In this post, we’re discussing the client onboarding experience and will give you some tips you can use to make it a success.
First things first, think of the onboarding process as the beginning of a brand new business relationship with your new customers.
Maybe it’d help you to think of some of your client experiences and first impressions when you were the client being onboarded by a company.
It might have felt slightly awkward and distant, or maybe it felt like you’d been collaborating with these people since forever.
We’re aiming for the latter!
We’ve come up with twelve tips that’ll help you deliver an effective customer onboarding and achieve customer success.
More specifically, we’re going to discuss the following:
- What client onboarding is
- Why client onboarding is important
- How to establish an emotional connection with your new clients
- How to create a client onboarding checklist that fits your company’s needs
- How to create and use a client onboarding questionnaire based on your products and services
And many more steps in the process.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
12 Client Onboarding Tips for Successful Client Relationships
What is Client Onboarding?
Let’s start our client onboarding conversation by defining what client onboarding is.
In a few words, it’s the process of welcoming clients onboard and taking them through all the steps that need to be taken in order for them to start using your products efficiently, as soon as possible.
The process includes a variety of tasks that are performed by the company.
When performing the tasks, including the client is not only recommended; it’s essential.
The following graphic says it all:
A successful client onboarding helps you create and establish an emotional connection with your clients.
We could say that the onboarding process starts with the welcome email and the kickoff call, and goes all the way to developing steps that’ll allow the client to achieve their business goals.
Let’s have a look at an onboarding timeline right below:
It gives us valuable information on the process.
The onboarding meetings and other sessions that aim to inform the client, clarify the process and future steps for them, as well as basically answer all questions before starting working together, e.g. Q&A sessions, customer satisfaction survey, are repeated.
The duration shown in the timeline is indicative and depends on the type of business you have and the industry you’re in, as well as the needs of the client being onboarded.
Why is client onboarding important?
By the end of this post, you’ll hopefully be able to answer this question for yourself.
For now, let’s just say that effective onboarding should bring multiple benefits for the two parties involved, the company and the client.
Some of the most valuable benefits relate to:
- Achieving customer retention – avoiding customer churn
- Performing enhanced client management
- Collecting valuable customer insight
In other words, customer onboarding is part of the customer experience — and according to a 2018 Digital Trends report by Econsultancy — customer experience is the most exciting and prominent business opportunity.
Let’s now start with our first client onboarding tip.
Client Onboarding Tip #1: Establish an Emotional Connection
The first client onboarding tip is to establish an emotional connection through the onboarding process.
As we’ve mentioned already, the onboarding process is basically the beginning of the establishment of a relationship with a client.
For that reason, it’s extremely important that companies tailor their onboarding process in a way that it establishes an emotional connection.
Emotional connection is key!
There is a correlation between emotional bonding and customer retention.
In other words, creating emotional connections with your new customers will help you decrease your customer churn rate and give you more chances of keeping them satisfied for a long time.
The graphic below shows us some insightful data on what emotional branding and the creation of emotional connections with clients can lead to.
It seems that offering personalized moments within the customer experience gives companies more chances to convince clients to buy from them and use their services.
Similarly, emotion driven points, like providing clients with meaningful values and showing authenticity, increase the chances of a client staying and supporting a brand.
We therefore understand that establishing a relationship that goes further than a distant business relationship can help create emotional attachments that enhance client retention, thus increasing profits for the business.
Here’s some data on this:
Put another way, returning clients tend to spend more.
Emotional connection, coupled with the fact that they’ve already had prior positive experiences with a brand, is definitely a key reason behind this.
The reason I’m showing you all these is to tell you that it truly makes sense to invest time and effort into establishing a relationship with your customers.
Let’s move on to the next tip.
Client Onboarding Tip #2: Add a Human Touch With a Welcome Kit
The second tip is firmly connected to the tip we’ve just discussed.
To add a human touch with a welcome kit is a fantastic way to start building on your client relationship through emotion.
It’s also a way to make it clear to all stakeholders that you’re together in this and you’re committed to not only provide solutions but support them throughout the process of working together.
Similar to employee welcome kits, client welcome kits make the people you work with feel appreciated and valued.
Put another way, a client welcome kit is a customer appreciation move, and it matters!
Here’s some examples of this from world-renowned companies.
Example #1: Audi
Automobile manufacturer Audi, shares a welcome box after a client has received their A8 Audi vehicle.
The box includes information in relation to the vehicle as well as a welcome letter and a branded pen.
It’s not an imaginative welcome kit, but it sure does make the client feel that the company cared enough to share such a box with them and so enhances their customer experience.
Example #2: Tiny Blue Orange
WordPress specialists at Tiny Blue Orange are sharing simple and thoughtful welcome gifts with their clients as a way to establish emotional connections and make the process smoother.
Here’s some of their welcome gifts:
Example #3: Maserati Club
Luxury vehicle manufacturer Maserati, is also among the list of companies that offers a welcome kit to those joining their official Maserati Club.
Have a look:
Example #4: NET-A-PORTER
This example is slightly different because it wasn’t developed for clients per se, but has been shared to welcome fashion week attendees by the online fashion retailer Net-A-Porter.
Here it is:
Example #5: Fresh Tilled Soil
Here’s how Fresh Tilled Soil shows appreciation to their clients with a thoughtful welcome kit.
Example #6: Dieline
Creative packaging platform Dieline, developed an imaginative Community Bear Share welcome kit to wow their clients and show them their skills.
Example #7: PRG
Our welcome gift to new clients is meant to be interactive and playful.
Our goal is to offer an interactive experience and show that swag doesn’t have to be of low quality and boring.
Quite the opposite:
To cut a long story short, smaller and bigger companies use the power of a welcome kit to show their clients that they care about them and welcome them aboard.
Moving on to our next tip.
Client Onboarding Tip #3: Understand the Industry/Vertical You’re In
The third tip we have for you is to understand the industry you’re in.
This basically means that you’re developing your onboarding process based on the needs and characteristics of your industry.
In other words, onboarding would be different if you’re a marketing agency than if you were an SaaS business.
This makes sense because the needs of your clients and most likely the points that you should focus on in order to successfully onboard clients will vary.
Here’s a customer onboarding definition specifically for SaaS businesses:
In this case, the process focuses on helping the client incorporate the SaaS product into their business routine effectively.
On the other hand, in the context of banking, the customer onboarding process is different as it touches upon and focuses on different aspects of the process:
As you can see from the flowchart above, the process primarily focuses on the continuity of communication and interaction between company and client, as well as the communication of the onboarding data and legal framework.
We understand that the onboarding process can significantly vary depending on the industry you’re working in.
Therefore, understanding the needs and attributes of the specific industry is essential.
Moving on to the next step we have for you.
Client Onboarding Tip #4: Set Expectations – The Right Ones
The fourth tip we have for you is to set the right expectations from the very beginning.
You should think of the onboarding process as a great opportunity to state your capabilities loud and clear.
This helps you avoid misunderstandings and to establish a genuine relationship with your client built on trust.
Setting higher expectations can cause disappointment and serious issues between the parties involved.
Instead, setting the right expectations and presenting a trustworthy impression of your capabilities is a successful way of showing your clients what you truly have to offer.
An example of setting clear expectations comes from content marketing agency MINUTTIA.
The slide shown below is part of the agency’s kickoff call with a new client.
As you can see, MINUTTIA shows how the working relationship is expected to evolve throughout the first year of working with them.
The expectations are given in a clear way, thus making it easier for a client to understand the main points of the relationship as well as keep track of whether their goals are being achieved.
Let’s move to the next tip.
Client Onboarding Tip #5: Create a Client Onboarding Checklist
A great onboarding tip is to create a client onboarding checklist.
Creating a client onboarding checklist should be an easy-to-perform internal task that allows all team members to make sure they don’t miss any important steps in terms of bringing in a new client.
Some steps in the onboarding process checklist could be:
- Develop implementation plan
- Welcome email
- Client kickoff call
- Schedule training
And so on and so forth.
Our advice would be to give yourself some peace of mind by using a tool that’ll help you facilitate the process.
As you may know already, there are many project management tools out there that could be used to help you keep track of the deliverables, the overall client relationship management (CRM) process, and, in general, of all the essential onboarding steps.
Let’s have a look at an onboarding template by work management platform, Asana.
There are multiple steps that are required to be followed by a number of assignees.
Using a template, like the one shown above, makes it more likely for you to create a seamless onboarding experience for your clients and make sure all people in your company involved in the onboarding are on the same page.
Additionally, the process can be as detailed as you need it to be and you can always add or remove steps in real-time if you wish to.
With a tool like Asana, the tasks are organized and displayed in a way that makes it easier and more clear for everyone to keep up and deliver value to your new client.
To put it simply, a client onboarding checklist can boost the efficiency of your workflow and help you become a great service provider.
Like Asana did for Hello Social:
The headline shown above is just an example of an Asana case study that shows that standardizing the onboarding process can make a significant positive difference in the way a company works in terms of bringing in new clients.
Keep reading to find our next tip for a successful client onboarding.
Client Onboarding Tip #6: Use a Questionnaire
In the same vein as the previous tip, in terms of keeping up with the process and making it as smooth as possible for your clients, it’d be very handy if you could use a questionnaire.
A questionnaire is a great opportunity to extract all the essential information before starting working with a client.
It’s as simple as that.
Here’s a nice example by The Blueprint Training.
The questionnaire template is downloadable and takes you step-by-step through the process of onboarding:
Some of the questions included in The Blueprint Training are:
- When was the company founded?
- How many employees do you have?
- Are there any market trends we should know about?
- What email platform do you use? How many subscribers? Open rate? CTR?
- Are you utilizing any automation sequences or funnels?
The process, alongside the questions, goes on until you’ve covered most of the question categories that’ll allow you to get to know your client and their business better.
I believe you’ve now seen how a questionnaire can help you come closer to your clients and make it more likely you’ll provide them with the service they need.
Let’s move on to the next step.
Client Onboarding Tip #7: Automate Whatever You Can
The seventh tip we have for you is to automate any step of the onboarding process you can possibly automate.
Automating your workflow leaves you time and space to focus on taking care of all the details so that you elevate the quality of your work and help you deliver value fast.
In one sentence, well developed automations help you streamline your workflow.
One way to do so would be to use automation tools.
What these tools do is that they connect your apps and basically make sure you complete some of your tasks.
Let’s see how web automation app, Zapier, visually represents part of the automation process on their website.
As you can see, multiple business apps are connected in order to start workflows and complete tasks automatically.
The process saves you time but also helps make sure that you’re not missing any important steps, because it all happens automatically.
Using an automation tool for the onboarding process makes it more likely that you create a seamless, cross-functional workflow for your new clients.
Before you go on automating your workflow, we advise you to identify repetitive and time consuming tasks in your routine.
This’ll give you an idea of tasks that can – and probably should – be automated and lead you towards creating more efficient workflows.
Let’s move on to the next tip.
Client Onboarding Tip #8: Avoid Onboarding Best Practices
This might sound weird, but another tip is to avoid onboarding best practices.
In a few words, define your own way to onboard your clients.
Every industry is different and every business is different too.
Following generic best practices isn’t the best thing you can do.
Instead, try to tailor a personalized experience for your clients.
This in no case means that you need to reinvent the wheel in every onboarding process you’re performing.
On the contrary, it means that you can use any automations and practices you know are working well, alongside some other well developed tasks you’ve already performed and know they can be efficient.
All this should be done while adding a human touch and specifically trying to address individual client needs and check in with your new clients.
Client Onboarding Tip #9: “Yes”, You Can Connect With Them on Social Media
Many companies are reluctant to create social media connections with their clients.
We think it’s absolutely fine to do so; it allows you to connect with them on a whole new level.
Communicating through social media may help you make stronger connections with your clients.
Social media communication can be way more direct and casual than communicating via email.
Sure, it’s not possible for all companies to do so.
Bigger companies might find it hard – or even impossible – to connect with their clients and build digital relationships with them.
However, connecting with new clients on social media is a good tip for low volume businesses, like agencies, that can in fact create relationships with their clients and use social media as an additional channel of communication.
Our advice would be to avoid connecting with your clients using their non-professional social media accounts, e.g. Instagram, or their personal accounts because it might feel a bit invasive.
Instead, try to use platforms like Linkedin or Twitter to connect with them.
Bear with me, we’ve reached tip number ten.
Client Onboarding Tip #10: Don’t Skip the Kickoff Meeting
Our tenth tip is to make sure you give your new clients a nice kickoff meeting to initiate their onboarding.
You might think that sending a welcome email is enough, but trust me, it’s not even close to being enough.
The onboarding process is, as we’ve discussed already, the starting point for building a new professional relationship.
All the tips we’ve covered in this post are here in order to convince you to develop a human onboarding approach.
Such an approach will do something more than simply explain to your clients what are your business goals; it’ll show them that you truly care, thus making it more likely for them to want to be part of your team for longer.
On that note, the kickoff meeting – virtual or in-person – is your first big opportunity to show your intentions.
Please don’t skip it.
In terms of the elements of a kickoff meeting, here’s some of them:
- Stakeholders introduction
- Establishing goals
- Set expectations
- Identify plans
- Identify risks
- Confirm contract provisions, e.g. pricing
- Discuss timelines
- Describe roles and responsibilities, i.e. discuss how the communication will happen and who’s going to be involved in which tasks
In a nutshell, the kickoff meeting is there to give everyone the opportunity to keep up with the processes that are to come, meet each other, and discuss potential issues and opportunities.
Let’s move forward, to our second to last tip.
Client Onboarding Tip #11: Don’t Ask for Referrals Too Early
Many companies ask for feedback and referrals way too early.
However, onboarding is a process with no fixed length of time.
This means that you shouldn’t get over enthusiastic too early and ask your clients for referrals.
Even if it all seems to be going great.
We think asking for referrals too early in the process of bringing new clients on is a waste of time.
Put another way, it’s because new clients probably don’t have a well developed idea of what your company can or can’t do.
It’s a complete shame to get feedback or a referral that doesn’t fully represent the capabilities of the service you provide.
We advise you to ask for a referral – online review, testimonial, etc. – only after the onboarding process is completed and when the client has reached time to value.
Time to value is, of course, different for different types of businesses.
Keep it as a general rule that asking for a referral before someone has experienced value out of your services is wrong and won’t get you the results you want.
Let’s now move on to the last tip we have for you.
Client Onboarding Tip #12: Use Client Onboarding Software
Our last tip for a successful client onboarding process is to use client onboarding software.
We’ve already touched upon this when we discussed automations and other tools you might consider using.
This final tip summarizes the importance of providing a seamless transition; a killer onboarding that proves your client that they’re going to be better with you than they were before they’d started this onboarding.
In general, an onboarding software helps you with business processes, e.g. HR, IT, the sales process, analytics, etc.
The type of onboarding software you’ll use depends on the size of your business and the industry you’re in.
Let’s just say that if you’re a low volume agency you could easily use a simple Google Sheet to perform most of the onboarding tasks you need to perform.
On the other hand, if you’re a SaaS company you probably need a more powerful onboarding software that’ll help you do the process hassle free.
A few onboarding softwares for you to consider are:
- Inline Manual
To sum up, to use onboarding software helps automating the workflow and facilitating the overall process for clients.
What’s better than that, right?
Ready to Start Onboarding New Clients?
In this post, we’ve taken you through twelve tips you can follow when developing and performing your onboarding process.
We believe that establishing an emotional connection with your new clients is essential.
When’s the best time to do so if not right during the onboarding process?
If you’re like-minded and think that emotional connections and a human touch can help you create and maintain successful client relationships, we advise you to be creative and give your new clients your best self.
Make sure that along with your top-notch service you give some human interaction too.
A human approach throughout the onboarding, together with a welcome kit – yes, like the ones that we mentioned a little further up, but more imaginative! – would be a great idea.
We’re here to help you create welcome kits for your business and make every onboarding process an one of a kind experience.