In an effort to elevate the client experience and create a more efficient workplace for our team members, Hamilton Raye has focused on evolving and refining our client onboarding process over the past year. Through this development, we have learned what really works and further, that the most simple integrations can have the largest impact.
We have successfully facilitated a healthy balance between catering to incoming clients’ specific needs, while still maintaining a fundamental framework that accounts for what our team requires to establish and sustain a thriving new client relationship.
Here are 10 tips to consider when evaluating how to best structure your client onboarding process.
1. Repetition is Your Friend
As you get things kicked off, keep in mind that a large download is happening on both sides. It’s fair to assume that some of the information you provide to new clients will be skimmed, overlooked, or perhaps entirely left unread. This information may not be identified as essential in the moment, but if it’s a valuable component in your partnership, don’t hesitate to include it in more than one document, email, or conversation. The reminders will serve as a convenience to your client and will be appreciated. On the other hand, do your best to minimize the client’s need to repeat or follow up on their requests and avoid unnecessary, tedious back and forth communication whenever possible.
2. Document Everything
As you become familiar with your client’s business, documentation is key for future review. From the initial consultation to the final onboarding meeting takeaways, have a shared document or space where data can be collected and referenced as needed. Documenting meeting summaries, required follow ups, and other communication keeps the team organized and on the same page throughout the process. Have a dedicated note-taker who can concentrate on capturing essential information while you and your team remain focused and engaged with the client. Create a foundational template to collect basic information, preferences, and procedural details if you do not utilize an application that organizes this material for you.
3. Set a Clear and Concise Agenda
Set clear expectations of what you’d like to accomplish during the onboarding period with your new client. Ensure these expectations align with your client’s goals and objectives by communicating a concise agenda you will follow. Further, understand the important points of contact within the client’s organizational structure necessary to achieve the goals set forth. For instance, who is responsible for initial IT setup requests? Who is the best contact for billing-related questions? Provide the client with their main point of contact within your business, who will handle day-to-day operations, and define the roles of other team members they will correspond with. Supplementing this explanation with a visual is highly encouraged for easy reference to help facilitate a clear understanding, especially if several team members are involved.
4. Pay Attention to the People Behind the Business
As you are focusing your time and attention on learning your client’s business, remember to also understand and prioritize your client’s individual goals and preferences. Utilize this onboarding time to get to know the client personally and how he/she/they operate best. This will maximize your productivity and value in ways that resonate immediately when integrating into their business. We have found that this personal touch serves as a catalyst for developing a partnership with your client and building an overall longer lasting relationship.
5. Inclusivity is Key
Creating a culture of inclusivity ultimately serves the interests of your business most, especially when bringing on new clientele. To onboard a new client successfully, working collectively adds value to the client experience and your team’s experience. As information streams in from the client, keeping all involved team members looped in minimizes repetition, allows multiple perspectives to be leveraged, and substantially reduces the chance of something critical being overlooked. Share information generously among your team for best results and efficiency, and apply this beyond client onboarding as well!
6. Fluidity Over Rigidity - Go with the Flow
With a background in organizational efficiency, I’ve always been an advocate for procedural discipline and standardization; and while I still highly value structure, the merit of adaptability and flexibility cannot go overlooked. Fluidity and structure do not have to be mutually exclusive – you can adapt and pivot to adhere to your client’s needs while still maintaining a malleable framework to achieve what’s required during the onboarding process. This type of flexibility shows your client that you are willing and able to listen and adjust to their individual needs instead of simply inserting them into a “one size fits all” approach.
7. Identify Immediate Client Goals
Understanding your new client’s overall business and long-term goals are clearly crucial for providing the best solutions possible. However, it’s unrealistic to expect that it will happen overnight. Keep an eye on the long-term, but prioritize objectives appropriately and determine the top one or two goals that the client would like to achieve first. Once identified, communicate a clear timeline to set expectations for both your team and the client. This type of direction prepares your team with focused short-term goals to jump into on day one and sets the stage for initial success.
8. Follow Up and Check In
Visibility matters! Once the onboarding process is complete, check-in with the client to keep a pulse on how things are going and keep your channel of communication open. Schedule reminders for yourself to reach out, for instance, at the end of month one, two, and three. Next, continue to touch base quarterly or as frequently as you deem appropriate. Make an effort to remain visible and accessible, even if that just means sending a quick email or text periodically. These small efforts require a minimal time commitment, yet they can have a large impact.
Internally, the same idea applies; follow up on items discussed with your team during the client onboarding process to ensure timely completion and that committed tasks are on track. Its recommended to utilize task management tools such as Asana to effectively track your team’s progress and to keep projects organized. Further, consider delegating a client success role to stay in tune with day-to-day tasks to keep you informed and to verify that you are executing on the level of solution-based services offered.
9. Continuously Evolve the Methodology
Avoid operating a stagnant, outdated onboarding process by not being afraid to change what’s no longer working. Maybe, at one point, one of your procedures was the best option, but keep a fresh perspective and stay open to investigating new, innovative ways of enhancing the experience for your team and for your client. In an ever-changing world, evolve and seek out the best solutions for your own business as well as your clients’ businesses. This might translate to adapting new technologies that elevate the client experience or create a more efficient, effective environment for your team. At times, you may find that this new idea is not the right fit for your client onboarding procedure, but there is value in that learning process that you will take with you as you move forward.
10. Not Every Prospective Client is the Right Fit
This can be a tricky one and may even be considered controversial for those who have the mentality that “business is business”. However, I challenge you to consider who is truly your target client base and what impact taking on those who do not fall in this category may have on your business long-term. Those potential clients who do not fall within this target category may have needs outside of what your solutions provide. In an effort to meet and exceed client expectations, this will ultimately cost your business valuable time, since these types of clients tend to require the most attention. In cases like these, the reward does not outweigh the stress to the team and business itself. This also results in a potentially dissatisfied client who is not receiving the outcome desired, which in worst cases, could lead to reputation damage and impact future business.
To be clear, this does not mean that you should pass on potential clients who do not seem like the perfect fit. However be thoughtful and selective when determining who to include in your client portfolio and take the time to evaluate potential risk, including time required versus value added to your business. In the end, trust your instincts. If you sense that a prospective client will not integrate well with your business, you’re probably right.