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Published: 04.22.2021

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Culture and Leadership

Research, Trends, and Insights

5 Comprehensive Onboarding Best Practices That Produce Results Every Time

Dynamic, forward-thinking first steps are some of the most important for the entire customer journey.

The onboarding process is the first — and potentially most crucial — step in delivering a superior member experience. It’s a make-or-break moment in nurturing what could pan out to be a lucrative undertaking, especially during these economically trying times where companies cut costs while revenues retreat. 

Still skeptical? It can cost five times more to attract a new member than it does to retain an existing one, so it’s essential to establish key best practices to make that first impression mean more than just a simple introduction. 

With our own financial vertical successes in mind, here are five best practices to ensure member and customer satisfaction and retention.

1. Maintain Targeted Touchpoints

Onboarding should be a targeted process with timely and frequent communications without overwhelming members with irrelevant emails or mail that goes unopened. Sequence communications starting with a simple thanks, and proceed in a non-aggressive manner in stages to encourage the deepening of the relationship. 

Brands should focus on logical and specific service benefits — in the finance space, for example, this includes direct deposit capabilities, alert notification selection, online and mobile banking, mobile deposit, automatic bill pay, and more — to encourage continued usage of the account.

2. Embrace an Omnichannel Mindset

Don’t limit yourself to single, scattered methods of communication. Targeted communications through multiple channels and touchpoints — like combining email, mail, phone, digital and in-person (if possible during the pandemic) — drive optimal results. A comprehensive omnichannel mindset during onboarding helps determine what channels the member uses and prefers, which correlates to increased retention while improving engagement and ROMI. 

In the financial space, omnichannel onboarding could involve encouraging branch staff who opened the account to send personalized, handwritten notes to the members the same day, or sending a text or email minutes after the member leaves the location to offer a quick “thank you.” Direct mail can also provide tangible evidence of new account openings, reassuring interest in the new relationship, while personal phone calls to higher-value members encourage brand loyalty.

3. Be Consultative for Activation

It’s not just the amount of initial communications across channels that are important— it’s how you use them. Using bold calls-to-action for the most important activations early on is a great onboarding one-two punch. 

For example, in a kickoff email, lead with a mention of direct deposit services, then provide easy access to the company mobile app to drive new members as early as possible. Consider providing a personalized, dashboard-style onboarding portal that provides step-by-step instructions for members to set up and manage their accounts. Or develop landing pages dedicated to onboarding new accounts with an easy-to-follow plan guide linked to detailed resources online. 

This sort of immediately consultative — but activation-forward — onboarding practice keeps members educated, informed, and more apt to activate new services upfront. 

Every new relationship during the onboarding process must be cultivated to optimize engagement, loyalty, and retention.

4. Continue Touchpoints Toward Cross-Selling

Think of onboarding as an ongoing process beyond the initial engagement for both current and potential customers or members. The sequencing and cadence strategy of onboarding and post-onboarding touchpoints can use insights and engagement behavior to determine the next-best action for building a valued relationship.

For banks and credit unions, new account holders should be encouraged to actively and fully engage to maximize the value of the new account. The engagement and similar onboarding sequences of communications can also be utilized to leverage increasingly available data on each member to deliver contextual communication that improves relevancy over time.

5. Be Accountable

Onboarding is sort of like the foundation of a house. If you skip over making a strong foundation to try to start building each room, the house will eventually collapse. Onboarding is technically the beginning of the process, but its importance lies in how you build out each step from that initial phase. 

To be accountable, and to make sure that the foundation is as strong as it can be, teams should define quantifiable onboarding goals and metrics and regularly measure performance including retention, engagement, and product usage. Measuring performance across the spectrum of onboarding and beyond can hopefully lead to lifetime profitability. 

But you can also learn from your onboarding mistakes. Financial teams can regularly measure and track silent attrition, churn, declining balances, and transactions to bounce member satisfaction back to where it needs to be to become or remain successful. 

New account and member onboarding are some of the most effective marketing strategies to improve engagement, boost share of wallet, encourage retention, and ultimately solidify the value of a customer and member relationship. It’s one thing to have these best practices in mind; it’s another to actually get them done. It’s even more important to partner with the right agency to automate data flow and production processes to manage complex messaging and workflows. Every new relationship during the onboarding process must be cultivated to optimize engagement, loyalty, and retention.


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