Why customer on-boarding can make or break your business (and how not to do it).

I recently decided to subscribe to a well known provider in business and financial data. It was a product I was familiar with, having used it for the best part of 20 years, but the first time user experience was far from what I was expecting.

The first time user experience is the process that your users experience while interacting with your product for the first time, encapsulating their thoughts, feelings and understandings. From their first contact to onboarding, it is the chance for them to become engaged, interested in and ideally immersed in your product.

If you don’t succeed, you can lose even the most loyal and enthusiastic of users. Here is my experience:

Step 1: Signing up to the service:

(approximately 4 hours of multiple emails and calls over one week)

  1. I speak to a sales rep over the course of a week to understand what I need and place my order – so far, so good.
  2. Following two calls and three emails over four days, I then need to read through three separate schedules in the customer portal before I am able to download contracts to read off-line.
  3. I read off-line later and return to the portal to sign electronically, only to find out that I am not authorised to sign and have to call  to request the ability to sign my own contract.

Step 2: Creating my account:

(approximately 6 hours of multiple emails and calls over one week)

  1. I go to the customer portal download section in order to access my software to download – turns out only ancillary services are in the download section.
  2. I then try the login page for the online version of the service to see if I can find the software to download – with no luck.
  3. Finally, I find the software to download via the customer support section of the main website – eureka (not)!
  4. I download the software only to find out that it is not compatible for Mac – there is no mention of this anywhere.
  5. I call up customer support and am told that I am unable to download software and will have to use the web version.
  6. On the web version, I do not have a login and am unable to create one without contacting customer support, so I call again.
  7. I want to use a login different from the auto-generated login that I had to set-up initially to access the customer portal, this takes three more calls to arrange.
  8. I am ready to login but realise that the secure token to access my account was sent to my registered work address – and along with most other people during lockdown, I had been working from home.
  9. I am sent a new device to my home address, which arrives within a couple of days. I am then also sent another envelope to return the device that was sent to the wrong office address, stating that I will be charged if I do not return this.

Step 3: Configuring my account

(approximately 10 hours over 10 days, and still not done)

  1. Having used this product for over 20 years, I thought this would be a doddle.However, using a Mac, I was unable to download software – another call to customer support.
  2. I had also realised that the name on my account had been misspelt, which took a day to correct. Also, having thought I had set my settings to private, I noticed my online status still showed to other users, which took over a week to fix.
  3. I was unable to update my profile online without verification from the support team – this took over a day to get close to what I needed.
  4. As for the mobile application, I am used to having a certain configuration of what I like to see at any time of day. However, in this instance I am provided with a different view on my mobile and I simply cannot have the fixed view that I want everytime I log in.
  5. 20 hours and three weeks later,  and it’s very clear the onboarding process has fallen far short of what’s needed. I’m frustrated every time I use the service and eventually cancel my subscription.

Lessons learnt from my first time

So what’s the lesson here for other businesses? When you excel in first-time user experience your users are more engaged and will use your product regularly. When you fail, you risk losing any early enthusiasm and momentum of your first time user, with the potential of losing  them altogether.

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