Creating a successful client onboarding process
Client onboarding is simply the technical term for getting clients started with your service. A successful client onboarding process will get your new business relationship off to a good start. It will set both expectations and boundaries and ensure that all practical boxes are checked with minimum hassle to your client. The end goal of any client onboarding process is to leave your new client with a positive impression of you and your service. They should feel confident that they made the right choice and, ideally, already be thinking about recommending you to other people.
Client onboarding – The key elements
There are three main elements to client onboarding, these can be described as the welcome, the administration, and the service launch. Each carries equal weight.
There are three main reasons for taking the welcome seriously. Firstly, it’s simply good manners. Secondly, it confirms that the order has been taken and transitions your client into the project mindset. Thirdly, it gives you a chance to explain what will happen next, reconfirm how you work, timelines, boundaries, and so forth.
Confirming that the order has been taken
When people take an action, they expect to get a reaction. If they don’t get that reaction, they will generally assume that the action has not been successful. Usually, they are correct. In the context of client onboarding, this means that people who’ve just made an order expect to see some kind of order confirmation. If they don’t get this it creates doubt in their mind. It is, however, both polite and practical to send them a proper welcome as well.
Explaining what will happen next
The golden rule here is to give your client enough information to get them to the next stage of the process. This may or may not be everything they need to know to use your service. As a rule of thumb, the more complex your service is, the more important it is to deliver information in bite-sized chunks. Let your new client digest one chunk before delivering another.
It may be useful to remind your client of their expectations of you and what your expectation of them are. Be clear about boundaries and timelines.
The administration step basically means thinking about three key points. Firstly, what you need to get from the client and how will you gather this information. Secondly, what do you need to give to the client and how will you share information and communicate in the best way. Thirdly, what process or processes you should use to do this. Having a process for anything you do more than once in your business is a great idea. Even better if you can automate the process and infuse a personal touch as well.
Getting and giving information
Think about what information is needed by whom and at what point. As a rule of thumb, if you can get started with just a basic level of information, then you should probably do so. That gets the ball rolling and means that both you and your new client are less likely to feel overwhelmed. Ideally, create a cheat sheet so you can see what information you need at different stages of the project.
Using the right processes
Firstly, you’re going to need to think about what process you should use to communicate what information you need. These days, this is often done by means of online checklists and client management software. A common one used by coaches is dubsado.com. There are many different solutions out there depending on the need of your small business.
Secondly, you’re going to need to think about what process or processes you should use to communicate what your client needs to know. When you start this can be trial and error. Over the years, I know my clients love the screencast videos I include within my emails. As much of my work is visual, this allows them to see what is happening within the project.
The important thing is to start out planning and writing up your process as soon as you can. It can be developed and refined over time.
The launch is where you get the service started. Generally, the key to a successful launch is remembering that what is obvious to you may not be at all obvious to your new client. This has two main implications. Firstly, the better you can anticipate your clients’ needs, the more seamless your launch is likely to be. Secondly, you will need some form of the support process.
Anticipating your clients’ needs
Remember that it’s not enough to think about what your client might need or want. You also need to ensure that they can find it easily. Block out some time in your calendar and review your processes and onboarding from a client viewpoint. Put yourself in their shoes. Can something be easier to understand? Can an element be made more simple? Review where your clients get stuck. Look at what FAQs you get when you are working with a client.
It’s almost inevitable that some clients will get stuck somewhere along the client onboarding process. Having an easy-access and effective support solution will stop you from losing them. Also, make sure they know how they can reach out for help.
Following on from the launch
Give clients a little time to familiarize themselves with your service. Then check in with them again to make sure that everything really is running smoothly for them. Ideally, you’ll continue to check in with clients periodically, even after they are established. This shows that you care about maintaining good relationships with existing customers, not just getting new ones.
Reviewing your client on-boarding process
A client onboarding process is not a “set-and-forget” exercise. You should commit to reviewing it regularly to see whether there are opportunities to improve it. If possible, you should get feedback from your clients. Remember, your client onboarding process is your chance to make a great first impression with your clients. It’s therefore worth making the effort to get it right.