A firm handshake and a clear statement of the meeting’s purpose are reliable signs that the meeting is off on the right foot. Similarly, effective customer onboarding is a clear sign that the new relationship is off on the right foot.
A smooth client onboarding process for new customers has a positive impact on product adoption, product usage, customer retention, and the creation of opportunities for growth and advocacy.
In today’s competitive market, the new client onboarding process is what sets you apart from competition. Read on to understand the nuances of creating quick and efficient client onboarding process flows and best practices in client onboarding.
What is Client Onboarding?
Client onboarding is a crucial part of your business, it sets the tone for the entire customer journey. It doesn’t matter whether you are running an accounting practice, digital agency, IT firm, business consultancy, or any other client-focused business – client onboarding is incredibly important. What is the client onboarding process? The client onboarding process is the process of welcoming new clients into your business.
Client onboarding provides you the opportunity to build a strong relationship with the client and get the client up to speed and address any queries they have. The new client onboarding process helps businesses outline the client strategy going forward.
The client onboarding workflow aims at making the client feel like they have made the right choice and that your business will work towards fulfilling varying needs of clients. Client onboarding is critical to ensure that you deliver a great first impression for retaining clients.
The client onboarding focuses on inducting new clients, addressing their concerns and queries, and ensuring that they understand the services available to them. Successful introduction of your business to the new client and addressing all their queries early on can be achieved by client onboarding.
Using a client onboarding process template, you can also gather important client information, which provides insights into what products/services you can offer to them. There are several templates in the onboarding process – Internal Onboarding Checklist, Welcome Packet Template, First Onboarding Call Agenda template, Training resources template. And Hand-off template. In a nutshell, successful onboarding will help you meet needs of both clients and your business.
Characteristics of effective client onboarding are –
Clear ownership within the organization is a must while defining the onboarding process is a must. The challenge here is to identify where proper handoffs need to occur. Clear responsibilities for specific parts of the onboarding process must be assigned so that customers do not fall through cracks.
Welcome customers appropriately
Client onboarding stage is the right time to gain additional insights from new customers on their preferences, including, how they would like to be contacted, their preferred mode of interaction with the company, and their key areas of interest. The information gathered about client preferences helps customize the onboarding process accordingly.
Once the sales process is completed, engaging the consumer is critical for long-term success. Marketers need to ensure that new customers are introduced to various channels available for customer engagement, including user groups, online communities, product councils, etc. Sharing customer’s early stage success stories to newly onboarded customers helps them get up to speed quickly. There should be a clear connection between sales and customer success for smooth onboarding that is reliable, scalable, and consistent.
The buying process reveals information about the new customer at the account level and contact level. Names, emails, roles within the organization, titles, and previous experience with the company, segment and geographical data, are needed for knowledge transfer. Just as this information is important to the sales team, it is important to those who now need to nurture and grow customer relationships.
Access to information
Effective capture of information alone is not enough, it must be conveyed in an easily accessible and reliable format. During the customer onboarding process, emphasis must be placed on infrastructure that enables effective capture and sharing of information.
Steps in Client Onboarding
Improving the client onboarding process requires complete mapping of the tasks involved in the process. Mapping the process can be done with the client onboarding process flow chart. The following steps make up the client onboarding process:
The expectations must be set by the sales reps before the onboarding process. Post-sale hand-off must identify customer pains and solutions, define big-picture campaign goals, agree on mutual deliverables, and gather details on budget and delivery timelines. Most of these details are gathered by the sales representatives while making the sale.
2. Contract Signing
The contract is signed by the client once all the conditions and terms are satisfactory. In some cases, the first payment is made while signing the contract. Sending a welcome package or email to the client after signing, which makes them feel they did the right thing by signing the contract. The welcome note/package also sets the expectations for onboarding. You can also set up a discovery call after contract signing for adding a personal touch to client onboarding. One of the team members can welcome the client during this call and address any queries that they might have.
3. Kick-off call
The kick-off call is a formal introduction between the client and the team that will be handling the client’s account. The kick-off call sets the tone for the rest of the client onboarding process. This call aims at gathering information about the client’s internal processes, get a clear picture on their definition of success, revisit the deliverables, reinforcing your value offering, and outline the action items for both parties.
4. Post-Kick Off meeting
Regular check-in is needed after the kick off meeting to gather feedback from both parties. The check-in process must revisit the client’s definition of success. The post-kick off meeting can be considered as a course correction as per client’s expectations. At the beginning of the engagement, the client may not have visibility into all the work that is being performed. The post-kick off helps in reminding the client what they still stand to gain through the engagement and the main focus of the engagement.
5. SLA creation
In addition to the contract signed at the beginning of client engagement, a service level agreement (SLA) is also signed. This contract helps establish a set of deliverables between one party and the other. The SLA is more specific than the proposal and may be adjusted as goals or business needs change. It is critical to establish what the clients need from you and what you need from them to accomplish the end result/product.
Importance of Client Onboarding
Why is client onboarding important? Customer onboarding is much more than just a series of follow-up meetings to know if the client is happy with their purchase. It is an important part of the purchasing decision that many customers weigh heavily when signing a deal. Here are the top reasons why client onboarding is important for the business:
Deciding factor for customers – as per the latest report, 63% of the customers consider the onboarding process as the main reason for making a purchase. Making the customers feel welcome during the onboarding process is the most important part of customer onboarding.
Preventing customer churn – when customers don’t see value in the product or service they purchased, they are likely to retreat their steps. Customer onboarding ensures that they understand all the options available to them and how the product/service adds value to their business. A study by Precursive reveals that 82% of enterprise organizations rate their onboarding strategy as the key driver of value.
Encourages repeat purchases – the onboarding process gives a positive experience to your customers by keeping them happy and engaged. Happy and engaged customers are more likely to repeat their purchases with your business.
Reduces scope creep – client onboarding helps set expectations early on in the customer journey. This ensures that both parties are aware of what scope creep looks like, and avoids it upfront before the project starts.
Ensures compliance – a well thought out, highly repeatable onboarding process ensures that compliance is weaved into each task.
Automating the Client Onboarding Process
A positive onboarding experience confirms to your customers that they have made the right choice. The client onboarding workflow is made up of several tasks that are repetitive in nature. Automating the client onboarding process flows improves the outcome of the process and builds strong relationships with the client. How to automate the client onboarding process?
Define the goal of customer onboarding
Before automating the onboarding process, the goal of automated onboarding needs to be determined. Depending on the nature of business operations, selective tasks can be automated or the entire onboarding workflow can be automated. Identify repetitive tasks in the workflow that can be automated. You can automate as much or as little as you need depending on the customer’s needs. What you want to automate sets the tone for how you want to automate the client onboarding process.
Determine the type of automated onboarding you want to introduce
This step focuses on customer needs and evaluates the onboarding process step-by-step. Businesses should first understand their customer’s needs by looking at different segments of customers to determine who is a good fit for self-service onboarding. Once this is determined, you can begin to collaborate and align across all the necessary departments to build a seamless automated customer onboarding experience.
Align with necessary departments
Throughout the automated onboarding process, feedback from various teams on how the process work is required. Departments like marketing, product, customer success, and HR departments need to collaborate for a seamless client onboarding. Qualitative feedback from any onboarding specialists or customer success managers is essential to design the automated onboarding process.
Prioritize customer experience
Automation should only be introduced if it enhances the customer’s onboarding journey in terms of speed, value realization, and ease of use. For that, businesses need to align across many functions to ensure that automation is seamlessly integrated into the business product and service experiences.
Every process is bound to have sticky points that your employees need to oversee in the onboarding process. Automating the onboarding process helps mitigate the friction in the process by ensuring that automated resources are available for customers at all times.
Automated onboarding can be incredibly helpful to your company in saving time, resources, and money, when used the right way. For example, automating only some parts of the onboarding cycle and not all of them works for some businesses, but for others automating the entire cycle would be an advantage.
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Best Practices in Client Onboarding
How to improve the client onboarding process? Automating the client onboarding process is a time tested way of improving the process outcomes. Knowing the best practices in client onboarding helps in setting up the best cycle for your organization.
1. Knowing your product
It is important to know the material you are working with. Effective client onboarding requires complete knowledge of what you are onboarding people to. Knowledge of your product is enhanced when you have answers to questions like – what is the nature of my product? What is my brand voice? What is the unique feature or offering? How is my overall client experience without client onboarding?
2. Knowing your clients
Client onboarding is as much about your clients as it is about your product/company. Knowing client requirements and preferences is key to designing optimal customer experience. Some of the questions you need to ask yourself are – what is the client persona? What brought them to you? Do they need training courses or educational content to get onboarded? Can you shorten the onboarding process for better customer engagement? The point here is to figure out what makes the clients happy by looking into the details of the client base.
3. Consider past onboarding experiences
Some of the best client onboarding processes are shaped based on learning from past experiences. Revisiting past onboarding experiences helps identify what went wrong and what went right. You need to gather client data from old onboarding experiences that failed and succeeded to find 3 mistakes and 3 wins at least to design a new onboarding process. You also need to have a detailed look at the sales team’s handoff data for designing the onboarding cycle.
4. Design a comprehensive client onboarding strategy
Once you have all the data points on your product, client’s requirements/expectations, past onboarding wins and failures, you are ready to create the onboarding strategy for the new client. The strategy must consider the material at hand, the past and the expected future. Coming up with the strategy might seem like a complex process, but it should be borne in mind that the end result must be simple and easily explainable and understandable.
5. Communicate with your team regularly
The client onboarding strategy must be clear to the entire organization. Everyone in the customer service, sales, and marketing teams must be able to summarize the entire onboarding process in a few sentences. The rest of the company must have a clear idea about how clients are onboarded by these teams. Stakeholders must be brought into the picture while strategizing the onboarding process.
6. Use the right tools
Onboarding automation is effective only when you use the right tools. By tools we mean the workflow automation software that is used for automating the tasks in the onboarding process. Using a no-code workflow automation software like Cflow simplifies the automation process. This BPM solution is the best automation tool for client onboarding process flows.
7. Customize and personalize the automation solution
It is not enough if you just choose the right tool for automating the client onboarding process. The tool must be customized according to the unique requirements of the client and your organization. Personalization is a must for client onboarding. Automation must not make them feel like they are interacting with a robot. Weaving in your brand voice, style, and image into the client onboarding process adds that personal touch that helps build solid client relationships.
8. Review and ask for Feedback
Opinion and feedback matter when it comes to process improvements. Having a feedback questionnaire as part of the onboarding process is a great way to gather client feedback. Client surveys are also useful in gathering data on the wins and failures of the client onboarding process.
9. Promote new features
Promoting new features of your product can also be done effectively via the customer onboarding process. It must be borne in mind that promotions and user engagement efforts are aligned with getting your users to adopt the new feature and use the product more often. Even when there is no feature addition, you can use your own product data to get clients back in.
10. Optimize and iterate
Learning from your mistakes is the most effective way to successful client onboarding. The definition of client onboarding might be very different for each product, but when you fail, it only means that you have more to learn from and optimize. It might take several iterations before you optimize the onboarding process, but it is worth the effort.
Whether or not your organization follows a client onboarding process, it is never too late to adopt one. What is the client onboarding process? How does it improve customer engagement and experience? We have covered these points and the best practices in the client onboarding process in the above sections.
A recent study by the McKinsey group reveals that the average time for onboarding a new corporate client is around 100 days. How about we reduce the onboarding time by automating key steps in the process? Cflow can help you with that. Sign up for the free demo to see how.
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