Client onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients into your business, to ensure you set the foundation for a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. It involves setting clear expectations, creating a service level agreement, hosting project kickoff meetings, and planning routine follow-ups.
The goal is to make sure you start off on the right foot, and start providing value for them ASAP.
It’s also a time during which important information will be exchanged to facilitate work and prevent bottlenecks.
SLAs (Service Level Agreements) are often used to clarify deliverables and establish a timeline.
During this process you will guide new clients through the initial stages of their journey with the company, from the first point of contact to their ongoing engagement.
The sales team typically plays a crucial role in facilitating a seamless experience for clients, ensuring a deep understanding of their needs and expectations.
Effective client onboarding sets the stage for future relationship success, enhances the customer experience, and ultimately leads to increased client retention and satisfaction.
Length of client onboarding will depend on the complexity of the product or service being offered. Your client onboarding may take the form of a simple welcome email and a meeting with project stakeholders, or it may involve a complex, month-long setup cycle.
Often, client onboarding will incorporate key milestones, to help track progress and understand “when onboarding ends”. What that looks like will depend on how you work with your client, and what kind of service or product you’re offering. More complex services, and more complex problems may require longer, more complex onboarding.
Either way, the goal will remain the same: Client satisfaction.
Your ultimate goal while onboarding is to make your new clients feel as though they’ve made the right choice by choosing your company.
The client onboarding process is a vital part of any business as it lays the foundation for a successful and long-term relationship with clients. By providing a seamless and positive onboarding experience, businesses can ensure customer satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
This process involves various steps and activities that help clients understand the product or service, establish trust, and set clear expectations.
From the initial engagement to defining roles and responsibilities, a well-executed customer onboarding process is crucial for fostering strong relationships and achieving mutual success.
In this article, we will explore the key components and best practices of an effective client onboarding process.
Defining the client experience is crucial in the client onboarding process as it sets the stage for a seamless and successful relationship. By clearly understanding the client’s goals and pain points, businesses can tailor the onboarding process to meet their specific needs.
Gathering information about the client is an essential element in defining the client experience. This includes understanding their industry, target market, and business objectives. This information helps the onboarding team to personalize the process and provide tailored solutions.
Setting clear expectations is another key factor in defining the client experience. It is important to communicate what the client can expect during the onboarding process and beyond. This helps to manage their expectations and build trust.
Identifying pain points is also crucial in defining the client experience. By understanding the challenges and obstacles the client faces, businesses can address them during onboarding and provide proactive solutions.
One effective way to gather important information and understand the client’s needs is through a client onboarding questionnaire. This allows businesses to capture specific details about the client’s preferences, pain points, and desired outcomes. Utilizing a questionnaire helps streamline the onboarding process and ensures that all the necessary information is gathered from the start.
In summary, defining the client experience through information gathering, expectation setting, pain point identification, and the use of a client onboarding questionnaire is essential for a seamless onboarding process and long-term success.
Structuring the client onboarding workflow is crucial to ensure a smooth and successful onboarding process. By following a step-by-step process, businesses can efficiently onboard new clients and lay the foundation for a long-term, successful client relationship. Here are the key steps to consider:
1. Gather information: Start by gathering essential information about the client’s industry, target market, and business objectives. This helps personalize the onboarding process and provide tailored solutions.
2. Set clear expectations: Communicate what the client can expect during the onboarding process and beyond. This helps manage their expectations and build trust.
3. Identify pain points: Understand the challenges and obstacles the client faces. Address them during onboarding and provide proactive solutions.
4. Use a client onboarding questionnaire: Utilize a questionnaire to capture specific details about the client’s preferences, pain points, and desired outcomes. This helps streamline the process and ensures all necessary information is gathered.
5. Kick-off meeting: Schedule a kick-off meeting to introduce key team members, discuss goals, and finalize the onboarding plan.
6. Product walkthrough: Provide a detailed product walkthrough to familiarize the client with the features and functionalities.
7. Follow-up meetings: Schedule regular follow-up meetings to address any questions, provide additional training, and ensure the client’s progress.
8. Define success: Collaborate with the client to define what success looks like for them. This establishes a mutual understanding and deeper client engagement.
By structuring the client onboarding workflow with these key steps, businesses can create an effective and efficient process that leads to satisfied clients, increased retention, and long-term success.
Creating a client onboarding questionnaire is a crucial step in the client onboarding process as it helps gather necessary information to get started with a new client. The questionnaire provides a structured way to collect important details about the client’s business, goals, and preferences, enabling you to tailor your services accordingly and deliver a personalized experience from the start.
Here are potential questions to include in the client onboarding questionnaire:
1. Business Information: Request details about the client’s company, industry, target market, and competitors.
2. Main Point of Contact: Ask for the name, contact information, and preferred communication method of the client’s main point of contact.
3. Project Success Criteria: Inquire about the client’s specific goals and metrics for success, as well as any key milestones or deadlines.
4. Past Experience: Gather information about the client’s previous experience with similar projects, what worked well, and any challenges or pain points encountered.
5. Software Logins: Request access to any relevant software, platforms, or systems that you may need to utilize during the onboarding process.
To streamline the process, consider automating the client onboarding questionnaire. This can be done by providing a link to the questionnaire in the proposal acceptance email. Automation allows clients to easily access and submit the questionnaire at their convenience, saving time for both parties and ensuring all necessary information is obtained promptly.
By creating a comprehensive client onboarding questionnaire, you can gather essential information upfront, establish a solid foundation for the relationship, and better align your services with the client’s needs, ultimately leading to a more successful onboarding experience.
Developing a Customer Journey Map is a crucial step in understanding the customer onboarding process and improving the overall experience. A customer journey map visualizes the various touchpoints and interactions that a client goes through during their onboarding journey. It provides valuable insights into how they interact with your business, identifies pain points or gaps in the process, and uncovers opportunities to enhance the experience.
By mapping out the different stages of onboarding, from the initial contact to the final implementation, you can gain a deeper understanding of your client’s perspective. This allows you to tailor your approach and deliver a personalized onboarding experience that meets their specific needs and expectations.
A well-developed customer journey map enables you to identify potential bottlenecks or areas where clients may face challenges. This insight enables you to proactively address those issues, leading to a smoother and more successful onboarding process. Additionally, it helps you provide a consistent experience across different touchpoints, ensuring a seamless transition from one stage to another.
Ultimately, a customer journey map serves as a guide for creating a positive and engaging experience for your clients. By optimizing each interaction and touchpoint, you can establish strong relationships, foster long-term success, and increase customer satisfaction and retention. Understanding the customer onboarding process through a customer journey map is an essential tool for any business committed to delivering exceptional client experiences.
Making sure everyone involved in the client onboarding process is on the same page is crucial for the success of the onboarding experience. When team members are aligned and have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and goals, they can work together effectively to meet the client’s needs and expectations.
Organizing communication is key to prevent any misunderstandings or gaps in information. Establishing a communication schedule ensures that all team members are regularly updated on the progress of the onboarding process. This allows for timely feedback and the opportunity to address any issues or concerns promptly.
To facilitate alignment and collaboration among team members, it’s important to foster open and transparent communication. Encourage regular meetings where team members can discuss the client’s requirements, share information, and provide updates. This helps to build trust and ensures that everyone is working towards the same objectives.
Another effective tip is to create a centralized repository for client information, documents, and communication. This allows team members to access the necessary information easily and minimizes the risk of miscommunication or missed details.
By making sure everyone is on the same page, collaboration among team members can flourish. This promotes effective client relationships, enhances the onboarding process, and increases the chances of long-term success.
Crafting a Kick-off Meeting Agenda for the Client Onboarding Process
A kick-off meeting serves as the foundation for a successful client onboarding process. It sets the tone, aligns expectations, and establishes a strong working relationship between the client and your team. To ensure a productive and efficient kick-off meeting, it’s important to have a well-crafted agenda. Here’s how to go about it:
1. Introduction and Team Introductions:
Start the meeting by introducing yourself and your team members. This helps establish a personal connection with the client and showcases the expertise and capabilities of your team.
2. Discuss Business Goals and Objectives:
Next, delve into the client’s business goals and objectives. This allows you to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and expectations, ensuring that your onboarding process aligns with their desired outcomes.
3. Cover Deliverables and Responsibilities:
Outline the deliverables and responsibilities of both your team and the client. Clearly define what is expected from each party, setting the stage for a productive and collaborative working relationship.
4. Address Scope Creep:
Discuss the scope of the project and any potential scope creep. Clarify what falls within the agreed-upon scope and what may require additional effort or a change in project requirements.
5. Outline Next Steps and Timelines:
Provide a clear roadmap of the next steps in the onboarding process. Set realistic timelines and milestones to keep the project on track and ensure accountability on both sides.
6. Hold a Final Q&A Session:
Allow the client to ask any remaining questions or address any concerns they may have. This ensures that all parties have a shared understanding of the project and can address any unresolved issues before moving forward.
Crafting a comprehensive kick-off meeting agenda for the client onboarding process is crucial for establishing a strong foundation and fostering a successful and collaborative long-term relationship with your clients.
Planning follow-up meetings and check-ins are crucial steps in the client onboarding process. These activities help to maintain open lines of communication, track progress, and address any issues or concerns that may arise. Here are the key steps to consider when planning follow-up meetings and check-ins:
Regular Monthly Meetings: Schedule regular monthly meetings with the client to review the status of the onboarding process. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss any updates, address challenges, and ensure that the client’s goals and objectives are being met.
Weekly Written Updates: In addition to monthly meetings, provide weekly written updates to the client. These updates should include a summary of progress made, upcoming milestones, and any action items or next steps. This helps to keep the client informed and engaged in the onboarding process.
Setting a Meeting and Reporting Cadence: Establish a consistent meeting and reporting cadence with the client. This includes determining the frequency and duration of meetings, as well as the format and content of reports. Consistency in communication ensures that both parties are aligned and fosters a sense of trust and accountability.
By incorporating regular follow-up meetings and check-ins into the client onboarding process, you can effectively monitor progress, address concerns promptly, and ensure a smooth and successful onboarding experience for the client.
There are many examples where client onboarding can add value and help to improve the quality of the product or service you’re offering, thereby improving long-term business.
For example, you could be an IT managed services provider dealing with complex technical problems per client. Having a client onboarding process in place helps you establish a roadmap, lay down reasonable expectations for deliverables, and exchange important information to reassure your client and address any immediate questions or concerns they might have.
Or, you could be a software design agency starting a new project. You need to be on the same page with your client about timeline, deliverables, communication channels, stakeholders, and work owners.
You’ll also likely need to have a kickoff call, and there will probably be some kind of spec sheet for requirements that needs to be established ASAP. A clear process for client onboarding helps to streamline this process and allows you to focus on supporting your client more directly.
Here’s a few examples to support client onboarding:
Gartner Group has stated that 80% of a business’s future revenue will likely come from 20% of its existing client base, so it’s easy to understand why you should allocate company resources to ensure you keep your existing clients happy.
If you’re onboarding new clients effectively (e.g. they become long-term customers), you’re saving money, because it’s cheaper to keep an existing client than it is to attract a new one.
There are multiple factors at play here.
One reason to focus on providing a good onboarding experience for new clients is because you want them to remain loyal to your company.
Losing a client due to a poor first impression means that the time and resources you’ve spent on marketing, relationship building, and proposal drafting have all been in vain. All of your hard work is wasted if you aren’t doing a good job onboarding your new client.
For one, because happy clients are excellent referrals, and we all know word-of-mouth still remains the most powerful form of marketing. That said, it’s no surprise that 20 to 50% of purchases come from recommendations made by previous clients.
Word-of-mouth marketing can be an extremely effective compound lever that allows you to not only retain existing customers, but get new customers (and free marketing) for free!
So how do you build lasting relationships with clients, make them excited about your business, and convert them into evangelists?
Well, you need a good product. You need to deliver real value. Because when you’re product-first and delight clients with your offering, you’ve already won half the battle.
But that’s not all; first impressions are important, too, as well as the operational efficiency of your business. And both of these things are core pillars of client onboarding.
That’s why focusing on how you onboard your new clients is so important.
Viewing client onboarding as a core business strategy, rather than a nice-to-have tacked on as an afterthought, you start to see its true benefit.
When done efficiently, it helps to:
Your highest risk of client churn happens during the first 90 days. By demonstrating value and building relationships early on, you help to reduce this risk of client churn.
A good client onboarding strategy will work to foster this relationship and walk them through the value of your product or service. Your clients are satisfied with your business and want to stick around.
An effective client onboarding process doesn’t just help your clients. It also helps your employees. With this onboarding strategy, your employees have all the information they need right at their fingertips.
Your well-documented onboarding process puts your employees in the best possible position for success. This helps increase your team’s overall efficiency while preventing bottlenecks later down the line.
As I mentioned before, your clients work as powerful referrals. According to Edelman Trust Barometer, 84% of B2B executives start the process of client onboarding with a referral.
Delighting your new clients with a effective onboarding strategy will help to foster strong relationships and upsell your existing clients moving forward. But it will also help you gain referrals.
You might be bouncing between the idea of using a client onboarding process. Here are some strong indicators that can help you understand if a client onboarding strategy is the right choice for you:
A lot of time, energy, and money is needed to attract potential clients to a product or service. So it doesn’t make sense to lose these clients once they finally sign up with your company.
With an efficient client onboarding process, you have a plan in place and a clear direction. This ensures both your client’s and business’s needs are met.
Here are the steps you should follow to help get the most out of your onboarding process:
Your clients may all have different reasons for picking your company just as they’ll likely have different uses for your product or service. Understanding their weaknesses and strengths will help you develop a comprehensive plan that lets them get the most out of your service.
You want to make a list of your client’s current strengths and highlights areas that can be improved. From here, lay out a path that involves your service being the thing they can use to make these improvements. This plan helps establish your company as an expert source your client can use to combat their weaknesses.
An excellent marketing campaign is what got your client aware of your company. You already have an idea of what your client is hoping to achieve and you’ve advertised how you can help them. Now’s the time to develop measurable goals that your team can act on.
The more articulated these goals are, the better your team understands what’s expected of them. You then need to have a system in place that holds responsible team members accountable for achieving these goals.
For example, at Process Street, our company mission is to make recurring work fast, fun, and faultless. This is the measurable goal we advertise to our clients, and it’s what each of our employees work towards achieving.
Now that you have a clear understanding of your client’s needs, strengths and weaknesses, and their desired goals, it’s time to brief your team. You want your team fully-aware of your client, the work involved, and their industry. This can be by having your employees:
Once your team has a clear understanding of your client, they’re better prepared to start their kickoff call.
Once your team knows your client and what needs to be done for a successful onboarding experience, it’s time to schedule a kickoff call.
Making sure your team is prepared helps offer a good impression to your client. Without this good impression, your client is likely to lose faith in your company’s ability to help them achieve their desired goals.
It’s vital that your team demonstrates their understanding of the client. Once this kickoff call is complete, both you and your client should have a clear vision to work towards.
This plan can then be sent over to your client with measurable goals and milestones created by your team to nurture engagement.
It’s important to check in with your client periodically to ensure everything is going smoothly. These regular check-ins also work as an excellent tool to build your relationship with the client.
Have a list of questions to help you gain insight into your client’s experience so far. For example:
With these questions, you can better understand if your client is still on the right path to achieving their desired goals. It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of client experience and satisfaction, because if you lose track of this vital metric, you run the risk of churn.
That’s exactly what these kinds of questions are for. Regular check-ins can help you highlight what the problem is and how you can redirect them before they feel dissatisfied and leave your company.
You only have one chance to onboard your new clients – and you want to get it right from the get-go. Here are some best practices to help ensure your delivery is spot on each time:
The secret to client onboarding success is consistency. That’s why it’s important to standardize your onboarding process with comprehensive templates your team can use to reference any time they need to onboard a new client.
Oftentimes client onboarding processes focus on ticking off tasks from a template. Although the best onboarding processes need to run through all the steps, the tasks shouldn’t be what your team is most focused on.
Instead, your approach to onboarding should be to build relationships with your new clients. Practicing a people-focused approach means putting the people first. That entails being attentive to your new client’s specific goals and needs.
You want to acknowledge your clients questions, fears, and concerns as soon as possible. This is vital to building trust during the early stages of onboarding.
Revisit the concerns your new clients expressed during the sales process and highlight ways you can help them. A great way to do this is with a quarterly plan, setting expectations, or a list of quick wins.
This is especially important if your new clients are trying out your product or service. At the start of onboarding or during their trial period, you want to demonstrate the value your company can provide to them.
By doing this, you’re more likely to convert them into paid clients or have them more loyal to your company.
Your client’s goals might be mostly longer term. But that doesn’t mean you can’t demonstrate results from the get-go.
Set smaller milestones that can be achieved in the short term and then work towards these successes. These can then be the metrics you present your new client during your next check-in to help prove this value.
Consistent communication will keep your client engaged. Not nurturing engagement can led your client away from your company, which is exactly what you don’t want happening.
Here are some important things to ask your client when setting up a communication system:
But the most important thing to know is how long your new client wants to hear from you.
In most service-based instances, it’s necessary to offer larger loads of communication early on to ensure your clients aren’t missing out on anything. You can then slow down on this communication further along in the onboarding process.
Once your new client has completed most of the onboarding process and you’ve had regular check-ins with them, it’s time to ask for feedback about their experience. Here are some questions you might want to ask:
Not only does this feedback empower you to ensure your client’s experience is good, it also helps you improve your onboarding process for clients in the future.
People love feeling comfortable about expressing their opinions. Offering this comfortable environment is only going to grow your client’s engagement and keep them loyal to your business.
Onboarding is an extensive process. You need to dedicate a ton of time and resources to get it done right. One of the biggest challenges is creating the process you ultimately follow each time you onboard a new client.
Client onboarding software can be incredibly beneficial when it comes time to sit down and construct an onboarding process.
With an efficient onboarding software, you can access a library of pre-made templates that can be used to onboard your new client. A good client onboarding tool lets you edit these templates to your exact preferences and run it whenever you welcome a new client to your company.
Investing in a client onboarding software tool means your templates are easily accessible in a centralized onboarding hub. This helps promote visibility, because a good onboarding tool will offer analytics and reports to illuminate what state a client is at within the onboarding process.
Simply put, these reporting systems can send notifications whenever tasks are completed, overdue, on-track, or need approvals. This leads to a more streamlined process.
Process mapping is a vital step to creating an onboarding process. It involves highlighting all the tasks you need to complete until your client is fully onboarded.
With a client onboarding software, you get a birds eye view of all the tasks needed within a single onboarding process. From here, you can identify which tasks are recurring and then automate them.
Good onboarding tools feature popular integrations to help automate tedious tasks and streamline the whole experience. Therefore, by investing in client onboarding tools, you increase your efficiency, promote consistency, and reduce costs.
Want to offer an exceptional onboarding experience to your new clients today? Use this template to get started!
Us at Process Street love our product so much that we use it ourselves. That means the very software we’re providing to you (the client), we’re using ourselves to onboard you (the client).
We onboard you with Process Street’s onboarding software, you onboard your clients with the same software and the cycle continues.Continuing this cycle of consistent onboarding experiences helps keep your clients engaged and employees on the ball.
Without effective client onboarding, you’ll likely see a larger churn, which is exactly what you don’t want. That’s why software is the future of client onboarding.
When it comes to client onboarding, you’re responsible for making the best first impression possible. Without proper standardization, it can be too easy for things to slip through the cracks.
Luckily, standardization can stop you from fumbling the bag. You do want to ace your client onboarding, right?
Here at Process Street, we love to turn everything we do into a process. Client onboarding is one of those recurring things we needed to standardize into a repeatable workflow. It’s through this standardization that we’re able to provide consistent onboarding experiences to our clients.
And these clients love the process too, so much so that we’ve got an endless list of quotes like this:
Before Process Street, we would probably hold our new employees’ hands for a good month. But now we’ll show them something for two weeks and then we’re able to throw them into things.”– Ellie Rego, Product Manager at Wodify
Through the thousands of clients we’ve onboarded throughout the years, we’ve been able to understand that great client onboarding is all about having a super strong system in place.
A system that allows us to:
Here’s a guide to get you doing the same.
Client onboarding is important because it helps both you and the client to do better business together. By making an effort to establish a mutual understanding, improve client satisfaction, increase efficiency, and strengthen the relationship between the client and the agency, you can better understand your client’s needs and goals, leading to a successful and long-lasting partnership.
Client onboarding is a crucial process that sets the foundation for a successful business relationship. It plays a significant role in establishing mutual understanding between the organization and its clients. By taking the time to thoroughly understand the client’s needs, goals, and expectations, businesses can tailor their approach to meet specific requirements. This leads to improved client satisfaction and ultimately helps in building stronger relationships for long-term success.
Enhancing client satisfaction is a primary objective during the onboarding process. By meticulously gathering all relevant information and addressing any queries or concerns, organizations can ensure that clients feel heard and valued from day one. This customer-centric approach not only demonstrates a commitment to meeting their needs, but it also helps in creating a positive client experience.
Furthermore, effective client onboarding increases efficiency by streamlining internal processes. By leveraging client onboarding tools, templates, and questionnaires, businesses can standardize their onboarding workflow, ensuring consistency and reducing the chances of overlooking critical steps. This saves time and resources, allowing teams to focus on delivering value to clients.
Lastly, client onboarding is essential for establishing strong long-term relationships. By investing time and effort into understanding clients at the initial stage, businesses can create a solid foundation for future collaboration. This mutual understanding fosters trust and loyalty, increasing the likelihood of client retention and reducing the churn rate.
In conclusion, the importance of client onboarding cannot be overstated. It is key to establishing mutual understanding, improving client satisfaction, increasing efficiency, and building stronger long-term relationships. By investing in a well-defined and effective onboarding process, businesses can set themselves up for success.
A client onboarding questionnaire is a tool used in the onboarding process to gather important information about the client’s expectations, existing assets, and specific needs. It helps the agency understand what the client is looking for and how they can best meet those needs.
A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract between the agency and the client that outlines the services to be provided, the expected levels of performance, and the responsibilities of each party. It helps set clear expectations and ensures that both parties are on the same page regarding the scope of work and deliverables.
A project kickoff meeting is a meeting between the agency and the client to officially start the project and align goals, expectations, and timelines. It provides an opportunity to introduce team members, clarify project details, and address any questions or concerns. This meeting sets the stage for a successful collaboration.
Routine follow-ups are important in client onboarding because they help maintain regular communication and ensure that the client’s needs are continuously met. By checking in regularly, the agency can address any issues or concerns, provide updates on progress, and make necessary adjustments to deliver a successful outcome.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some people will tell you that it takes up to 100 days to onboard a client; others will say something like “when the client is onboarded”. If you think of client onboarding as a continuous process, it makes sense to think of it as something that never really ends.
If the goal of client onboarding is to make a good impression, and give your clients everything they need to work successfully with your organization, is it really in your best interest to decide an arbitrary cut-off date where you will suddenly cease to provide the client with the care and consideration that you have been working so hard to provide up until now?