Is your company getting ready to drop a new product line? Perhaps you are upgrading your old technology to keep up with the times? What if you need to communicate to all of your clients that very important changes (like a new account manager or program) are coming to your company? It probably seems like an impossible hurdle to acclimate all of your clients to new innovations and hirees. Well, stop right there. Before you can even think of seeing your customers in new settings you need to first accomplish a crucial step: The Onboarding Process.
The Onboarding Process ensures a smooth transition from old to new and gives the client a positive experience when interacting with your new program. The steps we’re about to go over are agreed upon by many industries and agencies. So, here we go!
1. Create a Clear Map to Chart Their Journey.
Think about your clients' and hirees' onboarding process like an uncharted adventure. If you were told that a shiny new toy was just off in the distance, but you didn’t know how to get there or what to expect, you’d probably be quite frustrated. Give your clients a clear and concise road map to follow so they can know what to expect. This allows them to see how far they’ve gone and how much further they have yet to go. Map out each step from sign-ups to the implementation of new technology. Oh, and make sure you’re traveling right along with them. You wouldn't want them to get lost and go off on their own. One more thing, make sure you give yourself enough time to get there. If you end up rushing everything at the last moment you’ll give your client a bad impression of you and put undue stress on your team.
2. Keep it Simple
Look, I get it. You’re excited to show off what you’ve got in store and you want them to know how awesome everything is right now. However, don’t bog down your clients with unnecessary information and tasks. Keep each step simple and in chunks that are easy to complete. Create a timeline for yourself and for your customers that follows an exact plan. Do you really need to know everything about your client? Does your client really need to know what every button does? According to groovehq.com, “If it doesn’t deliver value to you or them, think about not asking for it. Every piece of information that you ask for is another step for the customer to complete, and every step is a potential abandonment point.” (Markidan, 2016) There is plenty of time for discovery. So relax and take your time. Both you and your customers will appreciate it.
3. Strut Your Stuff
Now it’s time to show off. Get that kick-off meeting going with your product in full view. Show them the important bells and whistles that will really get them excited. (Who doesn’t know how a simple editor works? We’ve all used Word.) Let the client see what the product does and what value it brings to them. Very few clients care about what’s under the hood, and it’s pointless to waste time there unless asked. Show them the essentials, and a few of the shinies. Everyone loves the shinies. But don’t hog all of the fun. Let the client do their own exploration of the product. Give them videos to follow, leave them with a tutorial to create something, or let them play on their own. It’s like picking out a new puppy; once you pick one up and cuddle with her you just have to take her home with you. Darn those cute little faces. Works every time.
4. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
As your client is contemplating whether or not they want/need your product, keep your engagement levels up. Don’t harass people of course, but make sure you keep in contact. If you don’t have time to immediately answer an email, a short note back that you’re aware of their needs and will get back to them quickly can be the difference between a yes or a no. (Just make sure you actually get back to them quickly.) Make certain your client understands that their needs and their success are important to you. There is nothing more damaging to any kind of relationship than being ignored or made to feel unimportant. You don’t always have to cut to the chase immediately during a meeting. Relax. Ask them how they are doing. Bring up a personal note they shared with you previously. Let them know they are in your thoughts and that you are there to serve.
5. Welcome them Onboard
Ha! See what I did there? Okay, okay. I’ll stop. But all dad-joking aside this step is just as crucial as the others. Once the client has signed up be sure to make them feel welcome. Set them up with a nice welcome package with:
- Next steps
- Your information
- An instruction guide
- A nice gift or handwritten thank you note.
- A welcome video.
I can’t stress how important it is for the client to feel welcome. It opens up your lines of communication and allows you to build those close relationships that feel more like a partnership than a customer/manager set up. This gives you a chance to show how grateful you are to have your clients and how much you really do care about their success.
6. Stay in Touch
Crickets may be nice during a cool summer night, but they’re not so nice when it comes to client interaction. Keep an eye on the performance of your client’s bottom line. Make sure you understand the difference between your product’s impact and the outliers. Jack Welch at Practice Ignition noted,
“...customers are far more likely to churn in the fist [sic] 90 days. If you can catch mistakes early, you'll be able to keep more clients.” (Welch, 2018)
Have monthly meetings to go over their success and where improvements may need to be made. Your customers will appreciate your attention to detail.
7. Practice Makes Perfect
The expression above is so true. Look over your onboarding process over and over again. Refine where you need to and cut out anything that is unnecessary. A shorter timeline and fewer tasks equal less opportunity for your customers to drop out. The easier you make it for your client to gain success, the easier it will be for you to retain them for years to come.
I could add about five or six more steps to this guide, but rest assured that the essentials are there. The essential details are what matters and paying attention to those details will make the difference between happy clients and unhappy clients. For a reminder, here are the steps again:
- Create a Clear Map to Chart their Journey
- Keep it Simple
- Strut Your Stuff
- Keep the Lines of Communication Open
- Welcome them Onboard
- Stay in Touch
- Practice Makes Perfect
If you practice these with your clients’ success in mind, you can’t go wrong. Now, let’s get ready to make a smooth transition. All Aboard!
Sorry, I just had to get a last one in there.