So you've finally closed a deal with a client. Way to go!
It can be exciting to dive head first into your promised service, but before you begin working on your project, starting your collaboration with proper client onboarding is key.
What is client onboarding, and why is it important?
Client onboarding is introducing your product or service to a client and welcoming them before you start the project. Think of it as a time when you show them the roadmap of the work that lies ahead. Onboarding also serves as a platform where they can ask questions or clarifications before you proceed with your service.
When done right, client onboarding can be the most significant part of your customer journey. At this point, you will be establishing expectations and setting up your client for success. Any information exchanged during this part of your customer journey will allow you and your client to move forward seamlessly and achieve the results that you both want.
Proper client onboarding also promotes trust. When customers are warmly welcomed and informed of what to expect, the less likely it is that they will be anxious or micro-manage.
Client onboarding is part of customer service. It's a process that helps you understand your clients more — their wants and their goals. Do it right, and you'll have happier clients who are more likely to return as repeat customers. One analysis estimates that businesses only get sales from about 5 to 20% of new customers, while they get most of their sales from about 60-70% of existing customers. Hence, a customer retention strategy is everything.
When should you onboard your client?
Onboarding should happen at the beginning of your engagement with your client. You're ready to officially kick off your project as soon as a client agrees to your services, pays, and signs the contract.
Each business may have different ways to onboard a client, but there are the most important steps:
Send a welcome message or email, and schedule a call.
Once a contract is signed and you've received payment, it is time to send your client a welcome email. It does not have to be long and fancy, but make sure it's genuine so you'd make them feel special.
You can do this by customizing the email, addressing them with their name, and thanking or congratulating them on their purchase or subscription. You can prepare a template for this, so the next time you sign with a new client, all you have to do is change the name and edit the services they availed.
If you're onboarding via call, add a request to schedule a meeting with your client on the email. You can add a link to your calendar so they can pick the date and time that's the most convenient for them.
Set expectations and review roles and responsibilities
When you're finally in your scheduled meeting, use this opportunity to set expectations and review roles and responsibilities. Take this chance to explain and discuss the goals and objectives of the project or service. This way, you both clarify your roles and expectations.
If you realise that you are not on the same page yet, take the time to realign so you can move forward in the same direction, achieving the results as agreed.
If you're working with a team, let them know what each person does or who their contact person will be so they wouldn't feel lost or overwhelmed.
Provide a roadmap of the work ahead
Once you have agreed on each other's roles and responsibilities, provide your client with a roadmap of the work ahead. The roadmap can be as simple as identifying the project goals and the means of achieving those goals.
When your clients understand how you will navigate the project, it gives them security and assurance that you know what you're doing.
Collect client information
Collecting data or client information is one of the most crucial parts of the onboarding process. The information referred to here may vary depending on the work that you will be doing.
For accountants and bookkeepers, this information may include the client's name, contact information, bank information, assets and liabilities, business profile, receipts, payroll records, etc.
The data collected here is necessary to complete your service so remember to take care of this data and request it through secured channels, especially if it involves sensitive information.
Set up project
Once you have all the data or information that you need and have an understanding of what your clients want; as a result, it's time to set up the project. At this point, you don't have to involve the client anymore. Instead, take everything you have collected during the onboarding meeting and start working.
Even as you start working on the project, do not forget to check in with your client regularly. You can drop updates or reports on progress. Depending on your client's preference, you can do this via call or email. Make sure to agree on your preferred mode and time of communication beforehand.
- When is the best time to contact you?
- How often do you prefer to have a check-in call?
- Where do you like to communicate?
Consistent communication is a fantastic opportunity to let your customers know you care about them and want to deliver only the best service. During this regular engagement, expect a small exchange of ideas and notes to improve the work process.
Finally, be open to adjustments.
This is the essence of client onboarding.
It may be challenging and time-consuming to others, but client onboarding is the chance to align with your clients. For example, if you and your client have different ideas on achieving a particular goal, consider a way to agree on something, and be open to adjustments to cater to your client's preferences.
As mentioned earlier, you want to stay on the same page so both parties will be happy with the results.
How long does an onboarding process take?
There is no set time on how long a client onboarding process should take. The process could be as short as an hour, or this could go on for days. Basically, it all depends on the work and the project's size.
To save time and avoid going around in circles, you and your client will benefit from setting a definite schedule and sticking to it. This avoids unnecessary discussions that do not contribute to your goals.
Plan your next onboarding call for your customer's success
The onboarding process's wealth is how it improves your customer's experience with your business. It's a personalised way to welcome them and an assurance that you only have their best interests at heart.
Not all businesses practice proper client onboarding, so this is a chance for your clients to remember you and want to keep on working with you.