Onboarding is a crucial part of the client journey. When handed right, onboarding can essentially be the "honeymoon phase" for new clients, giving them a highlight of all the wonderful things to come when the relationship takes off. When handled wrong, however, it can lead to a client heading out for a door or to a competitor.
That doesn't need to happen! To ensure that the client is well-educated, engaged, and delighted during their onboarding process, there are a few key steps to consider:
1. Use the right tools
The tools your team uses for other business activities may not be ideal for new client onboarding. For example, spreadsheets might allow you to record and monitor key data points, but they don't allow for client engagement and client data management, which drives scale in onboarding. Reasons spreadsheets aren't the right tool for onboarding include the following:
- Spreadsheets can result in limited visibility across the team that may yield scaling and communication issues
- Spreadsheets may make it harder to segment the data across and within onboarding projects allowing too many parties to access sensitive information and potentially resulting in compliance problems
- Standardized ”one size fits all” spreadsheet solutions limit flexibility during the onboarding process
On the other hand, project management software also isn't right for client onboarding. Reasons why include:
- There may be confusion regarding whether project management tools are for internal or external use
- Project management tools limit your ability to personalize the experience for each client
- New clients will have to learn how to use your project management tools in addition to your software solution
- Integrating client data and information from multiple sources can be challenging with project management tools
It's best to use purpose-built client onboarding tools that facilitate change management. This ensures a level of adaptability and control that other tools can't deliver.
2. Be consistent in everything you do
Consistency is key throughout the onboarding process. That includes standardized and proactive communications, transparency, and follow-up.
Clients should be made aware of any changes that may occur before them taking effect. Show clients how their valuable time is being used and ensure they are receiving value from you every step of the way.
Adhering to consistent client onboarding processes can also help your teams operate more efficiently. Define the steps in onboarding and assign roles for each activity; this allows your teams to manage their time wisely, as well as focus on how best to serve your clients. Make an effort to standardize key written communications across the entire team. They can include kick-off communication, information-gathering questionnaires, ongoing status communications, and wrap-up checklists and reviews.
3. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver
The desire to promise the world to clients is understandable. Your goal may be to persuade them to take advantage of your services, but you could make the wrong impression that will come back to haunt you if you promise more than you can deliver! That said, it’s also entirely possible that the client will have an unrealistic view of your solution and the time and effort needed to get them implemented :)
Take the time to reevaluate and re-align the mutual expectations before kicking off the client onboarding project. This will help ensure both sides are realistic about expectations, which will help foster trust and positive relationships.
The onboarding process should be an opportunity to show how much you care about your clients and their business outcomes. Whenever possible, give clients options and let them choose what works best for them.
4. Ask for feedback often
Throughout the onboarding process, ask clients for feedback on their experience. Their opinions can help you improve your processes and ensure they’re getting the most out of your services. You may want to include survey forms or other methods that allow customers to provide feedback in an efficient manner.
Most importantly, make a point of actually acting on the feedback you receive. This indicates to clients that you take their concerns seriously.
5. Empathize with customers
Your clients are busy. By acknowledging this, you can help them feel like their time is respected. Showing empathy shows that you understand the perspective of your clients, and this can go a long way toward fostering positive relationships.
Specific ways you can show empathy include:
- Strive to understand their business operations and challenges
- Be patient when they have questions
- Listen actively to what they're saying
- Be flexible with deadlines as much as possible
- Provide solutions, not just complaints
6. Make sure your clients feel appreciated
Providing an excellent onboarding experience for clients isn't just about efficiency; it's also about showing that you value their business. Ways to do so include:
- Thanking customers for their business
- Offering incentives and discounts
- Providing customer service support post-onboarding
- Asking for suggestions on how to improve your offering and services associated with it
- Sharing how successful other customers have been after onboarding with you
All of these activities can help ensure that your clients feel appreciated and valued throughout the onboarding process. Doing so will also help to build strong relationships, ultimately leading to more successful projects in the future.
By personalizing the experience for each user and maintaining consistent processes, communication, and feedback throughout the onboarding process, you can help ensure that your clients are both educated and delighted with their new project management tools. With a few simple steps, you can provide your customers with a positive onboarding experience that allows them to hit the ground running.