Making the client onboarding process successful is crucial for any service company.
When done well, your onboarding process is the mechanism through which your business development and/or sales team does an elegant handoff to your service delivery people. This instills confidence in your offering, and makes your new customer glad to have signed on with you.
Getting your client onboarding process right—especially when your service is offered remotely from a globally distributed team—is even more important and difficult.
Below, I outline three principles we’ve kept in mind while structuring our onboarding process, a process that we see as foundational to Prialto’s success.
3 Principles of a Successful Client Onboarding Process
1. Make the new customer glad to have signed on with you
Savvy buyers are always hesitant to sign on to a new service. They fear the inevitable productivity dip that takes place before a new service becomes additive.
Our new customers are particularly fearful. They worry that they will need to provide a lot of heavy personal management time to make our service work in light of our virtual assistants residing a world away in Asia and Latin America.
To overcome this, we work to awe the customer with the amount of management support we will provide on their behalf. We put their entire support team of virtual assistants and their manager on the onboarding call so that they hear from each person and understand how each of their roles will help make the service exceptionally “turnkey” such that the productivity dip common in adopting a new service will be minimal.
This addresses one of the greatest fears with which the customer comes to the new relationship. It puts them at ease and encourages them to follow our lead.
Instead of regretting that they’ve signed on, they rightly feel smart for having done so.
2. Create a detailed, personal and professional context around which to collaborate
Contrary to conventional wisdom, studies show that when meetings begin with a bit of personal sharing they are more productive than meetings kept to “just business.” Sharing and honoring the personal context in which work is conducted creates the trust and respect that is foundational to work collaboration.
We begin each onboarding call by introducing each of the several key Prialto employees who comprise our new customers’ support team. By this time, we’ve already sent the new customer a detailed biography of his/her primary virtual administrative assistant. On the call, we outline each of the team members’ roles in helping the customer.
We then ask the new customer to introduce him/herself. While making the request, we invite the new customer to tell us about both the professional and personal aspects of his/her life.
When the new customer pauses, the Prialto team comments or asks follow-up questions to show that they understand the professional life being described, the personal world in which it takes place, and the connections between the two.
We follow these introductions with a series of preference questions. Many of these preferences might have been collected in advance of the call via a web form or survey.
However, asking the questions on the call allows us to follow up with personal insights and questions that further build trust, primarily by telling the new customer that “we’ve been here before.” We have worked with people like him/her, and we know how to successfully lead a busy professional through the productivity dip to the “sweet spot” in which the service we offer is creating lasting value.
These questions and introductions also help bridge the context gap between our customers operating in a high-pressure North American business environment and the world in which our virtual assistants live in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
3. Begin taking steps to ensure continuity
Customers who sign on with a firm for a new service are often attracted by one particular partner, employee, or executive. But the firm and the customer hope the service is not dependent on anyone or two people.
Building continuity of service starts with the client onboarding call. That’s why the call should never be with just one person. It should always be with the broader support team.
It's important to note that someone on your team should always document all preferences and key information shared on the call. And whenever possible, the call should be recorded (if that’s okay with the new customer).
The Onboarding Bridge
Services are difficult to sell because of all the trust-building required between provider and buyer. The provider must convince the buyer that the productivity dip will be minimal, and the buyer must convince the provider that s/he will be a customer capable of riding out the productivity dip.
A good client onboarding process will:
- Help the new customer slow down in a time-efficient way in order to get started
- Help overcome the business and social context gap between the service provider and service buyer
- Begin the process of ensuring continuity of service for both the firm and the customer
By proactively addressing each of these bulleted needs, the onboarding process becomes an elegant handoff from sales to service that positivity defines your brand.