Nobody Told You? Project Management Tools Aren't For Customer Onboarding

We'll explore why the same tool that works so well to move projects along internally becomes a disaster when you start inviting your customers to it. Project management tools are not built for customer onboarding.

Shareil Nariman

August 8, 2022

6 minutes

Is your project management tool also your onboarding tool?

That might be why so many of your customers are having trouble getting through the onboarding process.

The same tool that works so well to move projects along internally becomes a disaster when you start inviting your customers to it. When they’re confronted with a mass of tasks meant mostly for you and your team, confusion sets in—and giving up seems easier than trying to make sense of the chaos.

You need a better approach.

Your customer shouldn’t feel your pain points

Project management tools are notoriously messy because internal teams tend to fill them up with every task in progress. You can’t expect your customers to bushwhack their way through the clutter and find a path to successful onboarding.

If the first thing a customer sees after signing up for your product is a vast collection of tasks in apparent disarray, that’s a setup for a terrible customer experience. If onboarding is in shambles, they have every reason to conclude that using your product will be just as confusing.

With nothing to guide them to the next onboarding step, many customers won’t make it through the process. They’ll never see how your product can help them solve their problems, manage their businesses and increase their revenue—and you’ll watch your revenue from their contracts disappear.

External confusion, internal mess

Your sales and customer success teams can’t do much to stop this slow leak if you continue to use a project management tool for onboarding. Data from these tools doesn’t flow into your CRM—why would it?—so every customer’s journey through the onboarding process needs to be tracked and recorded manually.

This is an almost impossible task. To accomplish it without losing customer data or leaving customers hanging, someone on your team would need to be inside the project management tool at all times, hunting through tasks to find where each customer is in the process. Unless the entire team has meticulous knowledge of your onboarding procedure, something will get overlooked. Customer success will get delayed. And churn will happen.

Integrating onboarding with your CRM through a dedicated tool like Arrows moves the process along. Customers clearly see the next steps they need to take, and customer success agents have quick access to up-to-date records that show what needs to be done internally to move customers through the onboarding pipeline without delays.

Project management tools hijack the onboarding experience

Any delay in onboarding creates friction; multiple delays are a recipe for churn.

The worst kind of delay? Going through another onboarding before they get to your onboarding.

This is exactly what happens when you invite customers to your project management tool, and it’s just as baffling as it sounds.

First, they have to create an account for the tool if they don’t already have one. Then there’s time spent overcoming the learning curve just to understand what’s going on once they’re in. Sometimes customers don’t want to bother and will push back, insisting you use their project management tool instead—and you lose more time sorting out that mess.

You also lose a point of connection with your customers. As soon as they sign up for your project management tool, they’ll start getting its onboarding and marketing emails. This disrupts the continuity of their relationship with your company and takes their attention off your brand.

The distraction can lead to confusion: Customers spend so much time figuring out what they’re doing with the project management tool that they forget what they’re actually onboarding for. They never implement, and you lose another opportunity to increase your ACV by helping the customer succeed and grow.

This makes the jobs of your marketing, sales and customer success teams harder. A higher churn rate means they have to work harder to find and convert more leads instead of providing more value to the customers you already have. And if your onboarding process remains a mess, there’s no guarantee that new leads will stick around long enough to become established customers.

Outcome-oriented onboarding tools lead to customer success

What will make them stick around? Clear, achievable outcomes.

Project management tools aren’t outcome oriented. Customers don’t need to get hung up in your processes and tactics; they need a series of single tasks in a linear progression that’s easy to follow. When customers see they’re moving toward the outcomes they want, they feel empowered to make their way through onboarding to successful implementation.

The right onboarding tool for the job

If you’re serious about ensuring your customers reach their goals and don’t churn, you should use a tool built for onboarding. Customers should only see the steps they’re required to complete; anything else stands in the way, decreases confidence in your product and makes churn more likely.

Project management tools put up all sorts of blocks for your customers and for you. Onboarding tasks often can’t be completed inside the tool, so when customers manage to figure out what they’re supposed to do next, they have to go somewhere else to do it. Then your team has to record those actions and any related information in your CRM, which takes more time. Each delay in the process delays customer success and impedes your opportunity to grow your contracts.

Arrows streamlines onboarding for everyone by creating a customer-facing process that links to your HubSpot CRM. You can create a clear onboarding plan that’s easy to follow and personalize it for each customer based on data you already have in HubSpot.

Customers can access Arrows plans without creating a separate login. This gets them on the path to success faster and keeps them connected directly to your company without a project management tool acting as the middleman. Every time a customer completes a task, Arrows records the information in HubSpot and triggers the next internal or external step. Customers stay in control of their end of the process, and onboarding moves along without interruption.

Give your customers a clear path to success

There’s nothing wrong with using a project management tool to handle internal tasks required for successful customer onboarding—but these should stay hidden. All your customers need to see is what they’re responsible for completing to move the process along.

The end goal is to give your customers what they want: an efficient path to success with your product. Your project management tool is a hindrance to that goal and needs to get out of the way—unless you’re a fan of friction and churn.

So keep your customers away from your messy internal processes. Use a tool designed for onboarding, and save yourself—and your customers—the frustration of failed implementation

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