Your customers want to use your product quickly, easily and with the least possible friction. To give them the best experience, you need to make sure that your customer onboarding process is smooth and streamlined. Using an API instead of software allows you to customise your flow, which makes it faster, flexible, and more efficient.
This article will look at the pros and cons of using APIs in your digital onboarding process and when removing an API might be necessary for both your customer and company.
Benefits of Using APIs in Customer Onboarding
APIs have become an essential part of customer onboarding. An API is a set of rules that allows different software applications to communicate with each other. In the context of customer onboarding, APIs can be used to streamline data collection and sharing between various systems.
There are many benefits to using APIs in customer onboarding. One key benefit is that it can help reduce data duplication and inconsistencies across different departments or teams within an organisation. For example, when a new customer signs up for a service, their contact details need to be entered into several different systems such as the ID validation system, CRM system, and billing system. If these systems are not integrated via an API, then the same data needs to be manually entered into each system which is time-consuming and prone to errors. However, an API allows data from the sign-up form to be automatically populated into all relevant systems. This reduces duplicated effort and increases accuracy levels which can save businesses considerable time and money in the long run.
Another major benefit of using APIs in customer onboarding is that it provides organisations with more flexibility when it comes designing their processes and integrating with third-party providers or legacy systems. For example, let's say a company wants to add SMS notifications as part of its sign-up process. It would traditionally need to purchase an SMS gateway provider, install necessary software, and integrate this new component into its existing IT infrastructure. This could take weeks or months depending on the size and complexity of the organisation. However, if a company uses APIs from companies like Twilio and SendGrid, they can instantly have access to powerful transactional email and SMS services without having to go through lengthy integration processes first.
Drawbacks of Using APIs in Your Digital Customer Onboarding
There's no one-size-fits-all solution for customer onboarding. Different business needs require unique approaches.
There are many benefits to using APIs in your customer onboarding strategy. For example, they can help you automate repetitive tasks, speed up processes, and improve the quality of your data collection. However, there are also some drawbacks.
One of the biggest dangers of using APIs is the potential for data breaches. If not properly secured, hackers can easily gain access to sensitive customer information such as social security numbers or credit card details. This could lead to serious financial consequences for both the customer and the company, due to non-compliance.
A further disadvantage of using APIs is that they can be complex to set up and manage, and you’ll need to have the right technical expertise on hand to do so. This might mean hiring engineers or working with a development agency to get your digital onboarding process set up. This is not ideal if you are a small business or don’t currently have the budget to invest.
Another downside to consider is that relying too heavily on automation can sometimes lead to a loss of personalisation in your interactions with customers. Depending on the industry, this downside might be more or less important to the business.
With all that said, if you can afford the initial investment and feel confident that the providers you have chosen are industry-compliant, the benefits really do outweigh the downsides of using APIs.
When is Removing an API Necessary?
An API is only necessary as long as it provides value to your organisation. Once the value wanes, it makes sense to find an alternative and remove the current one. There are many reasons to remove an API, such as:
- The API is no longer compliant with your industry's regulations: AML (anti-money laundering) and compliance risks are one of the top reasons to remove an API. Regardless of whether you have an alternative or need to do the job manually to replace an API, if it no longer complies with your requirements, it needs to be removed from your onboarding process. Non-compliance with industry standards can result in hefty fines and exclusion of operating.
- The API is no longer being supported by the provider: Software changes may result in an API call that worked in the last version no longer working in the current version. It may be that the provider has a newer version of the program that you don’t want to upgrade to and updates are not backward-compatible. If this is the case, removing the API is a tough but important decision.
- The API is not compatible with other technologies that you use: You might think that one API is causing problems because of an unexpected output, but on further analysis you find that another API in your process is not compatible. This could be because of updates to API calls or program changes. When this happens, removing the problem API may be the only option.
- There is a better alternative available: Providers are constantly updating their products which makes it possible that a competitor could offer more features or better performance than your current provider. When this happens, you need to weigh the pros and cons of replacing one provider with another as the development work may be worth the business gains.
- You no longer need the features that the API provides: Sometimes, businesses outgrow features and then it’s an easy business decision to remove an API. When features become obsolete or a trusted provider starts to offer more features, it is a no-brainer to remove an API from your onboarding flow. This removes some of the complexity from your process.
So there you have it. Figuring out if and when you should remove an API from your onboarding flow isn’t as complicated as you might think. APIs are a lean and efficient way to onboard customers to your business or product. But just as they help to automate tasks and optimise customer experience, they can also slow down your product and cost the company time and money.