The Secret Sauce Behind Successful Onboarding
You may be great at what you do and attracting new clientele. But have you ever analyzed how long your clients stay with you? Is this time frame longer or shorter than you’d like? Part of that mystery may have to do with your onboarding process.
Many people mistake onboarding with simply signing up a client and getting their payment information. In reality, onboarding involves a whole lot more. Onboarding is about establishing a relationship and retaining a happy client. With an established onboarding process, you’ll put your client at ease and help them avoid buyer’s regret. A happy client is a loyal client.
These 21 tips will help you create and enhance your onboarding practice.
1. Take a Pre-Boarding Deep Dive
Don’t rely solely on your client’s input about them or their company. Before you begin your onboarding process, take time to investigate your client’s online footprint on your own. Through their social media accounts and other online avenues, you may notice something original or unique about them that they have overlooked and could be an asset to highlight or include in their business.
Also search for some personal tidbits about your client to make the process more personal. No doubt you’ll find information about their favorite vacation getaway, favorite sports team, or a family milestone, such as a special birthday or anniversary.
2. Ask for – and Share – Testimonials
New clients need reassurance, and testimonials from happy clients provide social proof that you’re awesome. Do you read Amazon reviews before purchasing a product? Of course, you do! Consider the testimonials you gather the same as you would an Amazon review of your services.
Get in the habit of asking for testimonials from everyone who walks through your door who has a wonderful experience. Publish some on your website and save others to add to your Welcome Kit. By requesting and following up with clients for their testimonials, you’ll have a steady flow of accolades ready to share with the world.
3. Solicit Feedback from Clients
Since you’re developing a 2-way relationship, ask for your client’s feedback periodically. Using a questionnaire or survey format is easiest or you can conduct this research interview-style during a meeting.
Don’t confuse feedback with asking for permission to do things. You don’t need permission to do your job. Use your expertise to guide the client toward action tasks but when it comes to feedback, use this opportunity to gather customer information and clarify their specific goals.
The following are a few questions that may be useful for business coaches to include besides name and email. Are you the primary decision-maker? Share a bit about yourself. What kind of work do you do? What’s special about your business or company? What’s the #1 business problem we can help you solve? Do you currently have a budget to invest in business growth? Do you already have a document to send that describes your needs?
As you progress through your coaching sessions, ask for feedback about the process, if they’re happy with the progress they’re making, and ask if there’s anything they would like to change about the coaching process. If you don’t ask and your client is unhappy, they may simply cancel their program instead of asking for changes.
4. Update your Team about New Clients
Whether you work alone or with others, take time to evaluate a project summary, what would make this project a success for your client, a rough timeline for the project, review any client research you have, and decide if you need any additional information in order to begin.
If any team members will be interacting with clients on your behalf, make proper introductions and explain their roles so your clients will understand why you’re not calling or interacting yourself.
5. Embrace Automation to Manage Client Relationships
Customer relationships are what keep your business afloat, so you want to take every action possible to keep those relationships happy. Instead of relying on sticky notes or the too-small contacts section in your smartphone, consider investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) app or software.
Salesforce, Keap (formerly Infusionsoft), and Zoho are just a few of hundreds of CRM platforms available today. Each system is uniquely different with the types of features they present. Consider this your contact list on steroids. You can segment your contacts into lists; you can group those who work in the same company; and you can create automated workflows your whole team can use, based on the programs your clients are purchasing.
6. Remove Obstacles and Make the Process Easy
The beauty of creating an onboarding process from scratch is you can build the process from the ground up and extraneous steps will be obvious during the building process. Making changes to an existing process is a bit more difficult, especially if your team is used to doing things a certain way for a long time. But making changes is not impossible.
Make it as simple as possible to sign up clients, schedule a kickoff meeting, and book your coaching sessions. When things get complicated is when clients get frustrated and decide coaching isn’t for them. If you see clients getting overwhelmed, help them sort through the important stuff.
7. Create a Welcome Package Template
After your initial meeting, providing your clients with a welcome package helps reinforce your client’s decision to work with you and will make them feel special. What should you include? A business info sheet about your company with contact information, business hours, typical response times and any other FAQs tailored to your company. Have you delivered great results for another company? Consider including a case study that details their story working with you. Creating a welcome video to introduce you and your company could be another great addition to your package.
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. With a bit of research, you’ll find plenty of templates for onboarding documents already online. HubSpot offers five customer satisfaction survey templates you can customize in Google Forms format: hubspot.com/resources
8. Create an Onboarding Checklist
Or assign this to your VA. Create a list of all your onboarding steps, including a follow-up outreach schedule once your project is over. This will help guarantee everything is covered. If you work with a partner or team, keep this online as a dynamic file that others can update as needed and make special notes of who is assigned to which onboarding task.
Understand that this type of file is fluid and will require changes as you grow bigger, increase your program offerings, or as client feedback dictates.
9. Fine-Tune a Digital Welcome Kit
Have a layout designed with graphics that represent your welcome package documents and files. Make sure you include your branding, and make it artistically pleasing, whether serious or fun, depending on your style. Have this made into an interactive PDF. When used by the client, they have all the links to your welcome package items all in one well-designed and organized place.
10. Send a Handwritten Note
In today’s electronic age, it’s even more meaningful to receive something physical in the mail than a standard email. If you’d prefer not to write a note yourself, a service like Handwrytten will send cards that are handwritten in ink by custom designed robots and produced in a handwriting style of your choice.
If you want to include a physical gift with your Welcome Kit, there is a plethora of promotional items you could brand with your business identity and send to your client. Printfection is a swag management platform for larger businesses. Cafepress and Zazzle will create print-on-demand items, or companies like 4imprint carry a large variety of items that can be ordered in bulk.
To add even more value, send a logo-branded flash drive to new customers that holds resources that may be helpful for their business, including specific business-oriented websites, sample files and client case studies or testimonials.
12. Address Scope Creep
“Scope creep refers to a project that has seen its original goals expand while it’s in progress.” – Techopedia.com
In the coaching world, scope creep is all the extra stuff clients ask for that are above and beyond what they’re paying for. It can appear in the form of after-hours texts, research requests, free resource requests, or any extra work on your part. The only way to avoid this situation is to address it in the kickoff meeting and immediately after the first request is made. It’s much easier to nip it in the bud, pointing to the signed contract, than to do the extra work and decide later on that it’s too much.
13. Update Your Image – and Your Client’s Image – with Branded Graphics
Design a handful of unique social media post graphics with inspirational quotes and key into those that are most relevant to your clients’ businesses. Use a border design at the top or bottom of each graphic that contains your logo. As a bonus, provide original .psd files or editable PDF documents so your client can reuse the designs with their own company mark. Include in your Swag with Purpose or Welcome Package.
In an effort to make things easy for your client, send them a short video showing them how to add their logo or how to make other changes to the original image.
14. Be Proactive
The timeline is up to you, but a phone call with your client within 30 days is recommended to make sure that everything is running smoothly. This will help make sure that no balls have been dropped in this onboarding process and allow your client a chance to connect with you personally and address any concerns.
Some clients are hesitant to notify you if things go wrong and appreciate the opportunity to talk about the issues. Other clients are less patient and will cancel the contract if they feel that you don’t care. Being proactive is a good trait, even if the ensuing conversations are difficult.
15. Learn Not to Take Feedback Personally
Even the best laid plans will experience a hiccup occasionally, so if a client mentions problems or is otherwise unhappy, try to look at each case objectively. Review each client’s onboarding process. Did anything go awry? Were there additional questions you needed addressed in your questionnaire? Are you still waiting for the client to provide anything to you?
Yes, this is your company (your baby!) and you put together this onboarding process, but improvements can always be made. Listen to your clients then work to make the process even better. Your clients will be impressed that you moved quickly to resolve the issues.
16. Connect on Social Media
No doubt you’ve already looked at their social media accounts during the qualifying phase but during this onboarding phase it’s simply another way to build a relationship. You’ll have front row access to what they’re posting, and you’ll learn more about them as a person as well as a businessperson.
Depending on your confidentiality agreement, you may not want to publicize your working relationship, but you can certainly become one of their loyal followers with no explanation.
17. Add a Welcome Sign to Your Lobby, Conference Room, or Zoom Room
Making your new clients feel welcome and important is key to starting this relationship. A small welcome sign with their name in your lobby or conference room is a nice touch, showing that you’ve put forth some extra effort.
If you work strictly online, you can do the same thing. Send a welcome email greeting along with a reminder of your online kickoff meeting. Or create a welcome graphic and post it in your Zoom room before your kickoff meeting begins. It’s the small things that are most memorable.
18. Add Some Humor to the Onboarding Process
Show your sense of humor to lighten the mood. New clients may be unsure of how to interact with you and may be cautious of not offending or asking too many questions, simply because they’re still getting to know you. Lighten the mood with some self-deprecating humor or with a funny meme. Recall some funny stories (NOT about past clients, however) or ask about their funniest vacation memory.
Yes, you’re embarking on a new professional relationship but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good laugh.
19. Share Your Core Values with Clients
Do you have a company set of core beliefs or values? If so, include them in your onboarding Welcome Package.
If you haven’t created them yet, Zappos may provide an inspirational springboard to help you write your own: 1) Deliver WOW through service. 2) Embrace and drive change. 3) Create fun and a little weirdness. 4) Be adventurous, creative and open-minded. 5) Pursue growth and learning. 6) Build open and honest relationships with communication. 7) Build a positive team and family spirit. 8) Do more with less. 9) Be passionate and determined. 10) Be humble.
20. Add an Onboarding Mission Statement to Your Welcome Package
Develop a specific mission statement for your onboarding goals. Consider including details about your goal to create an efficient and positive onboarding experience for your clients by providing excellent customer service, serving as an invaluable resource, and building and maintaining positive relationships with your clientele.
When you share this mission with your clients, they will have a better understanding of what you’re striving to achieve in your own business.
21. Encourage Clients to Create a Vision Board (if it suits them)
A vision board is a visualization tool that refers to any board used to build a collage of words and pictures that represent a client’s goals and dreams. Some prefer the traditional way of making them, with old magazine photos and glue, or the modern way to create this tool is via apps.
The top 5 apps for electronic vision boards are Jack Canfield Success, Astraport Vision Board, Corkulous, The Vision Kit, and Dream Cloud. Another suggestion would be to create a private Pinterest board specifically for your client.
Of course, not every client will buy into this process – some may even think of it as “woo woo” – but any way they can visualize their own goals can be helpful in keeping their motivation high.
By creating and using an onboarding process, your business will benefit with faster processing times, more efficient information gathering, and online record keeping. Businesses of all sizes benefit because you’ll have all your paperwork organized plus, you’ll have client goals spelled out before you begin your coaching sessions.
Not only will you benefit from onboarding, but implementing and welcoming clients “on board” will result in a great experience for your clientele and build trust and added confidence in their decision to work with your company. To get help with your onboarding process, schedule a short (free) chat with Membership Fix.