The onboarding process is a crucial step in the customer journey which can make or break your relationship with your new clients. In fact, poor onboarding is the third leading reason behind customer churn, right after the wrong product fit and lack of engagement.
The companies who nail their customer onboarding, on the other hand, see the biggest impact on client retention, which boosts profits anywhere from 25% to 95% with just a 5% increase.
But despite all this, according to customers, the majority of businesses are notoriously lacking in their onboarding processes. Over 90% of customers feel that the companies they buy from could do better when onboarding new customers.
So what can you do to provide a stellar onboarding experience that not only builds loyalty but also brings in referrals?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you always start off your client relationships on the right foot.
What is the process of client onboarding?
The process of client onboarding is essentially welcoming your new clients to your company and making sure they are well-adjusted to your product or service.
Think of this crucial step of a customer journey as part introduction, part training and education, and part client relationship building.
A good onboarding process ensures that your clients walk away with a clear understanding of:
- Ways your product can help them
- How they can best leverage your solution for their business’ unique needs
- How to use your product or service in a self-sufficient way
- Who their point of contact is should they have any questions or issues
Your top priority in the customer onboarding process should be setting up an easy-to-understand, easy-to-navigate journey that gets them there in the most efficient way possible while providing a positive experience all around.
What is the goal of onboarding clients?
While the goals of client onboarding vary based on industry, business, and even each customer, there are some common objectives you need to keep in mind while deciding what your process will look like.
Smooth transition: Your #1 goal is minimizing any obstacles or friction points that can hinder your new customers’ adoption of your solution, and providing them with plenty of assistance. Their first interaction with your product should be smooth and pleasant, not full of frustration.
Building relationships: The onboarding process is the perfect time to build rapport with your customers and establish a strong relationship. This will create the foundation for them to easily communicate their needs & concerns, so you can address them swiftly.
Setting expectations: Your customers should know exactly what you offer, its capabilities, limitations, and any specific terms or conditions. Having this clarity and transparency is crucial to avoid potential disappointments down the road that may hurt their confidence in your business.
Fostering loyalty: A whopping 86% of customers say that they would be more likely to stay loyal to a business if they knew that they would have access to educational and welcoming onboarding content.
Providing a great experience and plenty of education during the onboarding stage is crucial to renew your customers’ confidence and trust in your company post-sale, and it will be essential for long-term client satisfaction.
What should be included in client onboarding?
As mentioned earlier, your best guide when creating a new client onboarding process will be your product or service, and your customers. Knowing your product very well, and understanding its unique values & challenges will help you determine the necessary steps, and optimize your process to adapt to your client's needs.
That being said, there are 6 key elements that each successful client onboarding process should cover:
#1 A timely welcome
Reach out to your new customers as soon as your sales team shares their contact information to give them a warm welcome and reinforce their trust by making them feel like they’re in good hands. Be it a simple welcome email or an onboarding meeting, this is a good opportunity to briefly explain the onboarding timeline, and schedule a kick-off meeting with your team.
#2 Needs assessment
Your product will most likely serve a slightly different purpose for each client. You cannot provide a great onboarding experience without having a detailed knowledge of your customer’s needs and desired outcomes.
If this wasn’t already done earlier on, set up a dedicated session (or share an onboarding questionnaire first) to understand their unique challenges and what they’re looking to get out of your product as well as set clear expectations and project timelines.
You’ll be able to make helpful suggestions to help them make the right choice and ensure that they leverage your product in the most efficient way possible to meet their needs, which will directly affect the value they get out of your business and their long-term success.
Your customers should leave the onboarding process fully ready to use your product on their own. So this is the time to set up their accounts, assist them in configuring their settings, give them access to any additional tools they may require, and make sure all the technical things are ready to go.
Remember, 86% of customers think educational materials are crucial for their loyalty to a business. During your onboarding, arm your customers with all the necessary information, and make sure you forward the materials to them in a way that they can easily find and sort through later on.
#5 Communication channels
Discuss with your customers what method of communication works best for them, and set up those channels. Some may prefer email, others would like a Slack channel. Ensure they have a direct way to access your team when needed and inform who their main point of contact is.
#6 Ongoing support
While it will vary from business to business, onboarding is usually a long process that goes beyond the initial few meetings. Until you’re confident your customers are fully adjusted, do regular check-ins to make sure everything is going smoothly. They will appreciate feeling supported.
What is the best way to onboard clients?
Here are five helpful pillars you should have in mind to optimize your onboarding process.
1 - Plan ahead: By the time your customer signs on, your onboarding plan should be ready with the necessary steps, timelines, and resources already figured out, so everything is smooth and ready to go for your customer.
2 - Personalize: Take the time to understand each client's goals, challenges, and requirements, and tailor each onboarding experience to their specific situation and preferences. It’s a tiny step for you, but will drastically level up their client experience.
3 - Be clear: Communicate the steps in the process and the timelines very clearly, so your customers know what to anticipate. Transparency encourages safety and trust.
4 - Be organized: Store everything you include in the onboarding, and all the materials your customers will need neatly in a dedicated space. Ensure they have easy access to them when needed to eliminate unnecessary friction.
5 - Get feedback: The best way you can improve your onboarding process is to listen to your customers. Seek their feedback and comments about the experience regularly to adjust and improve your process over time.
Example client onboarding workflow
Still not sure where to begin? Here’s an example of a good client onboarding process workflow with best practices that you can copy and adjust for your business.
A personalized welcome email expressing excitement about the partnership, a brief overview of your company, an introduction of the key team members that will be involved, and a timeline of the onboarding process.
Within the first week
Understanding the customer’s needs, goals, and expectations with your company, and their concerns and hesitations. Finalizing the onboarding roadmap together.
Paperwork & setup
Guiding the client through the technical necessities, like account setup & configuration, and assisting them in completing any remaining paperwork or other formalities.
A training session to walk the customer through your product or service, forwarding any necessary information, guides, or resources.
Troubleshooting & customization
Answering the questions that arose after your customer has used your solution for a while, filling the gaps in their knowledge, and making custom suggestions based on the needs and goals they’ve previously stated.
Checkpoints & progress review
Scheduled check-ins with regular intervals to address challenges or concerns, gather feedback on your product, review the progress, and celebrate milestones.
Conducting a survey or a session to gather feedback about your onboarding process to analyze the strong and weak points, and to improve and optimize future onboarding experiences.
Perfecting customer onboarding with Flowla
Managing onboardings effectively is a complex process with several moving parts. There are likely multiple people involved and a lot of deliverables that need to be organized.
Flowla can support you. It enables you to build an effective client onboarding process by uniting all of the materials, actions, and people involved in a single space.
- Embed any type of material from Loom recordings and spreadsheets to PDFs and website pages to ensure anything your customers need is organized and within their reach.
- Create mutual action plans and checklists, then assign each task to an individual, with clear deadlines and reminders to keep everything on track.
- Easily customize your flows for different customers and needs, then personalize them with one click with their brand colors and logos.
- Check out real-time insights and reactions to continuously improve your process.
And the best part?
Both you and your customer can see what the onboarding journey looks like, and track progress at a glance.