Data Onboarding

Your Data Onboarding Process is Broken - Here's How to Fix It

Written by 
Katrina Kirsch
November 1, 2021

Your customers expect an efficient data onboarding process. Unfortunately, many companies often fail to deliver an average experience due to issues with manual data ingestion processes and internal bottlenecks. The result is weeks of work and frustrated customers.

The culprit: a lack of automated workflows and data flows to streamline the process. Without automation, your company's development and engineering teams are responsible for manually wrangling and ingesting customer data into your application and operational systems. They grapple with formatting errors, custom scripts, and maintaining APIs and connectors.

The problem is data onboarding issues don't happen in a silo—they affect your teams and your customers. The more roadblocks, bottlenecks, and friction your customers run into, the less likely they are to stick around or sing your praises.

Having worked with hundreds of companies, we put together the top 10 signs of a broken customer data onboarding process.

10 Signs Your Data Onboarding Process is Broken

1. Emailing sensitive customer data back and forth

The rise in remote and hybrid work has increased the number of emails between co-workers, customers, and partners. While email is efficient, it comes with significant security and privacy issues. About 83% of organizations have experienced data breaches from email, with 24% of incidents caused by employees incorrectly sharing data. 

It's common for companies to share sensitive information during data onboarding. Yet this process doesn't often have the same level of security as your software. If you want to be trustworthy, you need to ensure your customer's data – and their customer's data – is safe and secure from hacks and breaches.

It’s important to look for companies that are SOC II and GDPR compliant like Osmos to ensure your data is handled securely.

2. Saving CSVs for the 4th time and re-uploading

A lot can go wrong when importing CSVs: the files are too large, data is missing, matching errors pop up, or data fields differ. To counteract these issues, companies often send their customers step-by-step instructions on how to format a CSV to meet their system's requirements. Or, they spend a lot of engineering time manually cleaning the data files.

A messy process of emails files back-and-forth, explaining issues, and re-uploading files introduces a lot of unwanted customer friction and creates more work for your team. Your customer support team ends up troubleshooting CSV importing issues while developers try to build custom solutions for each client. None of these options solve the problem or impress your customers. 

3. Manually correcting and formatting spreadsheets

Despite a company's best efforts to explain the proper formatting and fields needed, customers share spreadsheets in all sorts of conditions. Oftentimes, it's because they don't have the technical support to clean up their data. Unfortunately, this makes the import process a nightmare for all parties involved. 

Unstructured data needs to be wrangled, formatted, and validated before it's ingested into your company’s application or operational systems. That task usually falls on the technical team, and without the right solutions, it takes a lot of manual work to structure the data. On top of that, a manual process takes time to complete, which prevents populating your product with your customer's data, so that they can start using it, have that “aha” moment, and see the value.

4. Importing data manually

In addition to data cleaning, a broken data onboarding process relies on your teams to manually importing customer data. Importing data this way typically relies on your application and database gatekeepers, whose time is already limited working to complete high-impact tasks.

You could ask customers to send clean data files to prevent importing issues. But that means they have to spend time formatting spreadsheets simply to use your product. That's not a great value-add for your product. 

Customers need a simple way to import data so they can use your software. There are two ways to accomplish this: 1) a customizable, self-service data uploader that empowers your customers to send you clean data, and 2) a data ingestion tool that enables your teams to automatically format, map, and import data into systems.

5. Fumbling with FTP uploads

File transfer protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol that's used to transfer data from one system to another. Designed in the 1970s, it wasn't made to handle the high-volume imports and top-tier security requirements of a B2B SaaS enterprise. As a result, FTP uploads often need additional code, custom scripts, and specific file-sharing documentation to be ingested into an external partner's operational system. 

Once again, managing finicky FTP, SFTP, and FTPS ingestion falls on your technical teams. Your teams have to manually process the incoming data and coordinate with customers to get missing information. The more customers you have sending you data the more time and effort it takes to process, which drains the resources of your internal teams.

6. Custom glue code

Writing and managing custom Python scripts for every source can quickly turn into a headache for the teams handling data onboarding. For each source, they have to manually write customized scripts, and maintain and fix them when they break.

Creating custom glue code is unsustainable, especially if you want to stay competitive as a business. With automated data onboarding solutions, your team can spend less time and energy writing custom code and more time building new product features or functions.

7. Internal bottlenecks

A slow customer data onboarding process can relay their time to value. For example, let's say your sales team finally landed a new customer after months of work, and they are ready to start using your software immediately. This means your developers have to drop whatever task they're doing to onboard the customer's data into your systems. Add in the time to wrangle, clean, and import that data, and you're likely looking at a several months long process. 

To show your customers they made the right choice, you need a simple and delightful data onboarding process that doesn't pull your team away from critical, high-level work. It should prevent internal bottlenecks by using an External Data Platform that makes it easy for your customers or teams to import data. This keeps your teams focused on their tasks, instead of running to put out fires when customer data isn't imported efficiently.

8. Expensive

You already know the high cost of hiring a technical team that can handle a manual data onboarding process. But did consider the additional cost of project management, tools, and customer service. The more issues customers run into while importing data, the more support they need.

If your customer data onboarding process requires a massive team effort, it's nearly impossible to scale efficiently. Developers end up bogged down building custom-built importers and APIs, fixing issues and bugs, and cleaning messy data. As the manual onboarding process drains your teams and profits, you won't have the resources to invest in new technology or products.

9. Terrible customer experience

If your data onboarding process isn't intuitive, your customer service team will be the first to know. But your support team usually can't do much about it. Any troubleshooting requires complex coding and technical skills, which falls to developers or engineers. The back-and-forth communication takes time, and customers become impatient if issues aren't resolved quickly.

While most B2B SaaS customers expect to do some work when onboarding a new software, you don't want to complicate this process even further by using a rigid data importer. Instead, look for a customizable, intuitive data importing solution, like the Osmos Uploader, to empower customers to easily format and map data to your operational system.

10. Time-consuming process for all teams

Onboarding a new customer should be exciting and easy. If everyone collectively sighs when the sales team hands off a client, your process needs serious help—especially if it takes weeks to clean and import a customer's data. 

A seamless data onboarding process doesn't take time away from value-added tasks. Developers don't have to manage short-term problems because intuitive solutions, like no-code data transformation, makes it simple for customers to share data. If clients do have questions, the customer service team understands the import process and can help troubleshoot.

How to Fix Your Data Onboarding Problems

A scalable data onboarding process is essential for customer satisfaction, reducing internal bottlenecks, and making the most of your team's time. Switching to a smart data uploader, like Osmos Uploader, is a simple, self-serve solution to the costly, time-consuming data onboarding process. Within minutes, your customers can import clean data.

scalable data exchange with osmos

Or you could accelerate your data imports with Osmos Pipelines and pre-built connectors. Equip your teams to seamlessly onboard data into your operational systems in minutes, without writing code.

Should You Build or Buy a Data Importer?

But before you jump headfirst into building your own solution make sure you consider these eleven often overlooked and underestimated variables.

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Katrina Kirsch