Build a More Profitable Practice with Your Client Onboarding System
Like the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
We all know that in many situations first impressions can make or break a relationship. This is especially true in a competitive service-based business like bookkeeping, where clients often see what we do as a commodity.
From year-end through tax season it seems new clients appear out of the woodwork looking for help to clean up and catch up their books because they know the tax deadlines are getting closer.
For us, in the flurry of getting new clients onboarded, it is stressful and can be overwhelming. You may frequently wonder whether it’s even possible to gather all the information needed and get the work done before the deadlines hit.
Of course, because clients have no idea about the volume of work that usually needs to be done in such a short period of time, we seem to be, from their point of view, disorganized, slow to respond and even less than friendly.
Did you realize that? It’s actually quite common.
When this happens, the client may start to wonder if they’ve chosen the right bookkeeping service. Why? Because the onboarding system isn’t giving them an experience of being taken care of in a timely and organized way.
Onboarding Needs to be Systematized
How you onboard new clients sets the tone for the client’s relationship with your practice. They may be anxious and need assurance that they’ve made the right choice. It also sets expectations for how good (or bad) communication will be between the client and your team, as well as how they perceive your responsiveness.
One of the biggest reasons clients switch accounting professionals is due to a lack of responsiveness and interest in their specific needs in a timely way. That impression starts with your onboarding process.
More than any other time of year, you must have an efficient and effective onboarding system in place that is consistent and makes it easy for your clients to know what to expect and that they are in good hands.
Where to Improve Your Onboarding System
The most effective and profitable onboarding system that will help your team successfully handle more clients and improve client experience at the same time starts with mindset. We need to be thinking of the onboarding process as though it is a well-oiled machine. Your team members are the operators.
Ask these questions to get a handle on how your “client onboarding machine” is working now:
- Once the client signs your engagement letter, what happens next?
- Who will work with the client as they progress through the onboarding period?
- What information do you gather from each new client?
- What tools do you use to make it simple and efficient to get and store this client information and make it available to your team?
- How do you communicate and set client expectations throughout the onboarding process?
- What internal systems need to be set up for internal tracking?
- How long does the onboarding process take when it is working well?
- What processes are in place for providing orientation and training to transition to regular ongoing services?
These are just some of the questions that need to be answered to assess how well your onboarding system is working now. Once the kinks in the system are identified, you and your team can start to make adjustments that will smooth out the process and upgrade your clients’ experience. That makes your practice more profitable because happy clients make referrals.
With smooth and effective onboarding, you can consistently lock in a favorable first impression with every new client you accept, increase the perceived value of your services, and bring in more clients without all the busy season stress.