic education on product use and how to avoid problems;
- Guide customers to self-service tools;
- Educate on advanced features; and
- Evaluate education and onboarding.
For more information on customer onboarding, read our White Paper (PDF).