Think about it this way. A customer walks into your restaurant to order a sandwich. If yours is an establishment like Subway, then all the ingredients are laid out right before the customer, and they are their own sandwich artists. Diners are left to build their sandwiches as per their taste and preference. They pick the bread, pick the ingredients for the filling (right from the sauces to the meat, veggies, or both), and choose whether they would like it toasted or not.
Now each diner who walks in may have varied preferences for their sandwich. Personalization is key here. The bread is what holds everything together. Although the bread is a tasty and integral part of adding some flavor to the sandwich, everything that goes in between is the essence. Ultimately, all that matters is how you wow customers with that first bite, which seals the deal in determining whether they will ever walk back in through those doors again. And if you are all intent on winning clients’ hearts, read on for a few best practices on how you could go about it.
The series of steps involved in setting up a new client for success with your business or offering is referred to as client onboarding. This may involve data collection or filling of intake forms by customers, kickoff meetings, setting up of tools and processes needed to get an engagement started between the companies, configurations, integrations, or data migrations for the customer to start using an offering, training, and demos, and more activities. During the initial stages of building client relationships, you want to build a healthy rapport with them, answer their questions, and get on the same page with them. So, what makes for a delightful client onboarding experience?
The short answer: Any onboarding process that helps your client reach their aha moment early on provides for an excellent onboarding experience. The aha moment is the point in the customer’s journey where they experience the value of your product or service firsthand.
The final goal of any onboarding process must be to ensure your clients make your solution a part of their everyday life and continue to use it every day. And once you achieve this kind of value, your business' customer lifetime value goes up, and you are more likely to turn your clients into advocates. And pointers to keeping it simple, easy and successful involve:
Drawing parallels from the sandwich analogy, your client onboarding process also includes the elements of customization, personalization, retention, loyalty, etc. A delightful client experience is more than just teaching clients how to use your product or service, and there are no one-size-fits-all onboarding methodologies present. However, a few tips and tricks along the way can help you shape up a near-to-perfect onboarding process that will eventually lead your clients to encounter delightful experiences.
Prepare for the beginning. When it comes to establishing relationships with a client, well-planned is half done. And how you begin defines how it will continue. Don't jump straight to your implementation. It would help if you had a pre-kickoff which is primarily about you aligning with the customer on various elements of the discovery and kickoff meetings - from ensuring that the right people attend your meeting, setting the agenda the right way, setting communication expectations, and so on. When kickoffs are done perfectly, it ensures that there are no surprises down the road, that you will align with your clients on the goals and desired outcomes, and that there will be adequate preparation from both parties.
The sales process is only half the equation. The other half is all about the handoff of a customer account by sales to internal teams and customers for onboarding and customer services. These handoffs and all the post-sale excitement requires utmost finesse and need to be carried forward to creating and sustaining the client’s interest in your offering. A smooth handoff isn't just about the information and knowledge that's been passed. It's how you articulate the handoff from one step to the next. Processes are always smoothest when everything is made clear from the get-go and everyone's on the same page—both internally and with the client.
Concierges help you with everything - right from booking your tickets to helping you find something you want. So when you provide a client with an onboarding concierge of their own, you know there is somebody to follow the client all through the journey and help them with anything. Your tracking gets done and it's effortless for clients to communicate at any given stage. This also reassures your client that they will never be left hanging, and you will always have their back. Remember, you want clients to be comfortable throughout their relationship with you, not just in the beginning.
Give different themes for different time periods of your project plan. If you were to break down your project plan into weeks, for example, it could look like this:
Therefore, by focusing your energy and naming these weeks after specific themes, you will ensure that the client understands it is about finishing up particular aspects of the onboarding process each week.
It is not all about getting the job done or completing a few activities on hand for an implementation and onboarding journey. It's about keeping in mind ROI and value delivered to your customer every step of the way. Focusing on delivering first value fast ensures that you're breaking down the project the right way and not aligning all deliverables towards the end. Instead, it signals that you're doing things iteratively, and you're figuring out how you can get the customer to start seeing value faster. Simply put, it is essential to bring that value orientation with you everywhere, in the plan, in the activities being undertaken, in conversations, in meetings, and in the decision-making throughout the journey.
Ensure that your team is doing over 70% of the heavy lifting of the work in any onboarding, and ensure that the client knows you are working to ensure their success. It would be best to make sure clients don't feel overwhelmed at any point in time. If there's integration work that they need to do, either offer services or create custom guides that take out the effort required at their end for planning and solutions . Your implementation solution architect also needs to understand their environment and give them the right steps. And if there's testing to be done on the client's side, provide them with a complete guide that ensures that the testing proceeds smoothly at their end. Codify your expertise and offer it for every step that needs their involvement and take out as many steps as you can from their side.
Creating the right functional milestones and checkpoints along the way helps make sure that you can showcase to the client that they have accomplished specific goals and motivate them to continue putting the same energy towards getting onboarded.. Onboarding isn't just about going live. Your project plan can also showcase that, in a way, your onboarding ends not at go-live but when your clients become successful.