The Beginner’s Guide to Client Onboarding
Your budding business is getting more clients as you grow. It’s encouraging to finally see your business pick up the pace and grow into bigger opportunities. Once you score a client, you look forward to serving them and gaining more clients. But there’s one important fact you might overlook.kick
The first interaction with your clients is the most important step. When clients decide to buy the services you offer, they are not always completely sure of their decision. Doubts creep in and make them wonder if they made the right decision. Your very first interaction during onboarding should justify their decision and ensure a smooth and profitable business for them.
What is client onboarding?
Client onboarding is the process of familiarizing a business client to the services you offer, discussing goals and strategies, and kick-starting a project to offer your services.
The importance of a good client onboarding procedure
It can be tempting to rush ahead once you have a commitment from a client, but you need to slow down and make sure you’ve clearly defined every step of your onboarding.
Here are a few reasons why client onboarding is so important:
- Create a great first impression and giving confidence to the client that the business will go well in the future
- Start with a sense that the project is ready to move forward
- Ensure that all necessities are in place and discussed beforehand
- Establish a standard process that keeps everyone informed so that even if employees change there is a documented process to guide them
- Reduce churn rate and increase client satisfaction
- Get referrals from satisfied clients
Client onboarding steps
For any type of business, these are a standard set of steps you can follow while onboarding a new client.
1. Discuss goals and objectives
Your focus should always be on the goals of your client. The success of your clients’ business determines the success of your company.
What is the client hoping to achieve with your service? What defines the success of your project? Get it down and focus all your efforts towards achieving them.
After you have the goals in place, set up intermediate objectives and due dates. Each objective should be progressive steps towards the final goal. Remember, a project that runs on time is already late. Arrive on mutually agreeable due dates with enough buffer time to recover from errors if they happen. On a side note, errors always happen.
2. Draw up a contract
A contract is not just a defense mechanism in case of misunderstandings. Rather it is a document that has all details about the project’s scope that keeps both parties informed.
In the contract include:
- Contact details of the client
- Terms of payment
- Terms of cancellation of the service
- Policies to comply with
- Service level agreements (SLAs)
- Work schedule (workdays, holidays, staffing)
The contract of a client has to be approved and sent to multiple departments in your company–finance, procurement, IT, etc. Create a workflow to avoid confusion and have a clear picture of who is reviewing the contract. This will save a lot of time and confusion when you start onboarding clients regularly.
Here is a more detailed article on how to draw up client contracts.
3. Prep your team
Have a team huddle and discuss the goals of your client. First, update the team on what goals the client is trying to achieve. Communicate the objectives and due dates on the contract. You should know everything about the client–the size of the company, location, what is their business, the nature of the industry, etc. When you nail down all the facts, it becomes much easier to drive the project.
The most important step is to assign SPOCs (single point of contact) in your team. Assigning a SPOC benefits both you and your client. If there are any queries from the client, the client knows who to ask, and the SPOC can provide the information. It saves a lot of time and frustration on the client’s side to keep repeating the same story to different people.
Plan the phases of your project and allocate resources. The plan should be a broad overview of the entire project. Read this article on steps to create a project plan.
All your prep work should be directed towards providing consistent value that will make the client stay in business with you for longer.
4. Set up tools for coordination
Your team and the client need to be able to communicate and coordinate effectively to ensure the project runs smoothly and achieve results.
For communication, use emails, chat, and video conferencing tools common for both parties. The important tip to remember is to have communication guidelines and build good communication practices with your client.
For coordinating tasks and tracking objectives and timelines, there are plenty of project management tools out there. You could use tools such as Trello, Asana, or Kissflow Project.
If you already use a project management tool for all clients and want the new client to use the same, make sure they get adequate training and are comfortable using it.
5. Have a kickoff meeting
The purpose of having a kickoff meeting is to introduce the members of your company and the client. Brief everyone on the project. What are the goals, objectives, and project plan? Inform the client about who handles the different phases or sections of the project so they know who is doing what. Here’s how to organize an awesome kickoff meeting.
Demonstrate enthusiasm and show that you care about the project and the client’s business. Ensure your team members are approachable to build a strong rapport with the client. The client must feel comfortable when you roll out the project.
7 client onboarding tips to remember
Here are some tips you should remember during your client onboarding process.
1. Keep clients informed
The last thing a client wants is to be in the dark about the progress of the project. You might not want it to be that way, but it might happen without you knowing. Make sure you are proactive in communicating with your clients about their questions, issues, and progress.
2. Expect snags
There will be moments when you hit roadblocks during the initial stages of the project. Fixing them and getting around is a given, but remember it’s an opportunity to impress your clients. Take responsibility for the problem and solve it swiftly. The client will hold you high in their minds at your ability to handle problems.
3. Automate your onboarding
Remember that all the above steps and tips are happening for multiple clients at the same time throughout the course of your business. Starting from the team that works with your client up to your back office where your invoices are processed, multiple departments are involved. Automate your onboarding with client onboarding software. Everyone understands the process clearly, and nothing slips through the cracks. An automated onboarding also serves as documentation for your standard onboarding procedure.
4. Each client is unique
Each client you onboard is different from the previous one. They have varying levels of skill, expertise, and authority in their company. Culture is also a factor to consider. Some clients like a casual communication style, some want to stick to a formal tone. Sense what they expect and act accordingly.
5. Collect feedback and optimize your onboarding
This is the most important tip because it helps retain your clients. Make it a regular activity to collect feedback after you onboard clients. Here are some feedback points you can collect:
- How would you rate your fulfillment after discussing the goals, objectives, and due dates?
- How would you rate your onboarding experience?
- How knowledgeable were the associates who handled your onboarding?
- Are we meeting your initial expectations? If not, what did you expect?
You can use Kissflow’s public forms to collect feedback from new clients even if they are not users in the product.
6. Have regular check-up calls
If you directly interact with your clients on their projects regularly, check-up calls need not be a routine. If not, set recurring reminders for at least every 10-15 days and get on a call with each client. Ask if they are satisfied with your team and the project. Try to increase rapport with the client.
7. Track important metrics
There are metrics you can track during the project that signals improper onboarding. What is the average time to first delivery? What is the client churn rate? How many projects have expanded in a short span of time? How many support tickets in the first few weeks? If the metrics are not impressive, analyze the problems starting from the time you onboard clients to the current stage of the projects.
Final thoughts to remember
Your job starts not during your project, but at your first handshake during the initial stages of onboarding. It is the start of a potentially long business relationship that you nurture and grow proactively.
Giving a great onboarding experience impresses your clients and gives a glimpse of how committed you are to the project. Impress clients and keep them for life.