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Meet Flatfile, the startup helping companies spend less time in Excel

by on February 11, 2021

You’re probably familiar with the numerous stats dedicated to customer retention. For example, customer acquisition is 5 times more expensive than retention. Providing an exceptional customer experience is critical to keeping customers happy. For most B2B technology companies, this starts with the onboarding process.  

But data onboarding—that critical first step of bringing customer data into a platform—isn’t as well understood or discussed. Fortunately for frustrated software customers everywhere, that’s changing. 

Data onboarding is an emerging category with a big impact: getting your customers to reap value from your product faster and with fewer demands on your internal engineering and customer success teams.

Data onboarding is a problem for companies of all sizes

According to a data onboarding survey that Flatfile recently conducted, 23% of software companies state that it can take weeks or months to import customer data, and 96% reported that they have run into problems while doing so. import error examples

Importing CSV files isn’t enjoyable for the customers prepping them, for the developers building the import function, or for the customer service and success teams fielding constant data import questions. 

CRMs, ERPs, product lifecycle management software, and inventory management software are just a few of the many software categories that necessitate data importing. Without customer data, they’re useless. Unfortunately, importing customer data into these software tools is easier said than done. And a poor data onboarding experience has repercussions.

If an enterprise software provider lacks simple and effective data import capabilities, customer frustration and churn could be the result. In addition, companies typically waste precious time and resources having internal teams format spreadsheet errors, fix validation problems, and generally wrangle spreadsheets on behalf of their customers who are simply trying to import their data. excel import example

Companies face a build vs. buy decision for importing data

Importing data is essential to get customers onboarded quickly, gaining value from a software platform. But it turns out that building a high-quality data importer is both costly and time-consuming. Essentially, it’s a product in and of itself. 

Your engineering and product teams are busy building out new features that matter to your customers and fixing bugs for critical functionality. Building a data importer is not typically on their growing to-do list.

When companies build their own data importers in house, the inevitable occurs: 

  • The team can’t give a data importer the full attention it deserves so they’re likely to produce something that isn’t intuitive for customers to use and doesn’t offer clear troubleshooting steps when an import fails. 
  • Maintaining a data importer requires ongoing work. Once a data importer is built, there needs to be dedicated resources to update, fix and add new features to the importer.

There is, however, another option. Software companies can choose to buy a data onboarding solution to import data rather than build one from scratch. 

John Baigent, the co-founder of Oversight Software and a customer of Flatfile’s data importer, Portal, says, “We aren’t spending precious time reinventing the wheel in terms of file upload, we’re spending our time developing features that our customers want to see and subsequently make their jobs easier."

The ROI of a pre-built data importer

Startups like ParrotMob and TableCloth are using Flatfile Portal to solve their data import challenges. Early-stage startups, in particular, shouldn’t waste resources on building and maintaining a data importer. Michael McCarthy, CEO of Inkit describes the potential losses from a poorly built importer. “We had two clients that were paying upwards of $30,000 a year and were at risk to churn if we didn't figure our data import issue out,” McCarthy says. 

“Without Flatfile, we would have had to dedicate one or two full time engineers to the development and maintenance of an internal data import solution and honestly, it would never have been as good as Flatfile’s product,” says McCarthy. “I could see a bigger company looking at a million dollars a year in cost savings.”

Flatfile leads the emerging data onboarding category

Effective data import is an essential part of a larger category that’s on the rise: data onboarding. 

Successful data onboarding ensures that it’s as easy as possible to bring customer data into a product - whether customers themselves are migrating the data or a customer success team (as part of a white-glove onboarding experience). When data onboarding works, customer onboarding is a whole lot smoother and extensive time is no longer dedicated to asking: did the data import go okay?!

Flatfile is setting a new standard in data onboarding with two innovative business products: 

Thanks to Flatfile, companies of all sizes no longer need to waste time on patchwork solutions like emailing sensitive Excel files, formatting CSV templates, or hiring expensive teams to help onboard customer data.


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