If you routinely bring on new clients, partners or customers of any kind, you’ve probably considered whether you need to introduce a set formula for client onboarding into your operations. It doesn’t matter if you run an S Corporation, a Nonprofit or a Limited Liability Company (LLC) — the value you gain from onboarding will depend on how integral new clients are to your company’s success.
Not sure whether you need to implement an onboarding process? It’s always a good idea to optimize any elements that you can, especially when you’re starting a new business. But if you're wondering whether onboarding would be worth the investment, read on to find out what this process looks like and how it may benefit your organization.
Purpose of a Client Onboarding Process
As a business owner, you have plenty on your to-do list, especially if your company is in its early stages. Establishing client onboarding best practices give you one less thing to worry about. The goal of client onboarding is to overcome that awkward phase where you and your client are still getting to know one another. You want to familiarize your new client with your business processes as soon as possible, answering all their questions and clearing up any misconceptions. This will create a much smoother working relationship going forward, hopefully preventing any recalibrations or disputes down the line.
Client onboarding is also about data collection. You need to know precisely who you’re dealing with so you can understand the best way to provide value to your new client. For instance, you’ll need to know what you can provide that will serve their goals and feed into their own success. With any effective client onboarding checklist, the goal is to strengthen the bond between your organizations and set the stage for a long-lasting relationship.
Client retention is one of the most obvious results from a strong client onboarding process. After all, you put a ton of work into attracting the attention of prospective clients and getting them to the point of sale. The last thing you want to do is to lose them at the last second or have to start all over if they decide to end the relationship. Rather than allowing your clients to become dissatisfied and look elsewhere, aim to please them and you’ll see referrals begin trickling in.
Client Onboarding Done Right
So how do you build a successful client onboarding process from the ground up? No matter the specifics of your client onboarding, here are some fundamental points you’ll definitely want to hit.
1. Evaluate Your Client
As we’ve alluded to already, client onboarding really begins with a thorough review of your client’s structure, objectives and resources. Once you know who you’re dealing with, you’ll be in a better position to build upon it in a positive way.
Specifics of this step will vary wildly depending on your business, your industry and (of course) the clients themselves. Take an objective eye to each client to identify opportunities for future growth. This is the most critical step of your client onboarding since the success of everything depends on it — so take your time.
2. Develop Your Approach
If you’ve taken the time to assess the client’s situation and goals, you can then decide exactly how to proceed. This begins with establishing a scope of work (the extent of your service for the client), and it may also require that you take a fresh approach to your work.
That's why the first step is so critical: If your client data is incomplete or inaccurate, you might base your entire plan of attack on faulty information. Create specific goals you’re aiming to hit, but don’t hesitate to admit if you feel like your company lacks the resources to deliver. Trust us — it's much better to find that out at this stage of the process than later!
3. Assemble Your Team
The mission is clear, and the strategy is set. Next, you’ll need people who can execute it to the letter. Depending on your resources, this may range from just you to a few people to an extensive network of employees. But the goal is the same: meet your client's needs.
If you have a large group, you’ll want to assign at least one point person from each department. An overall project manager is a given, but you might want to involve team members in marketing, design, and other areas based on the type of project you’re working on. Just be sure their skill sets are a good fit.
4. Align Your Resources
You have all your best people on board, but before you start work, ensure that everyone is on the same page. Set up an internal meeting to review the client’s needs, the project scope and your anticipated strategy to coordinate the two. Consider it an orientation to get your team primed to do their best work with minimal rework or redundancy. You might even want to follow up this meeting with some extra preparation before the real work even begins.
5. Connect the Teams
Once your team is ready to go, it’s time to connect them with the client’s team via an in-depth kickoff meeting. This is your opportunity to establish the level of service the client can anticipate and lay out what they can expect as the project moves forward.
Your team will be instrumental in leading their various areas of focus, so let them demonstrate their expertise and pose any lingering questions. If you structure it just right, you should be able to review everything you need to get started and establish next steps in just an hour.
Keep in Touch
About two to four weeks after the kickoff meeting, schedule a follow-up call to ensure everything is running smoothly. Ideally any problems would be brought up during the natural course of work, but sometimes time can pass by without proper resolution.
Always make sure the client views you as proactively solving any issues. It’s useful for at least the chief decision-makers on both sides to touch base and course-correct if necessary. Even if everything is progressing nicely, use this as a chance to foster that relationship and reaffirm your commitment to the client.
Permission to Come Onboard
Establishing a client onboarding process flow is just one of many considerations for each business venture you embark on. The decisions you make about these processes early on can greatly influence your long-term success, so it’s essential to plan and perfect your strategies as soon as you can.
At Incfile, we can help ensure your business has a strong start and consistent operations as you grow. If you're just beginning, incorporation processes and paperwork can be overwhelming, and you can’t afford to let your business make any missteps. We currently offer several different packages that provide a comprehensive service to give you a leg up on your competitors. If you’re on board with making your business the best it can be, check out our website and let’s get started!
Robert Yaniz Jr.
Robert Yaniz Jr. has been a professional writer since 2004, including print and online publications. Much of his experience centers on the business world, including work for a major regional business newspaper and a global law firm