So, sales just passed the torch, and now it‘s your turn to onboard a new customer. While it feels like the end of one journey, in reality, it’s more like setting sail on a new voyage.

As you gear up with your meticulously crafted onboarding process, you can‘t help but think of seasoned sailors navigating unpredictable waters. They know that even the most detailed maps can’t always predict the challenges ahead.

From paperwork to technical hurdles, I‘ve come to realize that customer onboarding is far more than just ticking off boxes. It’s a nuanced dance of patience, empathy, and a touch of technical finesse.

In this article, I‘ll delve into the common challenges of customer onboarding, drawing from the insights of our experienced support specialists. Together, let’s navigate through these challenges and ensure a smooth journey for our new customers.

1. Lack of Information

Sometimes, customers might not provide all the necessary information during onboarding, making it challenging for service reps to understand their needs fully. Or it could be the other way around, as the employee may be missing out on the latest product or service information needed to properly onboard.

Josefina Ondo-Baca, one of HubSpot’s Senior Customer Support Specialists, shares her experience with trying to move forward with everchanging information, “Staying in the loop about changes to the product is one of the areas where I’m challenged the most. Having systems that facilitate collaboration and information sharing across teams (product developers, product marketers, technical writers, onboarding specialists) is imperative to avoid delays to successfully onboard a customer.”

2. Complex Products/Services

If the product or service being onboarded is complex, it can be difficult for service reps to explain its features and benefits clearly to customers.

To mitigate confusion, establish an ongoing feedback loop for your customers as they onboard. They’ll be able to specifically call out their pain points and give your team valuable information to fix or improve.

Pro Tip: Provide live demo videos of how to use your product to newly onboarded customers. Not only is it good for them to access as they become more familiar, but it can help demystify seemingly complex tools.

3. Technical Issues

Technical glitches or issues with software platforms used for onboarding can disrupt the process and frustrate both customers and service reps, even causing them to leave and search for an alternative. After all, according to Precursive, poor onboarding is the third highest reason for customer churn.

Ondo-Baca continues to say, “Technical issues surely present a roadblock because they are not always expected and can result in changes to the original onboarding plan. It also can reduce users’ confidence in the product offering. Being flexible and having knowledge on how to troubleshoot in these cases are valuable skills in such instances.”

4. Resistance to Change

Some customers may resist change, particularly if transitioning from a previous provider or system to a new one.

Senior Customer Support Specialist Mellissa Rhodes, shares her experience working through change. “With onboarding you’re always taking someone used to doing things a certain way and trying to teach them something new. With that comes preconceived notions about how something should be done or anxiety around changing as well as a lack of confidence in the new product. All hard things to overcome!”

5. Language and Communication Barriers

In a global marketplace, language and communication barriers can pose significant challenges during customer onboarding, especially when dealing with customers from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

“No team is the same when it comes to their communication. Some teams have physical offices while others work remotely. As new communication and enablement resources become available, it’s important to synchronize with the customer on which channel would be the most effective to conduct onboarding for all parties involved which might not always be a preferred channel for us.” Ondo-Baca goes onto say.

6. Time Constraints

Service reps often face time constraints during onboarding, especially if they have to adhere to strict schedules. This hurdle can cause customers to feel frustrated if they fail to see value in an adequate amount of time.

7. Training and Knowledge Gaps

Service reps need to be well-trained and knowledgeable about the products or services they are onboarding, but sometimes there may be gaps in their training or understanding.

Rhodes continues to say, “Everyone you work with will be coming from a different starting point and navigating that can be difficult. Onboarding a seasoned professional vs someone new are two different processes.”

8. Managing Expectations

Setting realistic expectations is crucial during onboarding, but it can be challenging to manage customer expectations, especially if they have unrealistic demands or assumptions.

Additionally, there’s generally more pressure on the customer onboarding team — from small to mid-size businesses, all the way up to enterprise businesses — that largely feel that customer onboarding is accountable for managing expectations.

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9. Documentation and Paperwork

Research shows that 86% of customers are more likely to remain loyal to a business when they have access to educational and welcoming onboarding content after making a purchase. However, if the process of distributing this content is convoluted or disorganized, it can leave a negative impression on customers.

Moreover, completing essential documentation and paperwork during the onboarding process can be a time-consuming and burdensome task for both service representatives and customers.

10. Follow-up and Support

Providing adequate follow-up and ongoing support after the initial onboarding phase is essential for customer success, but service reps may face challenges in maintaining consistent communication and assistance.

Pro Tip: Make sure your customers have clear communication channels after they’ve undergone onboarding. They should feel like they can reach out for help and have their needs met ongoingly. Open lines of communication can also result in positive feedback or testimonial collection.

Create a Customer-Centric Onboarding Process

While you may encounter onboarding challenges, effectively addressing them can set your business relationship up for success. Anticipating and proactively tackling these hurdles can drive customer satisfaction, loyalty, and success in the evolving onboarding landscape.

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