Do you run a startup and you need a sure system to get clients on board? If YES, here are 17 smart tips to creating a highly effective onboarding process.

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of receiving a new client into your startup business. It’s your opportunity to build a relationship with your new client, orient them, address their concerns, bring the client up to speed on your business, and generally start the project on the right footing. If your onboarding process was successful, the client would feel properly integrated into the system.

Retaining the clients that come to you makes good business sense because it costs five times more to attract a new client than to keep the one you already have. The best way to keep clients is to make it easy for them to work with you from the first day of your relationship by implementing a solid but simple client onboarding process.

Why Create an Onboarding System for your Clients?

Creating a system for onboarding clients is one of the most important aspects of your business. This is the first time that you are making an impression on a client, and you ought to do it well. If your client onboarding process is disorganized, it would leave your clients confused and make it hard for you to retain them. An uncomplicated customer experience from start to finish is a surefire way to get great referrals from your clients to build your new business.

Though some people may ask that you set a length of time to accomplish your onboarding program, but you should know that setting a timing can be a bit complex, as the timing of your onboarding process would depend on the type and complexity of the business you run. Your client journey should cover all the touchpoints that take a client from awareness to engagement and purchase of your product or service.

Why You Need to Carry Out Proper Client Onboarding

A poor client onboarding experience will make your clients feel like they have made the wrong decision and this may ultimately cause them to leave your service. But if done well, the onboarding experience can have a profound impact on your business. These are some of the reasons why client onboarding is very important for your startup business.

  • It creates less churn: clients tend to be fickle, and the least complication or displeasure can make them take off. It has been noted that clients are at high risk of churning in the first 90 days. If you can build a relationship and demonstrate value early on, they’re more likely to stick with you. Thoughtful onboarding keeps clients with you because you are an empathetic partner in how they define their own success.
  • It makes you more efficient: if your client onboarding process is repeatable and simplified, you’ll create efficiencies and be able to scale your business.
  • It helps to reduce scope creep: If you can set expectations and set out modalities to handle scope creep during your onboarding, you’ll run into less situations where scope creep arises.
  • It makes for happier clients: if your client onboarding exercise kicks off on the right foot, it would make your clients happier as navigating through your service would be much easier for them.
  • It helps to bring more clients: If you can get your clients excited about your product or service early on, you have a much better chance at a good relationships, upsells and referrals down the track.
  • Ensures compliance: This varies by industry but when you have a repeatable onboarding process, you can ensure that the legal side of signing a new client is taken care of.
  • Helps in client retention: Client retention is measured by churn rate, or the amount of subscribers who discontinue service after a certain period of time. Churn rate is industry and product dependent and it is measured monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

The norm is an annual rate, but companies that price on a monthly basis like gyms, mobile phone service providers, and SaaS tend to review churn rate by the month. If your clients are effectively brought onboard, they are less likely to leave.

17 Smart Tips to Creating a Highly Effective Client Onboarding Process for your Startup

The key to a good customer onboarding program is to guide your customers as frictionlessly as possible to their first success with your company. This initial experience will set the tone for the rest of your customer’s lifespan. But before your customers can be properly onboarded, you need to lay out the framework and develop the content of your online customer onboarding program.

Client onboarding begins once you have assurance from a client that they would like to take on your services. Note that this process can be changed at any time to further improve your efficiency. Creating an onboarding program doesn’t have to be a stress-filled endeavor.

Here are steps that project managers, customer success managers and learning and development professionals can take to create and launch a customer onboarding program for customers or channel partners.

  1. Do your research

Every client has their story. You need to take time to delve into their history to see where they are coming from and how you can serve them better. You need to find out if they have had previous relationships with professional service providers, what work was done? and more importantly, why did the relationship end? Be sure you understand their history so you would not make the same mistakes your competitors made.

2. Select and educate your team

Acquiring a client is a serious business, and one that you do not want to mishandle more especially if you are a startup business still searching for clients. Never meet (virtually or in-person) with a new client before selecting your team, briefing them and identifying team member roles, responsibilities, and the client’s goals and objectives.

The initial startup meeting with the client can make or break the relationship, so you have to make sure that you properly select and educate your team on the role at hand.

3. Give personalized welcome

One of the best ways to start off your client onboarding process is to offer a personalized welcome once a client signs up to your service. If you run an offline business, a greeting is the best way to initiate interaction with someone new. And the same also applies online. Welcome your customers with open arms.

If you are handling this process offline, you can think of having a registration table, swag bags and even a person designated to greet the individual. You can equally recreate the same process online but it would be a little different. Here, you can make it easy for clients to  login into their accounts, offer bonus materials like eBooks or extra integrations to help them get started.

Next, you ought to have a welcome message which you have personalized with the clients name or company. Experts report that emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened.

4. Administer a client onboarding questionnaire

An onboarding questionnaire is the best way to get information from your client. You should utilize this opportunity to get everything you need to get the project off the ground. You don’t need to limit your client’s answers to text alone as you can have your clients upload files too. If your services are reliant on this information to get started, then you can make this a mandatory step before you move forward in the onboarding process.

Things you should include in your onboarding questionnaire in order to get all the information you need include; the client’s business information, contact, past business history, what you need the service for, referrals (when needed) etc. this questionnaire can also be automated so that it can be sent out as soon as the client comes on board.

5. Assign the client to a team

Once the client has completed the questionnaire, you can now assign the client to the appropriate team. Make sure team has some commonalities with the client so they can build a strong relationship. Have a meeting with the team taking on the client and debrief them on the timeline of the project, research needed, what the project aims to achieve, things needed from the client to complete the project, etc. All previous communication with the client should also be shared with the team.

6. Show your customer around

For your new client to become familiar with your other products or services, he or she has to know about them. They have to know how your service or product works, how to use them, and understand all its features. So, it’s up to your team to actually train your customer.

Create short videos showing a step-by-step process of how your product or service work. Point out certain functions and explain how each one accomplishes a specific task. If you fail to highlight the purpose of your application, then the customer may not see the benefit of your product.

You should know that the success of your product relies on customers knowing how to use them. If your customers find it difficult to navigate your platform, they would likely give up out of frustration and move to your competitor.

7. Schedule a client kickoff meeting

Client kickoff meetings are a key place to build trust with clients and set the tone for the rest of the engagement. Have a face-to-face meeting if possible. It’s easier to build personal relationships in person as you would make sure that your client is paying attention. You can do this at your office or some other comfortable place.

If you run a virtual business, or don’t have the ability to meet in person, get the client to find a time that works through your calendar software to book a video conference. Make sure your video conferencing software works flawlessly—it is embarrassing to have technical issues when you are having your first meeting.

Some of the things you should go over in the client kickoff meeting include; introductions between the client and the team, business goals of the client, major deliverables and responsibilities including a timeline of action, question and answer session etc. By the end of the meeting you should have built a strong rapport between the client and the team, erased any doubts from the client and have clear action items to take the project forward.

8. Provide a welcome package

As you wind off your kickoff meeting, it would be great if you offer your client some sort of welcome package. This would create some sort of impression on the client and equally reinforce their purchase decision. Depending on your business, this gift can be anything from digital assets to physical products or a combination of both.

You can send anything from helpful videos to T-shirts, mugs and a lot of other things. The good thing with sending products is that you can have you name and logo emblazoned on it.

9. Rely on automation

Automation saves time spent on administrative and low-level tasks. Not sure what can be automated in your process? Next time you get a new lead, write down every step you take with them from start to finish. Make a note when you notice yourself writing the same message or sending the same information every time. This is where you can cut down on your work and automate.

Usually, you can easily automate things like sending messages, collecting statistics, filling out forms, updating calendars, and creating new tasks and users. Automation would not only make your work easier, but would also ensure you don’t forget any critical process.

10. Set your goals and milestones

To become successful with your client onboarding program, you need to set goals and milestones that you intend to reach. To know what goals to set, you must know what your customer hopes to accomplish with your service. If you haven’t captured this information in the sales process, take the time to ask your customers. A simple email or survey will work fine.

Once you know their specific goals, work backwards to create logical steps to help them reach the outcome with your product. Posting a straightforward checklist within the app will keep the customer motivated and on track.

11. Be always willing to assist

Whatever you do, avoid leaving your customers to fend for themselves. If you do, your clients may conclude that they are not welcome. To be successful, you need to provide an ongoing customer support. Customer service is an integral part of any business. It keeps customers coming back for more, plus it enhances the entire experience.

One way to take good advantage of this is to add a live chat feature to your site, or just utilize the old-fashioned email and phone assistance; they work just as well.

12. Send useful content

You should know that there are a lot of businesses offering the same thing as you are, and if you are not deliberate about offering something more, you stand a risk of losing your clients. Add more value to your customers’ lives by producing content that solves their problems. And don’t make every solution your product.

For example, your company may focus on selling accounting software to social media agencies. Instead of offering just accounting advice, find issues that your audience faces. They may need hacks to organize their schedules or tips to finding a lawyer in their area. Just provide them these tips for free and you would remain in their good books.

13. Spot bottlenecks

The more complex your product is, the more involved your onboarding process has to be. Sometimes the onboarding process slows down or even stops due to bottlenecks. It could be a member of your team who fails to meet a deadline or your client delaying documents you need for the next step. Whatever it is, the effect could be destructive, so you need to know where such bottlenecks may arise in other to tackle them effectively.

14. Make changes

If you have spotted any likely bottlenecks, you need to deal with them immediately. It’s also important to set aside time for an annual review of your product and processes and refine them, if necessary. You also have to make changes wherever it is required so as to give your clients a more personalized experience.

15. Flaunt your success stories

Products aren’t worth anything without a good success story. Customers want to know that your services are producing results. They can only know this if they see positive feedback on your website. Keep customers inspired by showcasing the success stories of other users. This is an effective way to amplify your brand and spotlight customer satisfaction.

16. Follow up regularly

The initial onboarding process is sometimes filled with glitz and glam. Customers are excited to use your product, and they even reach a few milestones. However, for you to stay in business and to bring in that recurring revenue, your team must design a solid retention strategy. Remember that customers are far more likely to churn in the first 90 days. If you can catch mistakes early, you’ll be able to keep more clients.

To retain more customers, think of ways to engage your customers regularly. This may include sending follow up emails, calling them about service issues, or even asking them to join a referral program. You can equally send thank-you notes and thank you gifts for onboarding new clients and/or discounts to your most loyal customers. Even something so simple as recognition on social media for your most loyal customers can be valuable.

17. Have a 30-day check-up call      

Talk with the client’s decision maker 30 days after they started using your product or service. Schedule this call to gather feedback on how it has been going thus far. This call is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with the client and extend an invitation to contact you directly with any concern.

During this call, you have to ask pertinent questions, recap the activities of the past 30 days to see if your client has issues with anyone, ask for feedback and may be a rating of your services. Note that if you cannot make the call, you can as well send a questionnaire like you did previously.

Once you have completed these processes, you would have fully completed your client onboarding process. Note that you can always make changes to your onboarding process to suit the peculiarities of your client.

Ajaero Tony Martins