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Client Onboarding for Black Women Entrepreneurs

6 Steps to Onboarding New Clients for Service-Based Businesses and Consultants

Marketing and securing a sale can take up a lot of time and focus. But after you’ve gotten the sale and won a client, do you have a process for bringing them on board as a new client?

It can be easy to let this part of your customer experience slide or to not have a systematized process in place, especially if you’re providing a service as a solopreneur or with a small team. And this is a common problem for microbusinesses.

In this survey on customer onboarding and user adoption, only 19 percent of those surveyed had a dedicated onboarding team. So closing a sale isn’t the time to slow down or lower the bar for giving your client a great experience. Here are five reasons why an onboarding process is important for both your business and for your clients.

Successful onboarding of your clients helps to strengthen your business’s sustainability.

Onboarding is a way to keep your clients happy and returning for more of your services. According to Business.com, returning customers spend 67 percent more than returning customers, and HubSpot reports that word-of-mouth referrals bring in the best referrals for businesses. Customer acquisition costs are also rising. So if you want to keep expenses low and revenue high, onboarding can help increase your bottom line.

It demonstrates a higher level of professionalism. When you create a customer onboarding process that is thorough and clear, you put your new customer at ease and allow them to trust from the start that they spent their money in the right place. You are also setting the tone for professional, clear communication from the outset and this encourages the customer to respond with that same level of professionalism.

It’s a way to show a more personal touch and build relationship. When you create a great customer onboarding process, you’re not just providing a service €” you’re also providing a more comprehensive customer experience and jumpstarting your relationship with care. Your new client process or customer onboarding experience can be another chance to impress and delight people who are engaging with your business for the first time.  By adding flavor and personality to your welcome process, you can give your business  a competitive edge and help yourself stand out from other service providers in your industry.

The client is clear on working boundaries, what’s happening, and when. When you create an onboarding process, it can give your client a closer look at how you work and what they can expect when working with you. It can save time for both of you when they don’t have to reach out to ask what’s going on and you don’t need to spend time reassuring them about your processes. Onboarding gives you the opportunity to be clear about boundaries like your hours of work and availability, or the number of revisions you’ll provide for the quoted project.

You’ll have more time to do the tasks that matter to you. Creating an intentional new client process allows you to automate parts or all of your onboarding process and eliminate costly repetition of tasks.This can ensure all new clients get a consistently efficient onboarding, while also freeing up your time.

So, as these five reasons make clear,  onboarding is important for client care. Despite its importance, though, onboarding  doesn’t have to be complicated or laborious. You can make the process super easy! Don’t overwhelm your customer with too many onboarding steps, and try to keep your links, documents, and action items in as few communications as possible.

Here are six items you should include within your onboarding process:

1. Email Template with Contract Signing and Payment Specifics

When your new client agrees to work with you, you’ll want to give them an email about the next steps they need to take to seal the deal. Consider using an email template that details the contracts they’ll need to sign and the payment options you have available. Using an email template will also help you save time, especially if you have standardized your contracts and payment processes to the point where you can include the necessary links and attachments with your template too.

2. A Service for Contracts and Forms

The next step for onboarding should be to have a process for sending your client all the necessary contracts and other forms in a single place. That way, you’re not chasing after separate forms €” you can access them in a centralized location. Here are four apps for you to consider, all complete with mobile capabilities and electronic signatures.

 

PandaDoc is a service and an app that can help you streamline your contract and payments processes. You can send quotes, proposals, contracts, invoices, and other forms all through one app. The documents can also be customized with your branding.

 

DocuSign focuses on documents and can integrate with over 350 apps and products, such as Microsoft, Salesforce, and Google. If you already have a CRM system, DocuSign can most likely integrate with it too.

 

HelloSign is an app where you can have all your forms sent and signed electronically. Unlike other document apps, it’s completely free for up to three documents a month.

 

AND.CO is similar to PandaDoc, where you can create proposals, contracts, and invoices. If you’re a newer entrepreneur and have not yet created your own contracts, AND.CO also provides contract language that you can adopt or customize as needed. If you need to track your time, AND.CO also provides a time-tracking app.

 

3. A Great Welcome Letter/Kit

After you’ve gotten all the necessary forms signed and payments received, it’s time to officially welcome your client on board. To add an extra human touch and customer service, you can use a welcome letter and/or kit. If you have some company swag, this would be the perfect time to use it along with a welcome letter. Here are some examples of welcome emails to inspire you.

Whether it’s a letter or a kit, you’re welcome to new clients is not just an act of kindness. You’re reinforcing who you are, what your business is about, and what they can expect when they’re working with you. In this welcome letter, you can outline your workflow, give a link to a questionnaire if you have one, and remind your client of the social media platforms you’re on. If you want to do something extra special, you can also consider creating a welcome video.

4. Contact Information and Availability

Within your welcome letter, you should also include your contact information and availability. If you know you’ll be unavailable ahead of time, let your client know the days you’ll be away and who they should contact instead. If you’re not going to be the point of contact, inform your client of their point of contact in your company, how to reach that point of contact, and that point of contact’s  availability.

5. An Initial Meeting Agenda and Scheduling Link

Your clients may not actually be local, but it would still be good to touch base with them after you’ve brought them on board. Whether it’s an in-person meeting, video chat, or phone call, you should schedule a time to meet so you can hammer out any remaining details or address any concerns. This kind of initial meeting is also a good practice for reminding the client of what the workflow should look like. You can send a meeting agenda ahead of time to ensure that they know what to expect for your first meeting.

To make it easier for scheduling, use an app like Calendly and give your client your calendar so that they can schedule a time to chat based on your availability. You’ll probably want to have this call within a week of having contracts signed.

6. A Dedicated Folder Link for Your Client

It can be easy to drown in documents for different clients. So creating a dedicated online space for them is not only good for organizing your own processes, but also lets the client know that you have made them a priority. You can use apps like Google Drive or Dropbox to create a folder for your client and then email them a link to it so they know where to look for relevant documents. If your client is not used to using cloud-based storage apps, you can set up a meeting to walk them through the process.

Formally onboarding clients can be easily overlooked as part of your customer experience process. But with some intentionality, a few handy apps, and some focus, you can not only streamline your own business processes, but also increase the likelihood that your client will return to you with more business and new referrals.

Bonus Scale Tip: As your business grows, so should your team. When client load increases, consider hiring another point of contact for customer service. Share the contact information with the client during the onboarding process. Consider hiring a virtual assistant or customer service representative from upwork.com or using a help desk like zendesk.com. This way, the client has a professional, responsive customer experience throughout the entire process.

Makisha

Makisha Boothe is business coach and founder of Sistahbiz Global Network. She specializes in rapid improvement and innovation, and helps women with business startup and design.

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