A Guide to Onboarding Clients | Definition, Benefits, Steps and Tips


Posted On May 7, 2024

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Client onboarding is a "first" experience. It's just like the first time you visited a new place, got a new job, or went on a first date, and as such, it falls into the category of the unknown — for both sides.

The new client might be a little nervous, hoping they made the right decision and that you’re worth the investment. And, you might be hoping you can adjust to their working style, or that you can get the result they want quick enough. It’s a big game of testing the water, and the onboarding stage is truly where you discover whether you will sink or swim.

When a business takes on a new client, it is important to make certain the client becomes acclimated to the culture and practices of the business. This process of onboarding is to assure the client they have made the right decision by establishing a relationship with the business. If your organization would like to build a stronger clientele, understanding how to retain clients through effective onboarding is an essential skill.

In this article, we define onboarding clients, provide a step-by-step guide to ensure a successful process, offer tips to help optimize the procedure and explain why it is so important.

 

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of integrating new clients into a business and establishing a strong and productive working relationship. It is a crucial step in the client-business relationship as it sets the tone for future interactions and helps build trust and mutual understanding. This process helps clients learn all the features and benefits of the product so they get the total value—reducing the chance of churn.

 

What can agencies do to ensure long-term success with their list of clients?

Be as invested in their onboarding as they are in their lead generation. First impressions matter. Onboarding is your opportunity to set expectations to prevent scope creep, template customer experiences that reinforce your brand and create a positive client experience to increase profitability.

 

Why is Client Onboarding Important?

Client onboarding is a vital step in the client-business relationship that helps to establish mutual understanding, improve client satisfaction, increase efficiency, and strengthen the relationship for a successful and long-lasting partnership.

Here are some key reasons why client onboarding is important:

  • Better understanding: Onboarding helps businesses gain a deeper understanding of their client’s needs, expectations, and goals. This information is critical in ensuring that the relationship is productive and successful.

 

  • Improved client satisfaction: When clients feel welcomed and valued, they are more likely to be satisfied with the services they receive and remain loyal to the business. Onboarding helps to create a positive first impression and foster a sense of belonging.

 

  • Increased efficiency: A well-structured onboarding process can streamline the process of integrating new clients into the business, reducing confusion and minimizing the risk of errors.

 

  • Stronger relationships: Onboarding helps to build trust and foster strong, long-lasting relationships between clients and businesses. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer loyalty and repeat business.

 

What is the client onboarding process?

The client onboarding process establishes a customer relationship through pre-onboarding, after-signing communication, a kick-off call, a post-kick-off meeting, and SLA development. The goal of this process is to assure the client that your team will carry out the promises it made during the sales process.

The onboarding stage is a rarely overlooked, but often underutilized part of the sales process.

The client onboarding process is simple, but it works. When you can hook clients, and build trust, you'll create a strong foundation for a future relationship with them. Without that strong foundation, your relationship will crumble.

Okay, enough with the metaphors. It’s time to think about how to get your client relationships rolling.

 

How to Onboard New Clients

Pre-Onboarding

Your sales reps should be setting expectations and performing tasks with onboarding in mind. Here are a few steps to ensure success with the post-sale hand-off:

 

Identify customer pains and solutions.

During the sales qualification, your rep is determining if the prospect is a good fit for you and requires your services. They should also be getting crystal clear about the prospect’s pains and conveying to them how your product or service solves it. The last thing you want is to have miscommunication or lack of transparency after work commences.

 

Define big-picture campaign goals.

Your rep should also discuss the client’s big-picture ideas for your first campaign or project together. What do they want to achieve? What numbers do they want to impact?

In this initial discussion, it’s important to gauge goals, expectations, and ideal outcomes for a project, and then discuss how you’ll work together to make them actionable and achievable. In many cases, you’ll have to find a happy medium between what the client wants to achieve, what resources they have available, and what your team’s time and efforts will allow for.

 

Agree on mutual deliverables.

When crafting a proposal or service contract, the terms of the agreement should be clearly defined. The scope and the deliverables should be based on the client’s goals and what your company can realistically achieve. They should be spelled out for the client before work begins.

 

Gather details.

Point of contact. Budget. Timelines. These are all vital details to discuss and nail down early on in the collaboration process.

 

After Signing

The proposal was sent, they signed on the dotted line, and perhaps they even made their first payment. Now, the hand-off has happened, and you don’t want to lose any momentum built during the sales process. You’ll also have to eliminate uncertainty where possible to prevent buyer’s remorse.

 

Send a welcome packet.

One thing you can do is immediately send a welcome packet or email after the proposal is submitted. The point of this is two-fold:

  • Reinforce that they did the right thing by making them feel like part of the family
  • Set expectations for onboarding

Consider including a timeline for the next steps, and inform them that your team is excited to have them on board.

 

Schedule a discovery call.

Even if you send a packet or email, your new customer will still need a personal touch. In the discovery call, one of your team members will welcome the client and ask if they have any questions or concerns. It’s also good to take this time to organize the kick-off call and set expectations for it.

 

Kick-Off Call

The kick-off call is the formal introduction between the client and your team members who will be handling/working the account. It sets the tone for the rest of the engagement, so here’s what you’ll want to accomplish:

 

Collect information about their internal process.

If you’re picking up where your client’s team left off, find out what the existing process looks like and what their preferences are. Otherwise, ask about how they want to manage the relationship and what they expect process-wise.

 

Ask for the client’s definition of success.

Whether your sales rep debriefed your team or not, they’ll want to hear about the client’s goals from the horse’s mouth. This helps align the team and the customer on expected outcomes.

 

Revisit the deliverables.

The team likely has better context about the work being performed, so once they understand the client’s expectations, now is the time to confirm that the agreed-upon deliverables are appropriate and achievable.

 

Reinforce the value you’re providing.

Be sure to handle any last-minute objections by sharing information that will banish buyer’s remorse (such as introducing your team’s specialties or any strategies you have for their success).

 

Set the cadence for communication.

Just as the welcome packet/email sets expectations for the rest of onboarding, you’ll want to set expectations for the rest of the engagement during the kick-off call. This extends to how often the customer should expect updates, meetings, and other communication. Without this step, you may find that your team feels taxed if the client expects more communication. If your staff expects less communication, your client might feel left in the dark.

 

Outline action items for both parties.

Both you and the client will have to deliver content and collateral to make the campaign a success. Nail down everything needed for the project, who will be responsible for what, and firm deadlines for submitting collateral.

 

Post Kick-Off Meeting

Once the kick-off call is complete, set your first regular check-in to evaluate progress made and for both parties to offer feedback. Here are some best practices for the call:

 

Revisit your client’s definition of success.

Your account manager can’t influence what the customer is thinking when they don’t have visibility into all the work being performed. Think of this meeting as a course correction. Especially at the beginning of an engagement when there may not be tangible results or deliverables, it’s important to remind the client of what they still stand to gain and why they entered into the engagement.

 

What are the benefits of client onboarding?

One of the most obvious benefits of a successful client onboarding process is continued service from your client. When you lose a client it means that all the time spent on marketing, developing the relationship, drafting proposals, and investing your time to meet with them has all gone to waste.

According to the Gartner Group, 80% of a company’s future revenue will come from 20% of its current customers. However many businesses allocate few marketing resources toward retaining their current customers. There is an incredible opportunity for future revenue with repeat clients so it is in your best interest to keep your current clients happy.

Another benefit to retaining your current clients is the opportunity for referrals. When your clients are happy with the service you provide them, they are more likely to refer you to others. According to this article, about 20-50 percent of all purchases came based on recommendations made by other people. Word-of-mouth marketing can work to your business’s benefit or detriment. If you do an exceptional job of onboarding your new clients, you will set yourself up for positive word-of-mouth marketing.

 

The 5 Steps for a Successful Client Onboarding Process

It takes a lot of time, money, and energy to bring on new clients, so it doesn’t make much sense to lose them the minute they finally sign up. This is why it is so important to have an effective onboarding process in place. With a proper plan and direction in place, you can ensure that both the needs of your client and your business needs are being met.

 

Here are 5 steps you can use for onboarding new clients:

1. Assess your client’s current needs

One of the most important parts of the onboarding process is learning about your client’s needs. Every client is different and will have different resources to work with. When you understand their strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to develop a plan for how to work with them.

Make a list of your client’s current assets as well as any areas that need improvement. When you review this with your client, use it as an opportunity to position yourself as an expert.

 

2. Outline the client’s desired outcomes and goals

All successful marketing campaigns have a goal in mind. You should already have an idea of what your client is hoping to accomplish, you have a clear understanding of what you are working with, and now it is time to develop a goal and a plan to move forward.

You need to take your assessment and turn it into measurable goals that your team can act on. The more clearly you articulate your goals to your client and your team, the easier it will be for everyone will stay on track. Be sure that you don’t promise anything you can’t deliver on, and make sure everyone is involved in the goal-setting process.

 

3. Be sure your team is briefed on your client

Before your team becomes involved with the client, you need to make sure they have a clear understanding of your client, their industry, and the work involved. Assign your team any necessary reading materials, be sure they have access to the assessment and contract, and provide any notes available on your client. Once your team knows your client’s desired outcomes and objectives, they will be better prepared for the client kickoff call.

 

4. Have a kick-off call

It is important to have a great kick-off call so everyone is on the same page and has all the information they need. Your client needs to have a good impression of your entire team, not just you. Be sure your team demonstrates that they fully understand the scope of the work and have everything they need to move forward. Give your client time to articulate their objectives and expectations.

 

5. Check-in after 30 days

This is an opportunity for you to gain feedback from your client, get a sense of how the process is going so far, and address any concerns they may have. Use this check-in call as an opportunity to build on your relationship with your client and let them know you value their business. Have a list of questions prepared and summarize all the work that has been done in the past 30 days. When the call is over, your client should feel confident that they made the right choice by doing business with your company.

 

FAQ’s

 

What is customer onboarding process?

What is customer onboarding? Customer onboarding is the process of teaching new customers the value of your product or service. It happens between two key customer milestones: 1) when customers sign up for your product, and 2) when they experience their first success using your product.

 

What does it mean to onboard clients?

Client onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients into your business, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring they understand the services available to them.

 

Why is client onboarding done?

The client onboarding process establishes a customer relationship through pre-onboarding, after-signing communication, a kick-off call, a post-kick-off meeting, and SLA development. The goal of this process is to assure the client that your team will carry out the promises it made during the sales process.

 

What is the 4-step onboarding process?

Well, Onboarding is the engrossment of new hires into the company. The entire program includes preboarding, orientation, training, and transition to a new role. Onboarding covers all the specifics of new employees. In contrast, training is one of the segments of the onboarding program.

 

How do I onboard a B2B client?

What are the key components of an effective B2B customer onboarding process? Effective B2B customer onboarding involves clear communication, setting realistic expectations, providing comprehensive training, offering support and resources, and establishing a feedback loop.

 

Which tool is used for customer onboarding?

Oas36ty's is a cloud-based product adoption and user onboarding software. It's designed to help users navigate and understand software through guides and prompts. The tool enables you to create a smooth and interactive onboarding experience for your users.

 

Which is part of customer onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the process that new users go through to get set up and start using your product. It covers the whole journey: from initial sign-up to product activation and first use. Customer onboarding aims to deliver value to your customers as early as possible — in their first use, if possible.

 

What is another name for client onboarding?

What is another word for onboarding? User Adoption is a common way to refer to User Onboarding. As for Employee Onboarding, people tend to call it Orientation or Induction, but Employee Onboarding is a longer process that covers both terms.

 



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