How to handle onboarding a new client
Last updated on: September 30, 2022
We understand that creating a perfect onboarding process can be a tough nut to crack.
However, it’s essential to learn how to handle it well, as your new client’s overall satisfaction with your product or service depends on the initially established business-client relationship.
Luckily, there are 7 steps on the way to help you master the entire onboarding process.
No matter what type of services you offer, in this blog post we’ll help you provide your new clients with the best onboarding experience they could ever imagine.
What does onboarding new clients mean?
There’s a saying: “All beginnings are difficult”.
However, that doesn’t necessarily need to be true. With adequate guidance and support — any beginning can be made less demanding, so after the contract has been signed, a company should start the new client onboarding process.
Client onboarding is a process any new client goes through to learn how to use a new product or service efficiently.
Roughly speaking, a client is considered to be fully onboard after 6 months, though the exact time period may vary depending on the product/service.
The onboarding process is led by a company and serves to assess new clients’ needs. It includes procedures such as:
- Welcoming the new client,
- Learning client’s individual demands,
- Introducing the new client with a product/service, and
- Checking in on the client regularly.
Why is client onboarding important?
Did you know that people form first impressions within the very first minute of an encounter?
Regardless of whether it is a business encounter or a casual meeting of new people — that very first impression forms our lasting opinion.
With the fact that opinions are easily molded, but not that easy to alter — companies should try to give new clients a personalized onboarding experience to remember.
Proper onboarding will skyrocket clients’ satisfaction levels, which further leads to:
- The company establishing trust with new clients, and
- Clients deciding to continue cooperation with the company.
As you can see — onboarding is a classic win-win situation.
7 Steps to successfully onboard a new client
The onboarding process doesn’t end with a signed contract. On the contrary, the contract is only the beginning.
Now, you’re probably wondering what the exact steps to the proper onboarding process are.
Luckily, we’ve prepared a list of the 7 steps to help you prepare the best onboarding process for your new client:
- Send a welcome email,
- Conduct the first onboarding meeting,
- Present the client with your company’s product/service,
- Create and celebrate milestones,
- Check in with your client regularly,
- Pick a project management (PM) tool, and
- Follow the new client onboarding checklist.
Step #1: Send a welcome email
The fact is — clients enjoy being admired — which is the exact purpose of the welcome emails:
- They’re a token of appreciation, and
- They’re informative.
So, apart from containing warm welcoming words, this email should indicate what the next steps of the onboarding process will be.
This way, the client will know exactly what to expect in the days to follow.
Knowing that things are progressing will make the client feel more confident about choosing your company.
Tip: Make sure that the email is not a generic, but an honest message, sent by a real person. Being authentic will show your client that you’re actually happy to have them on board.
Check out the example of an authentic welcoming email:
Thanks for signing up to [name], it’s great having you onboard! 🙂
I know you’re busy, so I’ll cut to the chase — our company’s goal is to deliver a product [specify] that you’ll be fully satisfied with.
Managing to make at least a tiny bit of difference using [product], we’ll consider the first step of our journey successful.
However, in order to tailor such a product, we need to hear your feedback. We’d be thankful if you could get back to us, and we are happy to arrange a meeting at your convenience. 🙂
Thanks again, and if you have any more questions, I’m here to help! 🙂
Looking forward to hearing from you!
The welcome email might as well be a good time to schedule the first onboarding meeting — the next step in the onboarding process.
Step #2: Conduct the first onboarding meeting
There are several reasons why arranging an online or in-person meeting is an important step in the onboarding process:
- It sends a signal that you’re serious about the future collaboration with the client.
- It’s a great moment to introduce the client to your company’s goals and values.
- Taking time to speak to the client will show that you value them as people, and not as a source of profit.
- It gives the company a deeper insight into clients’ needs.
Before we proceed, make sure to stay focused on the client at this stage of the process. Also, try to encourage open communication by:
- Acknowledging the client’s fears and concerns, and
- Answering all their questions.
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
If you want to learn more about why communication matters in project management, check out this blog post:
Putting the client first is beneficial both to the client and your company, as understanding their expectations and desired outcomes:
- Keeps the client satisfied, and
- Provides your company with valuable data.
Collecting valuable data is vital for understanding consumer expectations. The more you are aware of your client’s demands, the more likely you are to create useful products/services.
Tip: Keep in mind that different clients prefer different ways of communication. So, you should always have an alternative channel of communication prepared. For example, a questionnaire is a quick and efficient way to collect huge amounts of data.
After getting to know your client, it’s time to start talking about why they’re actually here – your product/service.
Step #3: Present the client with your product/service
According to the customer onboarding statistics, 86% of people say they’d be more likely to stay loyal to a business that invests in onboarding content that welcomes and educates them after they’ve bought a product/service.
The educational content should allow clients to learn at their own pace, as they’re able to review the provided materials at any time. Anyhow, the content should be easy to digest and memorable.
Here are some of the most common ways to present a product or service:
- Short video overviews (e.g. step-by-step walkthroughs),
- Short presentations (e.g. demonstrations),
- Written instructional materials (e.g. brochures), and
- Clients use a product/service themselves (e.g. free trials).
Tip: Always make your product/service seem as if it is something that will make a significant difference in performing everyday tasks.
All in all, a good presentation of a product/service should ultimately:
- Reduce churn,
- Increase the value of a product/service, and
- Create loyal clients.
Step #4: Create and celebrate milestones
How to conduct a successful client onboarding if you don’t know what you want to achieve in the first place?
This is why you need to define milestones, or key events, in the onboarding process.
Although milestones should be unique, depending on the product/service, there are 3, more or less universal, onboarding milestones:
- The moment clients sign up for a product/service,
- The moment clients use the product/service for the first time, and
- The moment clients start using a product/service regularly.
Tip: Create smaller milestones. You’ll arrive at the final destination more easily by creating small stepping stones along the way.
Here is what the important onboarding milestones look like, on an example of Plaky, a project management app:
- Clients sign up to Plaky.
- Clients create their first project using Plaky.
- Clients start regularly assigning tasks to their team members.
Creating milestones is as equally important as celebrating them. While paying attention to each successful milestone — no matter how small it is — gives a motivational boost, it is vital to the entire onboarding process.
Step #5: Check in with new clients regularly
The onboarding process might be considered successful only when clients are satisfied with your product/service. However, to know that for sure, you need to check in with them regularly.
Here are some key points on when, how, and why you should conduct check-ins with new clients:
When to schedule check-ins?
- In the beginning, follow-ups may be done on a more regular basis, e.g. every week.
- As the onboarding process progresses, follow-ups may be conducted every couple of months.
How to conduct check-ins?
- Some clients will prefer live conversation rather than replying to emails or filling in questionnaires.
- So, depending on the client, choose their preferred channel of communication. If not sure which one it is — simply ask them.
Why conduct check-ins?
- You’ll collect important feedback on the product/service you offer.
- You’ll learn what can be altered and improved.
- You can address issues and maintain good customer service.
- Checking in shows you’re committed to providing clients with an excellent customer experience.
Personalized check-ins show that you value your clients. Expressing interest in their onboarding progress, new clients will feel positive about choosing your company in the first place.
Step #6: Pick a project management tool
Onboarding one client — it’s challenging already. Onboarding several clients — it’s simply too much information to carry around in your head.
If you’re wondering how to put all this theory into practice, our suggestion is to use a project management tool.
With the software such as Plaky, you’ll stay on top of tasks throughout the entire onboarding process.
Plaky offers a pre-made template that helps you easily organize the onboarding process, and saves you some valuable time and energy, with features such as:
- Group of Items,
- Person column,
- Status column with labels,
- Date column, and
- Text column.
In the Group of Items column, you can manage groups of tasks by names, e.g.:
- Awaiting Clients, and
- Onboarding Clients.
With the Person column, you’ll keep track of all the team members assigned to different onboarding tasks. You can even customize this column if needed. As you can see in the screenshot above, we changed the name of this column to Sales Person, so it better fits the needs of our team.
With the Status column, you can manage the onboarding tasks by assigning different statuses. This way, you’ll never lose track of which plan you’re presenting to which client, e.g. Pro, Premium, or any other.
With the Date column, you won’t have to worry about due dates, or any other time-related issues, such as:
- Whether you’ve sent the welcoming email to your new client.
- Whether the first onboarding session has been scheduled.
- What time your next check-in is scheduled.
With the Text column, you’re free to add personalized client information, or any other information relevant to the onboarding process.
Step #7: Follow the client onboarding checklist
If struggling with where to start, our advice is to follow a simple client onboarding checklist and use it as a roadmap.
Believe it or not, checklists are an excellent organizing method and will ensure that you don’t miss any steps along the way.
Here is an example of a simple checklist we created to help you kick off the onboarding process:
⏬Download the Onboarding Process Checklist template
Of course, checklists are a flexible category. You should always tailor the checklist to your onboarding process — the same way you tailor the onboarding process to your new client.
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
If you want to learn more about creating a project management checklist, check out this blog post:
Conclusion: Personalize the new client onboarding process
Handling onboarding new clients is a complex process. However, when you break down the process into smaller chunks, it won’t seem so unattainable anymore.
This is why we’ve divided onboarding new clients into 7 essential steps:
- Sending a welcome email,
- Conducting the first onboarding meeting,
- Presenting the new client with your product/service,
- Creating and celebrating milestones,
- Checking in with the new client regularly,
- Picking a project management tool, and
- Following the client onboarding checklist.
We’ve come down to the conclusion that although these 7 steps are essential, they’re not engraved in stone.
On the contrary — depending on the company, the product/service, and the client — each onboarding process should be unique.
That being said, keep an open mind when planning and organizing a new client onboarding process, and tailor the onboarding process to your client’s needs.
✉️ Can you think of any other important steps to a new client onboarding process? Do you have any useful tips and tricks on how to handle onboarding new clients? If yes, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may include your ideas in this or any other future blog posts.