Partner onboarding in the B2B space
Onboarding new partners, systems and customers takes up valuable time and consumes expensive technical resources. Automating this process with applicable technology, solutions and dedicated resources will enable you to service your customers and transact without delay.
Igmar Rautenbach, Head at Trustlink B2B Solutions, says there are numerous challenges faced when onboarding new clients in the B2B space specifically. “Each customer is a unique business with its own legacy systems and different structures and different capabilities, depending on the size of the business and whether it’s multinational or just local. This makes it difficult to have a standard approach to onboarding as it has to take into account each business’s specific way of doing things.”
Another factor to consider is how you connect the business and its business partners. There are a wide array of connectivity options and information exchange protocols to choose from, with security being a key part of the process. All of these variables can add complexity to the process of onboarding.
Conducting a B2B partner onboarding exercise requires a specialist team that has a broad range of knowledge to deal with all of these variables and that understands the importance of each. The team also has to be able to manage multiple onboarding projects simultaneously, be able to work under pressure and have experience in that particular business domain. It takes time to build and grow these teams, which makes it difficult to scale them when demand increases, as there’s only so much work that one team can handle.
Rautenbach explains: “Co-ordinating all the stakeholders within the business and its partners, not to mention the various IT applications, networks and different departments of the business, can be a challenge and prove time-intensive. And the longer the onboarding takes, the greater the risk that the customer could lose interest or the deal could be cancelled altogether.”
The typical manual onboarding process takes between six and eight weeks because it’s resource intensive and relies heavily on human intervention. There’s also a lack of visibility into the process, particularly where multiple onboarding projects are happening simultaneously. Once all is done, end-to-end testing needs to take place, which again relies on human intervention.
Introducing technology into the onboarding process can not only make it faster, but can also make it more efficient and reliable, says Rautenbach. “When using manual processes, there’s no way of ensuring that all of the boxes have been ticked, so you might discover down the line that something was overlooked. Technology can reduce that risk and make the process more reliable. If you can introduce standardisation to the process of onboarding, you can set better benchmarks, increase reaction time and reduce the time it takes to onboard.
“If you can identify common denominators across a wide range of customers, you can automate the implementation of these, freeing you up to spend more time on factors not common to all customers. In addition, technology enables and provides scalability, allowing you to handle bigger workloads with the same number of resources.”
Technology can provide end-to-end visibility. It can assist with exception management and in identifying where the onboarding process has derailed so that teams know where to focus their attention. Technology can provide alerts if the process isn’t meeting target dates or goals, enabling the onboarding team to act immediately and take appropriate action.
Introducing self-service elements into the onboarding process enables the customer to take ownership of a portion of the process. Technology also enables the onboarding process to be broken down into smaller and less complex steps, ultimately creating a better customer experience.
Rautenbach says that while technology has a significant role to play in facilitating the onboarding process, there’s not always a single tool that can be deployed. “Onboarding requires a mixture of toolsets based on a proper design, and an optimal workflow in line with the type of onboarding required; then by applying appropriate middleware applications or solutions, user interfaces or Web portals and full integration between these systems to ensure the highest level of automation, together with analytical software engines to make each step visible to stakeholders. A portal and user interface are key to provide better visualisation to the customer and self-service capabilities.”
Thereafter, the solution must be able to provide the customer with a support function so they can manage and report day-to-day issues that arise. Ideally, this should be via a single portal that provides access to the customer’s existing information so it can be used to support the customer. Encryption technology is often required to protect certain types of files, but applying and testing encryption can add delays to a project. Automating the flow of data can increase security while identifying breaks in communication without manual intervention.
He goes on to list six benefits of automating the B2B onboarding process:
- Increased revenue: the less time it takes to onboard a new customer, the sooner you can start to transact with them and generate a revenue flow.
- Lower cost: fewer specialist skills and onboarding resources are required.
- Improved customer experience, creating a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
- Able to handle more onboardings with fewer constraints around internal resources.
- Reduced risk of errors: using technology means fewer mistakes are made and less manual intervention is required. All activities are properly completed and tested.
- More governance and reduced risk of fraud, data leaks or reputational risk.
Rautenbach points out that it’s important to retain the personal touch despite automating the onboarding process. “Automation should be applied as part of an effort to build and strengthen personal relationships. Personal interaction is still important, just with a different focus, as automation frees you up to add more value by focusing on overall business requirements and objectives, reassuring the customer that everything is on track and encouraging them to complete the activities on their side.”
Personal interaction needs to shift from dealing with the technical issues to dealing with business issues in more focused interactions with the customer.
All enterprises experience high levels of competition because digital transformation means that a bank can become an insurer, a telco can become a bank, but it also means that organisations can easily compete outside of their own geography. As a result, in any industry, you must be able to compete at a global level – it’s no longer enough to compete with local competitors.
It also becomes easier for competitors to match each other’s service offerings. A key differentiator could well be the onboarding experience offered, as well as the accuracy, speed and amount of effort required. Lastly, onboarding is closely linked to the long-term support of the partner, so a more fluid and automated process can provide a more efficient platform to support the customer at each step of the relationship.
Rautenbach concludes: “There’s a huge distinction between B2B and individual onboarding at a customer or retail level, but they share many of the same frustrations. At the end of the day, you just want the information shared to be secure, fast and accurate.”