Strategy for Creatives: Business Minus the Bullshit

Mastering Client Onboarding: Keys to Seamless Satisfaction and Retention

April 25, 2023 Sasha | Business Strategist for Creative Women Season 1 Episode 64
Strategy for Creatives: Business Minus the Bullshit
Mastering Client Onboarding: Keys to Seamless Satisfaction and Retention
Show Notes Transcript

The way that you onboard clients into your business can dramatically change how they experience working with you. In this episode, I'm exploring the critical topic of client onboarding and how it can make or break your business. I delve into the key elements of effective client onboarding, including understanding client needs and goals, clear communication and expectations, timely delivery of services, setting up feedback loops, and building strong relationships and trust. I also discuss how to create a seamless onboarding process by mapping the client journey, developing onboarding materials and tools, leveraging technology, training and empowering staff, and measuring success. And I'm even dishing out best practices for ensuring client satisfaction and retention. After listening to this episode, you'll have actionable insights to improve your client onboarding process and ensure that your clients have a positive experience that keeps them coming back for more.

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Business Minus the Bullshit. Whether you're new in business or find yourself in a season of change, get ready to build a strategy, create an action plan and crush those goals. I'm Sasha, host a strategy for creatives. And I help female led businesses grow their brands in authentic, measurable and meaningful ways, without the stress. There's no sugar coated here, I'm serving up real tips and actionable steps you can take to help get you organized, get off the path to burnout and grow your brand like a boss. So go ahead, pull up a chair, grab a notepad, and let's talk business. Welcome to Strategy for Creatives: Business Minus the Bullshit. I of course, am your host Sasha and today we are going to be talking about how to really up level your client onboarding experience so that you can get satisfaction and clients that keep coming back. I think that the onboarding experience is so important because it is the first impression that a client is going to have of you and your business and it's going to set the tone for the entire relationship that you have with your clients. So it is essential to get this part of your business, right. And when you have a good client onboarding experience, you can really wow your clients and get them excited about working with you. And make them feel as if working with you is not only something that they want and need, but that is an experience to be had, that it is something that they thoroughly enjoy, and that it gives them insight into the future of working with your business. And more importantly, will get them coming back to your business because they had such a great onboarding experience. And so today I really just wanted to dive deep into what makes a good and effective client onboarding experience and how to create a seamless onboarding experience and kind of just best practices from making sure that when you have new clients that they're happy that you're leaving them satisfied, and that they'll keep coming back to your business. them up for success. It's making sure that your clients feel welcome and supported from the moment they sign up with you. I have had some really good client onboarding experiences and some client onboarding experiences that were not good. And I mean for myself as a client of another business, not for my clients. Hopefully, all of my clients appreciate my onboarding experience. But one of the best onboarding experiences I have seen is actually with a client of mine who does graphic design. She has an agency that she does graphic design for, and her client experience when she onboard them, I think, is just phenomenal. It is a email, it's a series of emails, that welcomes them and gets them excited into her business, and then sets them up with like a dashboard, a support chat that they can use, it has literally a timeline built in on when they can expect things. And it just makes the experience for her clients feel like "Oh, they've really put a lot of thought and effort into working on my project. And I'm excited to see like, if this is all the effort they're putting in just to bring me on as a new client, then what is it going to look like when we start working together?". My own client experience, what I do for my clients is a series of emails where I say, "Yay, I'm so excited that you're a part of the strategy by Sasha family. I'm excited to have you here, I can't wait to learn more about your business. Here's a welcome guide. Here's what you can expect from working together. And here's what I need from you. And here's what you can expect from me.". It lays out expectations. And so the client onboarding is really going to make sure that your clients are feeling welcome, and that they're supported from the beginning of working with you. Now, why is this important? It's because like I mentioned that it does set the tone for your entire relationship with that client. When they have a positive onboarding experience with you, it's going to lead to overall just general satisfaction. When it's a negative onboarding experience, it can lead to clients leaving you; to clients not understanding what their roles are, what you need from them, what they need from you. So it can be a challenge to make sure that you're doing the right or you're setting the right tone when you're bringing all these clients because you want to make sure one that you're not bombarding them with too information. But you also want to make sure that you are giving them the proper information so that they know what that experience is going to look like and what they can expect from you. I've done episodes in the past where I talk about boundaries to put in place with clients. And y'all know I'm a big believer in boundaries when it comes to our business. And during that onboarding experience is a great place to set that expectation with your clients to let them know, "Hey, I'm so excited that we're going to be working together, here's when you can reach me, here's how you can reach me, here's how I prefer communication. Here's where you can look from things.". And it's letting them get excited about the project. But it's also letting them know, hey, I'm not open for business 24/7. This is what it's going to look like when we're working together. One of the biggest challenges that happens between clients, of course, when you're onboarding is the lack of communication that can happen between the client and the business. I mentioned that a little bit, that negative piece that can come from client onboarding, if somebody signs on with you, and let's say they are signing on with you for a high ticket item, right. If you are signing on for and I'll just use myself as example, let's say that I signed on to a group coaching program, and I spent like $5,000 for this program. If the minute I put in my credit card and it says you know, process went through and payment received and things like that, if I don't receive an automated email, and I know it's automated, I'm not expecting a personalized message. But if I don't receive an automated email back, that's like, "Hey, we're so happy you're here, here are next steps.", then I start to get a little bit concerned because it's kind of like, okay, I just spent all of this money. What does come next? What can I expect with working with this group coaching? And what's the experience gonna be like? And so little things like that, when you're onboarding people can really help between having a client who is frustrated, or doesn't understand what they can expect, or a client that is happy and excited to get started and wants to dive right into whatever content you're providing or whatever service that you're providing them, and is just ready to get started in your business. Another big challenge of client onboarding is not necessarily understanding your client's needs and goals. And so you want to make sure that during that onboarding experience, that you are getting the necessary information that you need from the client in order to adequately provide whatever you're giving to your client. So to go back to my graphic design client that I have - she has a very thorough client onboarding form. And they have to complete that form, before they have that kickoff meeting with her. If they don't complete the form, they don't even get the link to the kickoff meeting. And that's important because once she's setting that client boundary where she's not going to waste her time, or that client's time with setting up a meeting, and they haven't figured out what it is, their goals are yet, but more importantly, she's getting all of the information that she needs, before sitting down with her clients. So that way this conversation, this kickoff meeting that they're having, is productive. And it's making sure that she has all of the information that she needs to either prep before the meeting, or do advance research before the meeting. And giving that kickoff meeting, that client is going to have a really good kickoff meeting. And it's going to be productive, because her as a business owner is prepared. She's walking into that meeting, prepared, and she's not going into it not knowing what's going on. So when we talk about client onboarding, I want you to think about these five, what I think are key elements to have an effective onboarding experience. I think they're essential in order to build an experience that you're really going to wow your clients on. So the first one, like I mentioned, it is critical to understand what your client's needs and goals are from the outset. This is going to allow you to provide them with the right solutions, and ensure the success that they have with whatever service that you're providing for them. So for me, for example, I have also a detailed questionnaire that when you book one on one strategies with me that it is going to do a deep dive into your business. Because when we come to that first strategy session together, I want to have been able to do my research into your business to know what your pain points are, to figure out who your competitors are. To learn more about you and your business before we first sit down and talk so that way I know that I have what I need to make sure I can help you effectively in your business. And so it is crucial to understand what your client is going to need from you and what their goals are from the very beginning. So that way, you can give them an exceptional service experience because you're coming prepared. You also want to make sure that you are having clear communication and expectations set from the beginning. Again, I will repeat this, I love me a boundary. And I love setting expectations for our clients. So make sure that you are communicating with your clients during the onboarding experience, what they can expect from you, when they can expect things from you, how to get in contact with you, what method of communication you prefer, because this is going to be important. And it's going to help set boundaries on both ends about when and where you feel most comfortable talking to them how they can reach out if they're having issues. And it's just laying things out from the beginning. You also want to make sure that you have timely and efficient delivery of whatever you're providing for your clients. So Amazon has as much as I love Amazon, it's done us a disservice in those of us who have solo businesses, because we expect everything as clients to be super fast and efficient and right the first time which of course, isn't always possible. But in setting those clear communications, you also want to make sure that you are setting clear timelines and when people can expect when things are going to get delivered to them. So with my strategy sessions, I say from the beginning, that you will receive your goals worksheet after our strategy session within 24 to 48 hours after our session together. And that sets the expectation that my clients not going to be waiting, you know, an hour after we finished our strategy session to get their action plan, they know that it's going to come within one to two days. And they're not looking for it. And I'm not feeling rushed on my end in order for them to get to work on whatever they're trying to do. And so you want to make sure that as close as possible, and of course, put in there somewhere you know that timelines are subject to change, because you don't want to be bound by something, especially when it's dependent on getting deliverables or input back from clients. So you want to make sure that you have wiggle room, but try to create a clear timeline so that way clients can understand when they can expect things from you and when you need things from them in order for the timeline to stay on schedule. You also want to set up something like a feedback loop or follow up procedures. So this is helping to ensure that your clients are satisfied. It helps you get feedback when you need it. And you can make improvements when necessary. This isn't necessarily a testimonial at the end, right? We're talking about onboarding here. And so you want to let your clients know during onboarding, "hey, at x milestone, I'll reach back out to you to see how we're going with the project. And to make sure that you're satisfied or if you have any questions that this is a great time to bring it up. You can also email me or contact me with whatever your preferred method is, and I'll reach you know, I'll let you know whatever the solution is at that point.". You can also let them know like,"hey, six weeks into the project, I'm going to send you a questionnaire and so that you can let me know how we're doing.". And then that allows you to know, or it allows you want to get information that you need to better finish out their project, but also lets the client know that, hey, your feedback is really important to me. And I want to make sure that you're aware that I'm going to send you something to get your feedback. And I would love it if you help that, if you filled it out, if you let me know what it is that I can do better what's working, what's not working. So that way you have the best experience possible. That's letting the clients know that their experience is number one for you, you want them to be satisfied. And you want to make sure that they know that you're going to do what you can to ensure that they're satisfied with their experience while working with you. You also want to make sure that you're building strong relationships and trust within your onboarding, because this is what's going to lead to that retention at the end, it's going to make sure that these clients can coming back to you in the future, or that they refer people to you in the future, because they've had such a great experience with you. So you want to make sure that you show up for your clients, and that you're letting them know that you care about their success that you're there to support them. And you can do this any number of ways with your onboarding. So for example, I send an onboarding gift that's like, Hey, I'm so excited that you're here, I use gradable. for it, it's a little welcome card, it's a bath bomb, because y'all know, I'm really into self care. And it's just like, I'm so excited to get started and working together. And I can't wait to help build a better business for you. And what that does something so simple helps to build that relationship with my clients when we first start working together, because you're like, "oh, she really cares about me. And she thought enough of our relationship working together, I'm not just money to her that she thought enough to send me a personalized gift, where I can, you know, use for myself take time for myself. And so I'm excited about working with her.". And so building, doing things to help build that strong relationship and trust right at the onset of working together is going to help that whole experience, it'll be better for you and the client. So we talked about the kind of the key elements of effective client onboarding, but let's talk about how to create a seamless onboarding process. The first thing that you want to do is identify and map your client onboarding journey. I talked a little bit about this when I was when I did my episode way back on funnels, be on social media about sales funnels, that client journey, mapping that, it's important to map out how your clients are going to work with you from the minute that they sign a contract with you until the end of working together. So that way you can understand what their experience is going to be and figure out preemptively where any pain points might be. So you can figure out, you know, around x part of working together, I might have a delay because this process doesn't work well, or the client might need to get me this, how can I remedy that in the beginning so that they might not reach this pain point. One example that I see a lot with graphic designers, especially well, not graphic designers, but web designers is that they'll get to a stage where they're designing the clients website, and they need the copy from the client. And not everyone is good at writing web copy. And so the client may be delayed and getting that over to the client or getting that over to you as a provider. So how can we streamline that? So that might mean maybe I outsource to a copywriter myself, and I take over that part, so the client doesn't even have to worry about it, I've eliminated that pain point. So you want to first identify and map out what that client journey from the very beginning is going to be through the end of the project. So that way, you have a clear map of what that experience could look like and how you can improve it on any end. You then want to develop any sort of onboarding materials and tools that you might use, that's going to streamline the process and just ensure consistency. That means things from welcome packs, guides, checklists, all of that good stuff. I use Dubsado, which makes my onboarding sequence very automated. But I have a welcome guide that's included that's like next steps, here's what's here's what you can expect from me, here's what comes next. And then it also links to like their client portal, which I also use in Dubsado, where they can access their contract their invoice all of their sessions that will be recorded together, I let them know that this is the place where you can find everything. This is the tools that we're going to be using during our strategy sessions. So I lay all of that out in the beginning and develop all of that I you know, with Dubsado makes it really easy because you only have to do the work flow once I only had to create that welcome pack at one time. And then I can just automate that experience going forward. So you want to make sure you're developing any of those materials and tools that they might need from the beginning. And going back and looking at your client journey that you outlined. You should be able to pinpoint what kind of things you can give to the clients that are going to help them while working with you. You also want to utilize technology to streamline your onboarding experience? So I said, I use Dubsado there's HoneyBook. There's other things that you can use to streamline the experience. But technology works in your favor here, you can use automation to set up welcome emails to schedule follow up calls from my design client that I mentioned earlier, again, she sends out this welcome packet, she sends out the questionnaire, and then it's automated that they'll get the link to schedule their kickoff call. But it's only when they submit their questionnaire. So you can create workflows so that way, the process is streamlined. And it goes from one step to the other, and you're out of it completely. But it's still giving you what you need and making the client feel that they are excited about working with you and that everything that they're doing is kind of personalized. You also want to make sure that you are measuring and evaluating your onboarding success at the end of every project. And because it's essential for identifying where you can improve that onboarding experience. And so when I talked about at the beginning, kind of creating that feedback loop, this is a great way to collect feedback from clients, and ask them, What did you think about the onboarding experience? What other information could I have given you at the beginning of our project that would have made this process smoother? Did you feel like it was too much information, not enough information? Ask questions like that when you're getting feedback, and it'll help you figure out whether or not the onboarding experience needs to be changed or updated or improved in any sort of way. You can also track key metrics like client retention rates. So if you notice that at a certain point, clients are always dropping off, like maybe they don't complete that questionnaire in the two weeks that you allot them, that maybe that means that you should reevaluate what the questionnaire is, maybe that means that you need to insert a follow up email into that workflow somewhere. So make sure that you're measuring and evaluating what that process looks like, with every client so that you can tweak it and make it better, and improve that client onboarding experience. So now let's get into some best practices for making sure that our clients are satisfied and that we're going to keep these people on as clients once they go through our experience and our onboarding, the first thing that you can do is create a personalized and relevant experience to each client. So you want to make sure that you're tailoring your onboarding experience to clients specific needs and goals. That doesn't mean that you can't automate things obviously, right. Because if we're automating, that can make it seem like things aren't personalized. The way that I personalize it to my clients is that I send them a gift from Greetbl, I pick something that I think most of them will like, sometimes I will pick if I know the client personally, or we've chatted a lot before or if I you know, stalk them on social media, I might look at something that they're into and send that in their client onboarding gift, because it is personalized. But even that little card that they get from readable, I personalize every message that gets sent with that. And yes, it's typed, it's not a handwritten note, as much as I prefer handwritten notes. It is typed. But it says hey, so and so I'm so excited to work with you. And then I'll mention something specific to their business that I'm looking forward to learning more about or to working on together in their business. So create a personalized experience when you're bringing these new clients on board because it's really going to help up level that client experience. You also want to make sure that you are creating a culture within your business that puts the customers in the center, because that's kind of where the retention piece comes in for getting clients to stay with you. You want to make sure that you're always thinking about ways that you can improve and up level that client service experience. Whether that means utilizing things like support chats, or whether that means like utilizing Voxer, so that you can communicate more easily back and forth. Think about ways where you can make the client feel and feel is the important one, because you don't again, boundaries, you don't have to be on 24/7 in your business in order to do this. But make sure you are thinking of ways that you can make your client feel as if they come first. And they're in the center of what you're doing. So even if you have 10 clients, every client is going to feel like they are number one. And they're what matter. Again, you also want to make sure that you're always encouraging client feedback, and that you're using a continuous improvement to make sure that onboarding is a success. Make sure that you are actively seeking feedback and using it to improve your onboarding process. You want to always make sure and this just goes in any business in general, but especially when it comes to onboarding that you are always delivering consistent, and high quality services, especially if you are a high ticket person. Consistency and quality are keys to making sure your clients feel satisfied. And if they don't feel like that, then that's where the client retention goes down. But that's also where you might not get those referrals. So when you are creating that onboarding experience, make sure that it matches with the level of service that you're providing. You don't want to create a poor onboarding experience, and then have such a great level of service that's completely mismatched because then clients might feel like, hey, you know, I didn't know what was going on, everything got done really well. But the process just kind of seemed a little ugh, and I wasn't too sure about it. So I don't know if I would recommend this. On the flip side, you don't want to have an amazing client onboarding experience, where people are like, I'm so excited to work with you. And then you're not really providing a level of service that matches up with that onboarding experience. So make sure you're you're onboarding clients in a way that's consistent with the level that you're providing service. And always try to uplevel that service if you can. And then lastly, you want to try to build these long term relationships with clients, because that's how you keep them coming back. It's how you keep new people coming into your business from client referrals. I use my real estate agent as a great way to do this. We bought our house back in February or not February, September 2020. My real estate agent, it is March 2023 when I'm recording this, my real estate agents still sends us cards. For every Christmas we get a Christmas card, we get Halloween notices when they are doing trick or treats. When Thanksgiving rolls around, they buy apple pies or pumpkin pies for all their past clients. And you can come and pick one up. He sends the little baseball and hockey and football schedule magnets to our house every year. So we can put them on their fridge. And of course it has a space on them. Because that's building a long term relationship. He knows that I'm probably not in the market for a house right now. I just bought my house three years ago, I'm not going to move anytime soon. But by doing things like this, he's making sure that he's saying forefront in my mind. So that way when I do want to buy a house that I am thinking of him and I will instantly go to him because he has done so much to build this long term relationship with me. And so doing things to build that relationship and to keep it going past when your clients might need you that's a great way to get clients coming back. I used to do this when I was in wedding stationery, I would always send my clients birthday cards every year, or on their first anniversary, I would send them a personalized card that was like Happy, Happy wedding anniversary. I'm so excited you let me be a part of your special day. I can't wait to learn more about or you know hear more about what's going on with you and your family. Because then that turned into for me, it turned into "Oh, I remember Sasha made beautiful wedding stationery for me, I wonder if she can make new home housewarming stationery, or baby shower stationery, or now my kid is five, can you do my invitations?". So it kept that long term relationship going. And so it's great to think of things that you can do that are going to keep you in the forefront of your clients mind even after they are done working with you. So action items for today's episode. Evaluate your current client onboarding process, I really want you to take some time out and look at your current process and identify any areas of improvement based on the key elements that I talked about for effective client onboarding and then best practices for keeping clients satisfied. And keeping them in your client cycle going forward in your business, create a plan that you can use to address these areas and improve your onboarding process in the future. So look at what you're currently doing now. And then if you haven't done it already, implement customer feedback mechanisms somewhere within your onboarding process or within your client journey process period so that you can start collecting feedback from your clients so you can figure out how you can better improve your process. This can be anything from surveys, feedback forms, follow up calls, try to figure out where in your client journey you can implement feedback. So that way you can continuously improve on your onboarding process, and identify areas where you can improve on. Hopefully, this episode has given you something to think about when it comes to creating an effective client onboarding process. Again, I think onboarding is so important. And it's sometimes overlooked as one thing that's essential when we bring on clients. But if we can really up level, how our clients feel when they first start to work with us, it can completely change the dynamic of that working relationship. And it gets clients excited that they are giving you money to work on their business or to help them with something that they need in their life. So whatever you can do to uplevel that client onboarding experience is really going to do wonders when it comes to that client relationship that you have and will just make that experience so much better for you and your Happening next week on the Strategy for Creatives podcast - clients. I'm talking with Jasmine Jae Herman, who is a strategic brand marketing consultant and copy editor about the difference between a copy editor and a copywriter. So make sure you tune in for next week's episode. Thanks for tuning in to the latest episode of the Strategy for Creatives podcast. I hope you enjoyed the insightful discussion, and hopefully found valuable tips that you can put in your business today. If you found the podcast helpful, I'd love it if you take a moment to rate and review the show on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback helps me make a better show and reach more listeners like you. And don't forget to share the podcast with your favorite business owner who could benefit from the strategies and insights I share on the show. New episodes come out every Tuesday, so make sure to subscribe and stay up to date with the latest trends and techniques for growing your creative business. If you want more don't forget to join the Strategy for Creatives Facebook group, or you can follow me on Instagram @strategybysasha. Have a topic suggestion or a question you want to hear answered? Email me at Thanks for listening, and I'll see you next week with another episode of the Strategy for Business Minus the Bullshit podcast. Part of the Boundless Audio Podcast Network