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Implementing a Client Self-Onboarding Strategy: Balancing Automation with Personalization

In many aspects of life, first impressions are important. Meeting new people, interviewing for a new role, even picking up produce from the grocery store.

The same goes for software programs. And first impressions for software programs come in the form of the onboarding process. 86% of people say they’d be more likely to stay loyal to a business that invests in onboarding content that welcomes and educates them after they’ve bought. It makes sense – if new users are trying a program for the first time and are given unclear direction on its use, their next step will be to exit out and never open it again.

Equipping a strong and clear client onboarding program is key, especially for programs that handle sensitive personal information. More of these companies, especially those in the massive payroll industry, are leaning on client self-onboarding strategies. Why? It allows users to move through the onboarding motions independently and often at their own pace, rather than needing support staff to lead them through it. This way, staff can devote more attention to other, high-priority areas.

Let’s explore different examples where a healthy balance of automation and personalization will benefit your client self-onboarding program.

Automation And Efficiency

Employees are looking for quick answers in our digital, fast-paced world. If a program can’t keep up, they’ll turn to the next available option. Companies may retain a dedicated onboarding team prepared to help. But with automation, less of their time is required to walk a new user through their program step-by-step.

Automation tactics allow users to go through the process at their own speed. Some of these tactics may include:

  • In-program messages and educational guides. As users navigate to new sections in the program, offering a guide on what a button does and where a page leads to provides helpful guidance. Programs often use automated messages to help during steps in the setup that require more time to navigate and grasp – offering a helpful hand to them when they need it most.
  • Onboarding checklist. Onboarding includes entering basic information before gaining access, but also involves many additional steps that users may not realize. A visual representation of what needs to be complete in onboarding alleviates their concerns about missing a crucial part. If it flows in the logical form of operations, there’s satisfaction in checking an item off the “to do list.”
  • Pre-fill registration forms. Nobody likes to enter the same information three separate times on three different pages. Pre-filling forms solve this annoyance. Programs that remember user information can pre-fill additional forms that need completing. It’s a classic one-and-done situation for users.

Personalization In Onboarding

Personalization in client self-onboarding is about creating a tailored experience that addresses the needs of each individual user. It’s being fully in-tune with what they need to get from the program and making their first experience with a program one that they keep coming back to.

Personalization is not onboarding 1:1 or in group settings. Customers aren’t required to sign up for a timeslot to learn how to enroll in a program, nor are they expected to learn how to complete basic registration. Instead, we can expect:

  • Engagement outside the platform. When receiving information from the client, it’s not meant to be tucked away into their profile. It offers an opportunity for outreach outside of the program. Personalized emails give users another way they can send feedback, or requests for assistance, if they don’t feel fully confident with the program just yet.
  • User data throughout the welcome flow. Incorporating basic user data, such as the customer’s name, is an elegant feature in self-onboarding. This subtle inclusion contrasts with the generic text encountered in programs that don’t use a personal touch. Adding the customer’s name to the first message in onboarding is a welcoming touch to start things off on the right foot.
  • Automated assistance. At the critical moment where help guides and checklists still aren’t cutting it, make it easy for the user to call for personalized attention from a human support representative. A timely pop-up that links to the help center provides a more engaging experience than users scouring the platform to find where they can ask for help.

Can’t Have One Without The Other

Client self-onboarding with a healthy balance of automation and personalization provides the ideal scenario. If you think about it, an over-reliance on automation may lead to a lack of personal touch. Research from McKinsey and Company found that 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when they don’t get it. On the other hand, too much personalization means that human interaction happens more frequently. The time we would otherwise save through automation is wasted.

Beyond that, there are other reasons to balance automation and personalization. Solely relying on automation for a program means that every user will onboard themselves the same exact way. This is a flawed practice. Everyone is different, and not every person will take to certain automated factors the same. We aim to build programs that allow for client self-onboarding without human oversight, but we need to anticipate the edge-case scenarios.

Offering automated assistance is a great example of balancing automation and personalization. When organizations are transitioning into a broader client self-onboarding strategy, they still require visibility into the system to monitor client progress and help as needed. In short, clients onboard themselves, but support staff is available to help when problems occur. Win-win.

And of course, acknowledging the robotic elephant in the room, we need to contend with machine learning and AI. Just under seven in ten Americans say they are concerned about the increased use of artificial intelligence. It wouldn’t be a far leap to believe automation equals robots equals AI equals bad. With this fear comes a reluctance to share personal information, and with that less flexibility with personalization or even getting customers to use a program. Organizations that take these fears seriously and bolster security processes are considered reliable, trustworthy organizations.

There are plenty of opportunities for personalization in automating programs. To find the best way to personalize, we need to understand how users are interacting with the program. Why? It’s the only way to know if the program is doing its job to solve the customer’s problem. Getting this feedback during specific moments in the program’s usage helps uncover pain points and usability issues (as Zhuldyz Alimbek points out in an episode of Product Momentum.) And lucky for us, we can automate this feedback loop by requesting feedback at specific moments during program usage. Personalized automation for the win.

Discover the key to platform growth and user-friendly strategies.

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Headshot of Megan Lawson.

Megan Lawson is a Marketing Content Specialist at ITX. She focuses on creating content that solves problems and engages audiences. Megan received her BA in Communication from the State University of New York at Geneseo.

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