Customer Onboarding Challenges and How to Overcome Them [Research]

Elen Udovichenko
April 23, 2024
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The success of any business depends on many things, but above all — on its ability to onboard new customers effectively. 

However, the process is rife with challenges that can hinder smooth transitions and impact customer satisfaction. 

In a recent survey we conducted among Customer Success (CS) professionals, several recurring issues surfaced, shedding light on the complex landscape of customer onboarding. Let's delve into these challenges and explore strategies to overcome them.

The State of B2B Client Onboarding in 2024
Get a free copy of our ebook to discover how growing B2B companies onboard their new customers and learn from the challenges they face.

Challenges in customer onboarding process: Data-backed insights

Tracking tasks/owners/deadlines is the onboarding challenge cited by nearly half of the surveyed CS professionals. With just over 45% of responses, info asymmetry during the handover and the lack of clarity when it comes to goals, expectations, and next steps come close second in the list of onboarding challenges. This most likely stems from the underutilization of specialized tools and overreliance on email for customer communication during the onboarding.

At the same time, 43.6% of respondents observed challenges in engaging the buyer during onboarding. A few respondents mentioned a lack of urgency on the customer’s side which can slow down the onboarding process and potentially lead to delays in achieving desired outcomes. Again, using proper tools to lay out and execute your onboarding plan could help keep your buyers on track.

While fewer respondents (16.3%) identified high turnover as a problem, it still represents a significant concern. Having every customer interaction documented and closely following a unified onboarding process could help mitigate the negative effect of CS turnover and ensure continuity and consistency in client interactions.

On top of that, a few respondents mentioned other common challenges in the customer onboarding process:

  • Alignment between individual users and expectations: Individual users within a client organization might not have the same expectations regarding the onboarding process, product functionality, and desired outcomes.
  • Setting right expectations between sales and customer success: Discrepancies in expectations set during the sales process versus those communicated during onboarding.
  • Getting users to adapt to new workflows: Introducing new workflows or processes as part of the onboarding process may encounter resistance from users accustomed to previous methods.
  • Lack of clear KPIs, goals, or measures of success: Both the client and the customer success team may struggle to assess progress and determine if onboarding objectives are being met effectively.
  • Maintaining momentum with large organizations: Onboarding processes in this case may face unique challenges, such as bureaucratic procedures and slower decision-making processes.

Navigating the common customer onboarding challenges

Effective customer onboarding strategy is hindered by multiple challenges, typically related to project management, info sharing, and an overall lack of clarity.  Many of them can be solved by utilizing dedicated tools and unified processes.

1. Communication & collaboration

Challenge: Ensuring seamless communication among stakeholders — both inside of your company and on the customer side — is paramount but often fraught with difficulties. From disseminating information to aligning expectations, there are a few communication challenges during the customer onboarding process:

  • Finding the best way to communicate info to all stakeholders
  • Bringing the executive buyer to the kickoff call
  • Engaging users/buyer team 
  • Communication with the partner after signing the product. They don’t reply to emails or answer phone calls which makes the process much longer or we even have to send them live without proper implementation/communication
  • Users not attending agreed on onboarding sessions

Solution: Build a centralized knowledge base communication hub using customer collaboration tools like Flowla to ensure all stakeholders stay informed and engaged. Regular updates, transparent discussions, and clear documentation help bridge communication gaps and foster alignment.

2. Managing expectations

Challenge: Understanding and meeting customer expectations can be tricky, especially when they differ from the company's approach or chosen solution. Namely, the customer success professionals listed the following challenges:

  • Managing customer expectations since the onboarding process takes more than a month
  • The challenge turns out to be at times revenue vs customer experience
  • Misalignment of goals between end users and budget holders
  • Lack of measurable goals and measures of success on customers' end. We need to guide them or suggest trackable goals.
  • Lack of clarity in customer expectations
  • Time to value due to complex product

Solution: Conduct thorough discovery sessions to align with customer expectations. Make sure all information is properly documented and shared within the team. Clearly outline the onboarding process, address concerns upfront, offer tailored solutions to meet specific needs, and be ready to adjust your process based on customer feedback as needed. 

3. Resource allocation and change management

Challenge: Clients may not always have the necessary resources or readiness for implementation, leading to delays and frustrations. Moreover, resistance to change and lack of client ownership can also impede the client onboarding process. Here’s what our respondents shared:

  • Client isn't prepared for the resources required on their side for implementation 
  • Customer adjusting workflows from their end to maximize the value of our product 
  • Misalignment of goals between end users and budget holders

Solution: Provide comprehensive guidance and support to clients in preparing for onboarding. Offer helpful resources, training sessions, and proactive assistance to navigate the implementation journey. Implement change management strategies, including stakeholder involvement, training programs, and ongoing support. Empower clients to take ownership of the process and adapt to new workflows effectively.

4. Sales qualification and customer fit assessment

Challenge: Ensuring the right fit between the customer and the product is essential for long-term success. Sadly, CS teams often have to deal with poor-fit customers due to the lack of qualification earlier in the customer journey. Some of the problems they face are:

  • Misleading expectations set during pre-sales steps
  • Users have different expectations than the solution chosen by the company
  • Overselling 
  • Sales sell the dream and as the customers come to onboarding they have an unreal image of the product that they buy
  • Making sure the customer is the right fit for the product

Solution: Conduct thorough assessments during the pre-sales stage to determine customer fit. Align the needs of different customer segments with product capabilities and be transparent about any limitations or constraints.

5. Customer alignment and accountability

Challenge: Ensuring alignment and holding everyone accountable for onboarding success, especially outside of your organization, can be a daunting task. The main concerns mentioned here are:

  • Client ownership in the process and not being completely present
  • Customers not doing their part in setting up the system
  • Having customers keep up with their deliverables/deadlines

Solution: Define clear roles and responsibilities, establish KPIs for the key metrics, and foster a culture of accountability within the project. Encourage cross-organizational collaboration and alignment to deliver a cohesive onboarding experience.

6. Sales to CS handoff

Challenge: One of the critical stages of the successful customer onboarding process, the handoff process between departments, particularly from sales to client success, is often marred by ambiguity and information loss. Some of the common concerns voiced in our survey were:

  • Handoff from implementation specialist to Client Success Manager
  • Loss of information during handovers
  • Handover from the sales is not very clear, customers are usually confused about the product that they buy.
  • Handover the info from sales to the CS team is always challenging, goals for the customers/pain points most of the time will not be addressed
  • Understanding intended value from Sales
  • Clarity on expectations (info transfer from AE to CSM/implementation)

Solution: Establish protocols for effective sales to CS handoff and create communication channels between teams. Conduct thorough knowledge transfer sessions, document key insights, and ensure seamless continuity to prevent information gaps and confusion.

7. Internal process and alignment

Challenge: But it’s not just the sales to CS handoff that causes client onboarding process challenges. Lack of internal accountability, defined processes, and alignment between departments can also hinder the onboarding journey. CS professionals listed a few challenges related to this:

  • Lack of accountability between departments
  • Company approach to the onboarding procedure
  • Internal process definition and sharing impact to the leadership
  • Company, departmental and individual objectives often aren’t aligned to what’s best for the customer, meaning there is a misalignment in how onboarding can be done. 
  • Companies often struggle to define who owns onboarding and how to measure the impact of a good onboarding. 

Solution: Establish clearly defined internal processes and cross-departmental collaboration mechanisms. Foster alignment between company, departmental, and individual objectives to ensure a cohesive approach to onboarding that prioritizes customer success.

The State of B2B Client Onboarding in 2024
Get a free copy of our ebook to discover how growing B2B companies onboard their new customers and learn from the challenges they face.

Level up your onboarding with Flowla

Navigating the complexities of customer onboarding requires a strategic approach, effective communication, and a relentless focus on customer satisfaction. But, most importantly, it demands powerful tools that streamline collaboration, foster collaboration, and create alignment.

This is why we’re building Flowla Onboard — the ultimate toolkit to handhold customers towards success.

  • Build a centralized platform that provides real-time updates and comprehensive documentation, ensuring all stakeholders stay informed and engaged throughout the onboarding journey.
  • Say goodbye to diverging expectations and approaches. Flowla facilitates alignment between customers and your company by helping you build transparent processes and clear action plans.
  • Prepare clients for onboarding success with exhaustive resources and training materials, instantly shared with all stakeholders.
  • Easily communicate product features, limitations, and potential areas of alignment to set realistic expectations and avoid misalignment down the line.
  • Facilitate clear communication channels, collaborative workflows, and coordinated efforts, ensuring seamless transitions and successful onboarding experiences.
  • Avoid information loss and ensure alignment between departments, accountability, and cross-functional collaboration to prioritize customer experience and success.

From seamless communication and info sharing to streamlined and transparent processes, Flowla empowers businesses to navigate the complexities of customer onboarding with confidence and ease. Learn more about Flowla Onboard or book a demo right away.

And remember, successful onboarding is not just about getting customers live — it's about setting them up for success from day one.

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