Have you ever wondered what a client onboarding process is and why you need one?

To put it simply, your client onboarding process is how you welcome new clients to work with your company. And it’s your best opportunity to set the stage for success – both for the project you will be working on together and for your interactions with this new client.

So, if your goal is to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial client relationships – then your very first step should be to create a smooth and efficient client onboarding experience.

Why Is A Streamlined Client Onboarding Process Important?

Your client onboarding process is what sets the tone of your future relationship with your new client and helps them feel confident in their decision to work with you.

And at the same time, it’s your opportunity to:

  • Address any concerns your client may have and explain how you’ll handle them
  • Set expectations about how you will work together
  • Create a communication schedule
  • Define the goals of your project
  • Establish what would make this a successful engagement

So, making the onboarding process as hassle-free as you can, especially for your client, is the perfect way to:

  • Create a great first impression of the business
  • Set you up for a great start to your working relationship
  • Save you (or your team) time and energy in getting the new client project started
  • Give you, your team, and your client clarity on what to expect and when so that things run to plan
  • Make your client’s life easier which increases trust, confidence and all those feel-good vibes.

Whereas a disorganised and rocky start can leave a new client …

… Feeling confused, frustrated or overwhelmed
… Lacking confidence that things will work out how they envisioned
… Lacking trust
… Expecting more or better results in the shorter term than they usually would (to reassure their decision in their choice to work with you)
…And unlikely to recommend your business to others.

And from an internal perspective, a disorganised client onboarding process can:

  • Make for an unproductive project for you or your team
  • Use more time, energy and resources to achieve the same goal (due to lack of streamlined processes) – all of which increases cost to the business
  • Make the client relationship awkward and strained
  • Require more time and energy to get the relationship and project on the right track

As you can see, a streamlined client onboarding process is very important to get started with new clients on the right foot. So it’s well worth your time and effort to review, plan, and optimise your client onboarding process upfront to get things off to a flying start.

How Client Onboarding Is Important To The Growth Of Your Business

The fact is, how you handle this important introductory period can be the difference between a client who loves working with you and comes back again and again, and one who feels uneasy.

And since studies show that 80% of your future profits come from 20% of your existing customers, spending the time and effort to make a strong first impression really does pay off.

If that’s not enough of a reason to sway you to focus on refining your client onboarding processes, here are a few more really great reasons to implement an efficient client onboarding process in your business:

  • Efficiency – Onboarding is just as key for you as it is for your clients. Gathering all the information you need for the project upfront helps you be efficient and effective and helps avoid bottlenecks later.
  • Reduce scope creep – When both parties are clear about what you will be doing, you’re less likely to have scope creep later on.
  • Happier clients – Let’s face it. Clients want to work with someone who knows what they’re doing. A good onboarding process demonstrates that you are organised, efficient, and knowledgeable right from the get-go.

Those are just a few of the benefits of a great onboarding workflow.

Client Onboarding Best Practices

Now that you know how important a stellar client onboarding process is for your business, you might be wondering how exactly you create one…

Now, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that there isn’t a single “right way” to implement a successful client onboarding process, since every business is unique. But, there are some standard client onboarding best practices we can look at to get started.

1. Get Organised

Organisation is important throughout your client relationship, but it’s especially key during the onboarding stage. So get organised and then outline, build, and test-test-test your process before you launch it live to the world.

2. Don’t Forget The Human Touch

People like to do business with people. Although much of your onboarding process should be automated, do your best to make your communications warm and personal. And schedule a few opportunities to connect with your new client directly (even if that’s just an email).

4. Find The Right Tools

Once you’ve mapped out your onboarding process, consider how and where you can automate. There are many tools available to help you create an amazing onboarding experience for your client without adding a ton of work to your plate.

How To Create A Successful Client Onboarding Process For Your Business

Here’s where the rubber hits the road. Again, while your onboarding process will be customised to your business, these core elements apply to just about everyone.

Proposal, contract, payment

It goes without saying that you need to get a signed contract in place before you begin any work. Your contract should include the key pricing and billing particulars agreed upon in your proposal.

Ideally, this should be an automated process that presents the proposal to your clients with the option to sign the agreement and pay the first invoice online immediately. Make the sales process as frictionless as possible so your client can pull the trigger at the moment they are motivated to take action.

Fortunately, there are a ton of great tools available for this. If you don’t have one in place yet, we can help you identify the best option for your business.

Hot Tip #1: Proofread your proposal before sending it to the client and check that it outlines payment options and terms upfront so your client knows what to expect once they sign up.

Hot Tips #2: Automate a welcome email, automated client onboarding commencement, or at least ensure you follow up with the new client to commence client onboarding ASAP after they sign up. The longer a client has to wait for their next step, the more their buyer doubt starts to grow.

Onboarding questionnaire

Once you agreed to work together, it’s time to gather all the necessary information to get started. A short and sweet client questionnaire is perfect for this.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this. You can:

  • Create an email template sent out via your email marketing platform
  • Use an online form creator such as Google Forms, Typeform, or Jotform
  • Utilise an all-in-one platform that offers built-in forms such as Simplero or similar

The goal is to collect all the details, logins, and information you need to perform your work so you have everything at your fingertips.

Hot Tip: Try not to create a form that takes the client no more than 5-10mins to complete. And definitely wait until after a contract and invoice are signed and paid to send the questionnaire to avoid hindering the sale unnecessarily. If you need a lot of information from the new client to get started you can:

  • Create a series of smaller forms for the client to complete at different stages of onboarding
  • Host a short phone/Zoom call with the client to get all the information in one sitting
  • Or enable the client to save and come back to the form or document

Send a welcome package

Depending on your business, a welcome package might be a simple email, or it may be a physical package of goodies – or anything in between. But regardless of what the Welcome Package looks like or includes, every welcome package should be … well, welcoming!

Sending a welcome package as part of client onboarding is a great opportunity to add a personal touch and build rapport and connection with the client.

Digital ideas for client welcome packs:

  • Short welcome video
  • Welcome email or email series to introduce the client to working with your business
  • Virtual tour
  • Digital training course to get your client onboarded or setup
  • Reminder of their contact person, contact details and availability
  • Email or video explaining what to prepare, what to expect, and what happens next.

Physical ideas for client welcome packs:

  • Send a hand-written welcome/thank you note
  • Share a booklet of services, the business, the team, what’s included, etc
  • Little gift/s relevant to the brand, business type, or just to make the client feel good
  • Promotional merchandise
  • Business card

Schedule a kickoff meeting

Scheduling the first call with a client is another step that can easily be automated through email, your booking platform, or your business management software.

A client kickoff meeting is where you can:

  • Review what you agreed upon during the sales process
  • Identify desired outcomes and deliverables in more detail
  • Discuss, review and finalise process and expectations
  • Finalise any missing information needed to get things started
  • Discuss any challenges you foresee that might slow you down
  • Schedule the next check-in

Hot Tip: Automate the invitation to book the kick-off call so you can strike while the client is available to focus on getting started with you. The client should never have to ask “what happens now?”

Schedule a check-in

Client check-ins can be simple email exchanges, phone calls, or Zoom meetings.

When you schedule check-in points throughout the life of your project or retainer work, it offers the opportunity to get together with a client and review, plan, and highlight any issues or hold-ups and deal with them promptly.

These check-ins also create a space where you can get direct feedback on what’s going well, and what’s not so you can continually improve your business and processes.

Hot Tip: Automate a feedback form link or link to Google Reviews to be sent to your client at certain intervals of your working relationship. Automating this process can often remove the awkwardness of manually asking a client to review your business.

Review and improve your process

Once you’ve created and implemented your client onboarding process, be sure to review it regularly to make sure it’s working for your business as intended.

When your project comes to a close, remember to ask your client and yourself (or your team):

  • Was there information you or the client needed but didn’t receive during onboarding?
  • What could be done better, added, or removed?
  • Was the process helpful to both you and your client?
  • What was the client experience of the process?
  • How could we make onboarding easier for the client and for the team?
  • What didn’t work during onboarding this client?

As with any workflow in your business, it’s important to regularly update your client onboarding process so it remains fresh and relevant.

Streamline Your Client Onboarding

Creating a client onboarding experience may seem like a small step in the grand scheme of a project, but it is a major opportunity to set your business up for long-term success.

Using the best practices and suggested steps provided in this article you can create a client onboarding process that will …

  • create strong relationships with your clients
  • generate glowing reviews for your business
  • and keep clients coming back time and again.

I think we can all agree those are 3 things we definitely want!

To get started right now, see if your client onboarding process is efficient and easy to navigate with our FREE Customer Experience DIY Audit.

Want help to streamline and automate your client onboarding process? Book a consultation with one of our business optimisation consultants.