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The 7 Biggest Client Onboarding Mistakes You're Making

Your onboarding process is a critical part of your client experience. It sets the foundation on which you can build strong - or shaky - client relationships for your agency.

Here are the 7 biggest client onboarding mistakes you could be making - and how you can avoid them before you head down that slippery slope of client dissatisfaction:

Onboarding no-no #1: Not acting fast enough


Responsive customer service is important throughout the entirety of your client relationship, but is particularly critical at this early part of the conversion process. Respond immediately to potential leads or customer enquiries and be proactive in your communication. Try to lock in a kickoff meeting within a week of securing a client.

Send a follow-up email after each phone-call or immediately after the kick-off meeting to everyone involved in a project, which includes:

  • a summary of the points covered
  • a list of collateral or resources that the client needs to provide to your agency
  • account details or login information
  • calendar reminder for next meeting or milestone review
  • action points until next meeting

It’s important to maintain the momentum that the excitement of the sales process creates. If the project starts to lag, so will your client’s patience.

Onboarding no-no #2: Empty promises and unrealistic expectations


It can be dangerously easy to get caught up in the moment and make a promise you’re not sure you’re going to be able to keep, simply to secure the client’s signature. Remember this adage - it’s better to under promise and then over deliver.

You risk setting unrealistic expectations if you are not completely honest about your agency’s capabilities or time capacity from the very start. You might think you’re telling clients what they want to hear to keep them happy and that you’ll figure it out later. However it will be a much harder conversation to have down the track when you need to advise them that you’re not going to make their deadline after all. Awwwwkwaaaard.

If you have a tendency to get a little carried away when it comes to the sales spin, make sure you’re never left to do client negotiation alone. Invite others who will be involved in the project to the meeting, so they are available to more accurately answer client questions and establish deliverables - and can land a kick to your shins if you start trying any fast talk.

Onboarding no-no #3: Being vague


Your kickoff meeting is a time to set goals and timeframes around deliverables. Don’t let your clients leave a kickoff meeting without having established some specific, measurable objectives, and a plan for reaching them.

You’ll not only send the message to your clients loud and clear that you’re serious about achieving great results for them, but you’ll also set up a framework that helps eliminate the potential for scope creep.

Onboarding no-no #4: Not having one single point of client contact


You know when you call up a customer service line, someone (finally) answers, you explain your query or complaint, and after all that they tell you that actually you need to speak to a different department and you have to go through the process all over again… yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Don’t let that be your customers’ experience. Ensure they only need to deal with one person throughout a project by assigning an account manager with a direct line for the customer to call, particularly if you are dealing with time-sensitive projects. A personal experience makes customers feel valued, not just another number.

Onboarding no-no #5: Inefficient, paper-based process


Nothing puts a potential client off more than a slow and painful sign-up process. Trawling through a stack of papers, signing multiple dotted lines and reading screeds of Ts and Cs can cause a bottleneck in your onboarding process that quickly grinds client excitement to a halt.

Ensure you have a well-rehearsed onboarding process that is as short and swift as possible. Many clients have come to expect an online sign-up process, and online forms and an effective CRM system will reduce the need for double-entry of customer data.

Onboarding no-no #6: Inadequate technology and tools


If you read the point above and cringed when you saw ‘CRM’ (client relationship manager), then you’re probably making this mistake too. We’ve already mentioned the importance of keeping the process moving quickly, and implementing a workflow management tool is beneficial for ensuring these smooth operations.

An online workflow management tool helps ensure transparency - for both your client and your agency team. It makes it easier to obtain approvals, access and update documentation or provide status reports. You look swish, your team knows exactly what’s going on, and your client is happy = good vibes all round.

Onboarding no-no #7: Not demonstrating value from the start


You should be taking every opportunity you can to demonstrate to your clients that you are the right agency for the job. A slick onboarding process will not only impress clients with your professionalism, but should also be used to showcase your expertise.

If clients start to question your capabilities, they’ll also start to question your pricing, which can lead to you having to undervalue your services through discounts and reduced rates.

Use previous project case studies with demonstrable results to walk clients through the process that you will be taking. If your clients have a good understanding of what you can achieve for them, they’ll feel confident that they are getting the best bang for their buck.

To continue to attract, convert and retain great customers in a competitive agency environment, the importance of a carefully crafted client onboarding process cannot be underrated.

Do you want to develop a clear and action-oriented onboarding process to get your clients? We tell you how in our FREE ebook - click below to download your copy.


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Monica Shepherd
Monica is a marketing copywriter for WorkflowMax, creating content for the website, blogs and ebooks. Having run a copywriting business helping a wide range of businesses create stand-out marketing and website content, she has a thorough understanding of the challenges business owners face. By sharing this insight at WorkflowMax she can continue to follow her passion for helping small businesses punch above their weight.

Monica Shepherd