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AI and Customer Onboarding: Enhancing Efficiency, Engagement


Photo showing use of conversational AI with mobile user
Image: blacksalmon -

As interest in generative AI (GenAI) and AI technologies grows, studies indicate using them for the onboarding process is something 40% of brands are currently prioritizing.

During the onboarding experience, AI can be used to personalize the path that a customer takes based on their role and goals, including providing recommended relevant features, in-context help, and assistance in natural language.

Other ways in which AI can improve the customer onboarding process is by automating repetitive onboarding tasks, analyzing user behavior to identify areas of friction or confusion, and using that data to continuously improve the process. 

Gartner senior director analyst Maria Marino calls this onboarding process a "key moment of truth" and using GenAI tools to make that process as effortless as possible can lead to long term customer loyalty and repeat purchasing.

"GenAI and AI overall has long been a tool in the toolkit to remove effort from that onboarding experience," she says.


Understanding Customer Journey Before Deployment

Marino says before delving into AI, it's crucial for businesses to thoroughly understand their customers' current onboarding experience and personas.

This entails grasping their emotional and functional needs, familiarity with the brand, and level of technological proficiency.

"It's essential to strike a balance between ease of use and introducing necessary steps to prevent potential errors or frustrations," she explains.

By prioritizing customer understanding and experience design principles, businesses can enhance customer satisfaction and mitigate risks associated with inaccurate orders or complex tasks.

"In a highly competitive market, customer onboarding is where loyalty building begins," notes Meera Vaidyanathan, vice president of product at Twilio. "AI is already proving to be a powerful tool in improving customer experiences from start to finish."

Customers have the upper hand with an abundance of choices and minimal patience, so if they don’t have a seamless onboarding experience, organizations risk losing their business before the relationship has even really begun.

Seven out of 10 companies surveyed by Twilio said they are using AI to personalize content and marketing.

Those that do are seeing higher customer satisfaction scores (45%), better data-driven decision-making (41%) and improved market segmentation and targeting (41%).

Marino points to the deployment of natural language processing (NLP) tools as helping customers get the information they need in their own way.

"You're going to increasingly see NLP embedded in the software you use and embedded in the websites that you work with that allow you rather than use the language of the provider your own language," she says.

Use of those technologies can speed things up significantly and get the user to a more personalized answer and experience much faster.

"At this monument you might not want to eliminate other options for the experience itself so people could opt for a human guided onboarding experience or purchase experience," she adds.


Optimizing the Onboarding Experience

Vaidyanathan points out many initial interactions between brands and consumers happen through chatbot conversations.

"The contact center has been one of the areas of customer experiences most disrupted by AI with chatbots that can provide hyper-personalized support across the customer journey," he says.

During onboarding, autonomous agents can provide instant support by answering common onboarding questions, sharing tips and tutorials, and troubleshooting.

These AI-powered customer-aware autonomous agents are also capable of disseminating this information on a customer’s preferred channel, and when it's needed, they can escalate early issues to a human agent. 

Other examples where AI can improve the experience include incorporating AI-powered content creation tools.

"These can generate personalized onboarding content, such as explainer videos or interactive guides for customers to clarify any issues while onboarding," Vaidyanathan says.


Ensure Alignment with CX Strategy

Marino explains when it comes to integration of AI into CX, senior IT leaders often receive directives from CEOs to explore AI's potential for enhancing customer experiences across the board, from onboarding to adoption.

"Despite widespread apprehension about falling behind, the reality is that most AI initiatives are still in pilot mode, with only a small fraction in full deployment," she says.

This underscores the need for careful analysis to justify the substantial investment in AI technology, considering its potential benefits and risks of delivering inaccurate or misleading information.

Conversely, smaller businesses tend to adopt AI tools haphazardly across various functions like marketing and customer service, leading to inconsistent customer experiences.

This decentralized approach, driven by functional business leaders' enthusiasm, can result in disjointed interactions for consumers, making each stage of their journey feel like a different encounter with the brand.

"If you really want to be customer centric, and create true differentiation, using this technology for onboarding is a fantastic way to highlight that," she says. "Think about not just efficiency and productivity and how you measure those gains internally, and how you create value."

As with any other technology used to power customer experiences, AI needs to be leveraged for onboarding responsibly and securely.

Vaidyanathan says transparency and trust must be the foundation of any AI use, and organizations should prioritize clear communication of how AI is being used in the onboarding process to establish that foundation from the very start.