When someone joins your company, you probably have an onboarding process to bring the new employee up to speed. It may include an orientation session, formal training or a series of manuals to be read. It probably also includes causal conversations, all of which help the new person acquire the knowledge, skills and behaviors to fit in, do the job and become an effective team member.
Onboarding helps prevent misunderstandings, define roles generally makes working together easier. It is important for new employees, but it is equally important as you start working with new customers.
What does client onboarding include?
Start with a welcome
This can be something as simple as a short email which thanks them for their business and lets them know you are excited about getting the project started. This is actually the last stage of the sales process. This brief touch helps eliminate any buyers’ remorse, reassuring them they have made the right choice.
While an email is nice, I am a little old school and think a phone call is better. Obviously, if you are a one person operation, you have been talking with the client all along, so a welcome phone call may seem a little silly. But if someone else on your team has made the sale, it is impressive if the owner, or a member of the leadership team takes a minute to call and welcome them aboard.
Give them a road map
Whether it is carpet cleaning, the installation of a heating and air conditioning system, the preparation of a will or design of a website, there are a series of steps. Your customer feel more comfortable when you take away the uncertainty. They feel in control when they know what will happen and when.
When a customer interrupts the project saying something like “I didn’t know you were going to do …. “, it is a clear indication you didn’t give them a good road map upfront. Unfortunately, this often occurs when you are not around, and the responsibility for explaining your process may fall on the shoulders of your most junior employee.
Define roles and responsibilities
In most projects, there are big tasks and small ones. Usually everyone is pretty clear on who will do the big things, but some of the prep work may fall into a grey area. Some carpet cleaning companies will move the furniture in a room, others expect the consumer to move it. Some web companies build the framework and expect the business owner to write the copy, while others include the copy writing.
Kick off the project correctly by clarifying who is going to do what along the way. Don’t assume your customer knows what is expected of them. You live your process every day, they don’t.
While a written outline is helpful, don’t assume the customer will read it. People are busy, so take a minute as you start to remind them of their assignments. We include a two page outline of our web process with each proposal we send to clients. It details their responsibility and ours. I assume they haven’t read it closely, so we review it briefly during the kick off meeting.
If the project will extend more than a few days, schedule check ins. These brief updates let a customer know where you are in the project and what is left to be done. If things have gone off track the sooner you know and can make adjustments the better. You never want to hear a client say ” This isn’t what I wanted” as you hand them the final bill.
This final step does more than put closure on the project. A final meeting, call or email to say thanks will help identify any lingering issues and open the door to ask for future business and referrals.
It’s tough to find new customers. A good onboarding process will help you keep the ones you have.