The first few days of your brand new relationship with a client is some of the most critical moments for your company. Onboarding is a process that can either make your company shine brightly, or look very foolish.
The problem is that small businesses are typically not onboarding clients very often, so their experience is limited and their process is not fully fleshed out. But the sooner you can pin down your onboarding process, the sooner your business will be ready to grow.
So how can you avoid the onboarding growing pains that often display your company's youth? Here are a few tips to creating an effective process for onboarding brand new clients without too many hiccups along the way.
1. Clear Introductions
This sounds like a no-brainer but oftentimes in the rush and excitement of gaining a new client, introductions get lost and a bit of chaos ensues because there is no clearly defined go-to-person for different aspects of the relationship.
Be sure to always introduce your team to the client and be clear about their role in the project or account. In order for your brand new client to begin trusting your company as a whole, they must get to know the individuals who make up that company. On the flip-side, request the same from your client: have them define who will be responsible or involved in different aspects of the relationship.
2. Embrace Transparency From the Start
Using a project management tool is one great way to be transparent about the action items your company is taking on. Invite your customer to ask questions and be involved as much as they desire. Some will take you up on this, and some won’t. But always give them the option. This beginning phase is especially important for building the trust that will solidify a mutually beneficial relationship.
3. Review What Has Gone Before
Understanding what the previous provider or vendor has done may be an important step in fixing mistakes or gaining a comfort level with how things are set up for this particular client. Sometimes this has already been handled in the initial proposal, but make sure that all the team members involved are caught up to speed.
Each client is always going to bring their own unique history, so taking the time to understand can ease problems down the road.
4. Set Clear Expectations
Now that you’ve been introduced, communicated, and grown to understand the project and client, it is time to set some clear expectations and goals for this relationship. This is critical, and should be done as early as feasibly possible.
Being completely transparent and clear about goals and expectations is essential to a successful relationship of any sort. Again, looking back on the initial proposal agreed upon will get you pointed in the right direction.
5. Follow Through
Once you’ve onboarded the client, its time to follow through and do the work. This requires strong project management and relates back to the previous point: setting clear expectations. Communicating those expectations is crucial and brings clarity and direction to a project.
Learning to onboard a client gracefully and effectively can be tough. It requires clarity and direction that not every young company has attained quite yet. But mastering the art of onboarding a client early on in your company’s life is key to growing your business.