Congrats, your new customers are thrilled to start using your SaaS platform. The software application, however, is currently an “empty box” until data is actually ingested into the product. Your customers won’t get much value without their data inside the software and for many types of solutions, customers can’t achieve anything until their data is usable. Enter data onboarding: the process of importing customer data into the product.
In this post, we uncover:
Data onboarding is all about collecting, uploading, matching, and validating customer data for use in a product. Data needs to be brought into the new software solution and made readily available so that customers can use the product. Other terms that may be used to describe data onboarding are data migration, data upload, and data import.
Data onboarding is a necessary part of the customer onboarding experience. Customer onboarding is the process of helping new customers improve their success rate using a new product or service. Industries such as marketing, HR, manufacturing, healthcare, and e-commerce, usually provide customers who are new to their software products with onboarding which includes data onboarding.
Data onboarding ensures customer data is ready to use. Depending on what solution the customer was using before your software product, the data onboarding process can range from fairly easy to complex.
If the customer has offline data spread across multiple employees and even departments, that will be much more challenging than if they are switching over to your tool from a competitor’s offering.
Data onboarding is essential for a successful software product. You want to make it as easy as possible to bring in customer data. Data onboarding is such an important part of any customer onboarding strategy that the two can’t really be separated.
Unless your software is for brand new businesses (a website builder for first-time e-commerce store owners, for example) then you have to onboard the customer’s data before you can truly onboard the customer.
Here are some of the sources of data:
So, who owns data onboarding, and whose responsibility is it? The answer depends on your product, your price point, your target market, and other factors. In most cases, data onboarding will be handled by a combination of your engineering team, your customer success representatives, and your customers.
All of these parties come together in the data onboarding process, which usually includes these steps:
You can personalize the data onboarding process by correctly allocating the responsibilities to the right people.
For example, a business that serves enterprise customers will require involvement from customer success and the right customer contacts to onboard data. Meanwhile, a SaaS business that serves small business owners won’t have the budget for whiteglove customer service, and so will put as much of the data onboarding process as possible on the product and engineering team, so that data onboarding is fairly simple for customers.
The right onboarding workflow has everything to do with customer expectations and pricing models.
Whether it's importing CRM data or inventory SKUs, importing data into applications is often a frustrating experience. Let’s take a look at some best practices for improving the data onboarding experience you offer to customers.
When choosing a data onboarding provider, you should prioritize features based on the level of onboarding support your company provides. Do customers onboard their own data or does a CSM lead the process?
Teams have deferred to CSV templates, lengthy documentation, video tutorials or custom built in-house solutions to help users import their data. But it’s not a simple task. Whether it’s fragmented data, encoding errors, improper formatting, or lack of data normalization, the customer’s head is often left spinning as to why their data import failed.
Simply put, there has never been a standard for importing customer data. Data importers, specifically CSV importers, haven't been treated as key product features within the software. As a result, engineers tend to dedicate an exorbitant amount of effort creating less-than-ideal solutions for customers to successfully import their data.
When members of your engineering or customer success teams are spending hours cleaning and maintaining customer data in order to import it properly, there is a hidden cost (which is of course, employee time).
There are solutions to reduce the pain of data onboarding, such as automated data onboarding that pulls data from disparate cloud sources, and pre-built CSV importing so engineers don’t have to build a best-in-class importer on their own.
Look for a CSV importer that includes the following features:
CS-led data onboarding
What about features for an onboarding tool that supports CSMs?
If you have customer success managers, look for a collaborative workspace that makes it easy to securely collect data from customer contacts and import it effectively.
Just because CSMs help manage customer data onboarding for customers, doesn’t mean there aren’t hiccups. In fact, things can be even more complicated, because when a CSM is involved, that usually means there’s even more data and more customer contacts to work with.
A collaborative workspace for data onboarding should include these features:
Data onboarding is critical for several reasons. If the data onboarding process is not fast and simple for your customers, your business runs the risk of high churn rates and (if potential leads are wary) low closing rates too. Data onboarding is a critical part of the overall customer experience.
An excellent data onboarding experience has the potential to drastically cut down on the time to value for a customer.
Take that ClickUp example again. If someone is using Trello and wants to enjoy the integrated workflows with docs and lists that ClickUp provides, their existing task cards, comments, and file uploads are a huge barrier. By making it as simple as connecting your accounts and clicking “Import,” the ClickUp team ensures your data onboarding takes minutes not days.
When the data onboarding experience is positive and painless, users can get to the “aha” moment a lot faster.
Particularly for lower-priced SaaS products with no personalized onboarding, a great data onboarding experience can reduce churn. Self-service data migration means the data migration experience needs to be as easy as possible.
Customers may sign up for a free trial or a monthly plan with the best intentions of importing or migrating their data. If the process is anything less than straightforward and simple, it may not be worth it to the customer. Churn could have been avoided with better data onboarding.
An effective data onboarding process (whether that’s productized or white glove) can help sales teams win more deals. On calls and demos, sales people can handle the common objection—but how hard will it be to start using the product—with ease. Data onboarding shouldn’t become a barrier to successfully using a product.
By prioritizing your data onboarding experience, you may also steal customers away from your competitors. Even if potential prospects don’t love their current solution, they might stick with it because churning would be too much of a headache. If data onboarding is no longer a pain point and is rather a benefit of your product, there is more potential for companies to make a switch.
Today data onboarding may be viewed as somewhat of an afterthought, but by prioritizing it, you can drastically improve the customer experience and set your company up to retain customers and even secure more deals.
Flatfile Concierge is a collaborative workspace for data onboarding.