The Six Pillars of Effective Client Onboarding

Client onboarding sets the tone for your client relationships. Here’s how you can make the most of this phase.
February 22, 2022
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Krishna Kumar

A consistent and predictable experience creates customer confidence, which can lead to loyalty. -  Shep Hyken

So you’ve won the next client. They picked you over your competitors. Congratulations! Time to pop the bubbly? 

Not really. Up ahead is the actual litmus test of the delightful experience you promised: the client onboarding phase! How you onboard your clients will make or break their perception of your brand and client service. 

You know every detail of the client’s requirements, business needs, and goals for using your service. This knowledge played a huge part in winning them over. And this knowledge is also going to help you solidify their goodwill towards you and build a long-lasting relationship with them.

1. Making efficient handoffs 

One crucial process that needs to happen before client onboarding to ensure the take-off is smooth is the handoff of the client by the sales team to the onboarding/client service team. A seamless transition is what you need to aim for; how the handoff happens will color your client’s expectations and perception of your brand and company. A good handoff will accelerate your client’s time to ROI, encourage word-of-mouth recommendations for your business, and will encourage your client to look forward to the rest of their relationship with you.

Here are some best practices that can help you nail the sales-to-service handoff:

  1. Document client information and handoff: It is crucial that your sales team document all the information they collect about their clients: the use cases, needs, integrations required, any competitor they have tried out before, etc. This will make the handing off process smoother—your servicing team will not need to keep going back to the salesperson to get information about the client they are servicing. The information in the handoff document will inform the service team’s onboarding process and goals for the client.
  2. Ensure clear internal communication: Set up meetings between your internal teams so they can understand the client profile and needs completely. This should be a time for your servicing team to have all their questions answered and for your sales team to provide the answers. This way, the client need not reiterate whatever information they had provided the sales team, which might leave them feeling like you don’t really personalize the experience for them.
  3. Have a clear client communication plan: Arrive at a clear communication plan in collaboration with your client. Decide on the communication channels, cadence, and the points of contact on both your sides. This will help both your team and your client ensure timely communication and also that the communication reaches the right stakeholders.
Rocketlane has a Salesforce integration that lets you automate the entire handoff process. More here.

2. Defining goals based on client’s needs 

The easiest way to win your clients over is to help them derive ROI early in their relationship with you. Take the time to understand their needs and the business problem they are trying to solve by engaging your service. Once you have this information, figure out which is the best direction to take when it comes to setting onboarding goals. Your client may want to accomplish multiple things at once with your service, for example. In that case, you can, with their help, prioritize the goals and deliver on the high-priority goal first.

3. Getting your client-facing teams on the same page 

If you have multiple teams from your end engaging with the client (designers, copywriters, engineers, etc.), it is crucial to get all of them to stay up-to-date on the project status and communicate with each other. And to avoid creating confusion for the client, it helps to have a single point of contact on your team that they can get in touch with for all their queries, no matter how many different teams of yours are involved.

Set expectations with your client by stating availability, agreeing on communication channels, and outlining plans on how you will handle escalations, delays, etc.

We recommend using a project communication plan document for this purpose. Here’s a detailed explanation of project communication plans, including a free template.

Rocketlane X Slack: Collaborate from the comfort of Slack

4. Providing visibility into progress for clients

Humans are averse to uncertainty, and your clients are no different. They do not enjoy being kept in the dark. Have a system in place that provides complete visibility into the progress of your project from Day One till the end. This could be weekly email updates, fortnightly status update meetings, a dedicated point of contact that they can contact any time for questions on the project status, etc.

Rocketlane makes it easy for you to provide visibility into your project progress with little manual effort from your end. In-app notifications, automated email reminders, easy-to-create status updates, and a fully customizable client portal that your clients can access to understand where they stand. Give us a spin!

Project visibility: The secret to great customer onboarding

5. Helping clients get to value soon

Break down the onboarding process into milestones: different points at which they should experience an outcome that keeps them hooked and wanting to get to the finish line. E.g., a design agency that is engaged to build a client’s website can identify and categorize the deliverables into “definitely need”, “good to have”, and “can go in version 2.0”. “Definitely need” deliverables can be prioritized and delivered early, and the other two categories in a phased manner.

A project charter can come in handy when documenting and reiterating agreed-upon deliverables, goals, and outcomes. To know more about project charters or if you need a ready-to-use template, head here.

Creating Early Wins with The First Value Delivery Framework

6. Equipping clients to help themselves 

You differentiate good client experiences from great ones by going beyond the ‘go live’ point. Going back to the design agency example, how can the team prove that they provide exceptional service? They could offer training for the users at the client’s organization on the CMS, send them help documentation, how-to videos, and best practices to maintain the website content. 

You could offer regular check-ins with them post-onboarding and seek feedback at regular intervals too. These little big things go a long way in helping your clients feel important and cared for.

Try Rocketlane for your client onboarding projects

Rocketlane is a collaborative platform built specifically for client onboarding projects. Create checklists, assign tasks, share updates with your clients, provide them their own portal, get feedback, share files, all within the app! Get your free trial today.

More resources

  1. 7 Client Onboarding Best Practices
  2. The quick client onboarding checklist every business needs
  3. A guide to client onboarding for marketing and content agencies

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Head - Content Marketing @ Rocketlane

All things content at Rocketlane. I run on coffee and cat videos. Follow me on Twitter @kirthikasrajan

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