How to Improve Your Client Onboarding Process

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As a freelancer, you may understand that quality service is just as critical to customer satisfaction as the customer's overall experience. Client experience can make or break their decision to do business with you again, to spread good or bad feedback to others and more.

The overall client experience is established as soon as they decide to do business with you.

The first experience – communications and expectations – will be the foundation of their satisfaction.

As you can see, it’s important to ensure that you and your new client are on the same page from the start, and having the right client onboarding process is essential to accomplish this goal.

By having an exceptional onboarding process, you can explain to your clients what they can expect every step of the way.

Following a few essential steps early in your cooperation, you can ensure your onboarding process is always effective and efficient.

1. Gather Information About Your Client and Their Industry

Many companies think the onboarding process should be tailored around their products, services, and overall reputation, but this is not the case. A solid onboarding process is based on your client, their industry, and your industry.

You can’t have a good onboarding process if you do not understand what your business, your industry, and your customers are about.

Learn who your customers are and what they expect before you tailor an onboarding program to their needs and expectations, otherwise, you could end up with a great design that just doesn’t fit.

As a first step to achieving this lofty aim, ask about your clients’ goals. You can do this with one-on-one meetings, emails, phone calls, and even forms they can complete upon request.

Asking many questions can be tedious for some clients and sometimes, it might even shy them away. Avoid this by explaining why it's important to “bother” them with questions.

A well-tailored suit is a good analogy for this: you can get a suit in many places, but you will have to go through measuring and questions to get that perfect one.

Important tip: You can collect details about your new clients before they move forward and while they are still a hot lead or prospect. This way, you will already have information about them which will shorten the list of questions.  

2. Use Templates and Automation

While you need to tailor the onboarding process to your customers and industry, this does not mean you need to reinvent the wheel every single time.

Use well-designed templates and forms so you can gather as much information in a hasty manner. After reviewing this information, you may still have a few questions that can be customized based on the client’s answers.

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An easy way to generate templates and forms is through Gmail. Just hit the Gmail gearbox and choose the Labs feature under Settings. Then, click on “Enable Canned Responses.”

This lets you write questions and place them in your choice of templates.

With this setup, you can keep most or all questions the same for the sake of efficiency, or you can adjust a few of the questions to suit the client’s specific situation.

This type of form can request information about their contact details, their preferences, their needs and more. Because each company is unique, you will need to brainstorm information and details that are needed upfront.

3. Share Documents and Project Progress

You will need to show progress to satisfy your customers.

Some prefer to give customers and clients regular updates via email throughout the course of the project or service, but another idea is to share documents and communications with clients in real-time.

This lets clients see what the project’s status is at any given time. Customers prefer this type of transparency throughout the process; it’s better than just receiving a periodic and brief update every week or month.

There are a few different ways to share documents and progress statuses. For example, file sharing through Microsoft Office and Google Drive are convenient options to consider.

Google Drive is available through the Google Marketplace, and it has super useful features for sharing and collaboration.

If you opt in for Microsoft Office, you will gain access to OneDrive and SharePoint, as well as MS Project Center and Power BI, which are all excellent project management and collaboration resources you can consider.

Once you master Office 365, you won’t require much else. Microsoft has stepped up their game, and they thought of everything.

Remember that your client’s perception of professionalism is linked to your ability to effectively use the technology you have set up. Therefore, ensure that you and your team know how to use the technology well before you implement it in your onboarding strategy.

Taking this important step will help to ensure that you and your team are viewed as knowledgeable experts in your field. 

4. Make Use of e-Signatures

In many types of businesses, clients must sign at least a few forms at some point. The old way to get signatures involved getting a live signature, such as through an in-person meeting or mailing the documents to the client.

Often this process was inconvenient: it took forever, and the costs could become ridiculously high.

Switching to e-signatures is essential if you want to make the experience as convenient as possible for your client.

A digital signature lets your clients sign any contracts or other documents from a smartphone, tablet or laptop, which is fast and convenient.

When you use this, you are making a statement to your customers upfront that you are tech-savvy and focused on creating a fluid experience for. 

5. Communicate Regularly With Your Clients

Even if you have a killer onboarding process, it doesn’t mean you can just stop improving it. Eventually, someone will have a better one.

Always request feedback from your clients about their experience.

This feedback can come from satisfied and unsatisfied customers alike. It's important to understand why unhappy customers have walked away. After all, you do not want to keep losing customers for the same reason going forward.

This lets you improve the customer experience. By making an effort to improve onboarding through the collection of feedback details tells your customers you value their opinion and have their best interests in mind.

It could even help you boost your retention rate and bring additional customers through referrals. Remember that it is not enough to get feedback. You also must act on it.

Onboarding is essential to the overall customer experience. Take time today to understand your current practice and consider how improvements can be made. 

Through your analysis and feedback from your customers, you can improve the customer experience at every turn.

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