The Ultimate Guide to Onboarding new Clients
The sales team have done their job. The signed order is saved on record and the project is ready to kick off. What happens next? Joe Bloggs in the team gets a nudge to pick up the project who contacts your new client. Joe is busy for two days so gets back to them when he has time. Fred Smith on the other hand, sees there is a second new client. Fred has a few spare minutes so decides to kick his project off straight away.
Joe Bloggs' timescale, next steps and introduction email differ completely to Fred Smith's timescale, next steps and introduction email.
It shouldn't matter how big or small your business, Onboarding new clients and ensuring a positive experience goes a long way to showing them they have made the right decision about buying your product or service.
Problem here: no Onboarding process!
A structured process with thought out documentation (Welcome Email, Project Kick Off deck etc - we will go into this in more detail shortly) throughout the Customer Journey helps to support your new clients decision further, in a way that lays the groundwork for a long relationship.
Without the Onboarding process, if Joe Bloggs and Fred Smith were left to their own devices, the new client may not be Welcomed within a reasonable time....and a reasonable time to some people, is not always a reasonable time to others! Each person may service the new client in different ways and they may not add the value required. In doing so, this puts the project at risk and potentially the client at risk of churn. Again, we will go into this in more detail shortly.
What do we mean when we talk about Onboarding new clients?
Onboarding looks at the bigger picture. What is it that your new client is looking to achieve? What do they deem as successful? What problems are they looking to solve?
By kicking off the implementation well, by introducing them to your product or service, by really ensuring they understand your product or service and finally, by showing them the value of your product or service, you will build the long standing relationship every business needs to ensure their client advocacy.
We know that the top reasons for churn are due to:
A lack of understanding of the product or service
A lack of understanding of the value of the product or service
During the Onboarding process, these two points are therefore objectives you need to meet. Ensure your client understands your product or service and ensure your client understands the value it offers.
Start off well, embed your product or service within your clients' business and you're already on the way to client advocacy and a recurring renewal.
How do you create an Onboarding process?
Firstly, you need create the framework. Establish the goals and create the team. Make sure you are aligning your goals to your business needs. Break down the Onboarding process so that the client doesn't feel overwhelmed with the amount of upcoming tasks.
During the Onboarding process, you should also use this time to set expectations. Explain the steps that will be taken to get your new client from signing the contract to Go Live and from there, the point of handing over to the Customer Success team.
At the start of the process, while welcoming your new client and setting expectations you should also be confirming the level of effort required from both sides. The amount of time spent together in meetings but also, the additional time your new client is going to need to work on this project. For example, if your product is software, there maybe a requirement for data preparation. Depending on the size of your new client and the amount of data they want to import will depend on the additional time required for this task.
In many cases, your new client may not realise the amount of time that is required from their own project team!
You should also confirm what is in and out of scope, the assumptions and any risks of the project. You may have generic risks which occur on all projects (consultant availability for example. If your new client doesn't keep you updated on availability their side, and suddenly expects to change the schedule with two days notice, this may not be possible based on the fact that most consultants are planned out to capacity, weeks in advance) as well as specific risks for this project. For example, two of the Project Team have holiday right before Go Live...this is a risk and one that needs to be considered. Is the Project Team big enough to go ahead without these two or should the project be pushed out?
Once you have considered what is deemed as successful, what are your business needs, what the risks and assumptions are, what is in and out of scope it is time to map out the Customer Journey.
I would suggest that the Customer Journey follows this flow:
Signup -> Welcome Email -> Project Kick Off -> Product Walkthroughs -> Configuration -> End User Training -> Go Live -> Go Live Support -> Handover to Customer Success
Next steps: how do you want to present each of your steps? Will they be emails, videos, webinars, click guides? Will there be content provided at each step? Does this also need to be documented?
What happens during the Onboarding process?
At the start of your Onboarding process, at Project Kick Off you should agree they key dates and milestones with your new client. That way everyone is accountable and everyone knows what they are working on and when.
Throughout the Onboarding process you will follow this schedule and any changes documented and approved by both sides. There should be regular check ins, status reviews and updates confirming timelines and budgets.
Does your new client need a Project Manager?
Depending on the size of the project, your new client doesn't necessarily need a Project Manager however they do need someone who is going to take responsibility for the project and lead from your new clients side. They need to be someone who is organised and good at communication since your Project Manager/Onboarding Specialist will be in constant communication with this person.
The other person required is a Project Sponsor. A Project Sponsor is the person owning the project, providing resources and support for the project and usually the 'reason' for the project!
Once you have created your Onboarding process, try it with a few clients and then ask for their feedback. Explain you are wanting to ensure a positive experience for future clients and that you value their feedback.
You can explain that you constantly ask your clients for feedback through surveys at the end of the Onboarding process and annual surveys (another topic for discussion!) for example. You're feeding your new client with positivity and cementing their decision to choose you as a supplier even further.
Continually review this process and tweak where necessary.
As I already mentioned, once this process is underway, you are on the way to building those long standing relationships as you gain your new clients trust from the start.