As the old saying goes, first impressions last – and in the business world, this definitely rings true. The first interaction a customer has with your business is crucial, and how you onboard them can end up dictating the rest of your relationship.
So, what is the “onboarding experience”? How can we create an environment that fosters trust, loyalty and repeat business?
In today’s blog, we’re discussing the customer onboarding experience and its role in driving revenue.
Regardless of the industry you work in or the way you operate your business, we all depend on customers to drive revenue, grow and scale. Everyone from the food truck on the corner to your multi-national corporation – they’re all vying for that all important consumer dollar.
The way in which you interact with your customers, particularly in the first instance, is called customer onboarding.
WHAT IS CUSTOMER ONBOARDING?
Onboarding is the process of nurturing a relationship from inquiring customer into repeat client. It’s a way of familiarizing the customer with your product, your brand, your culture and the way you operate. It also sets expectations for your potential relationship with your clients.
It can take many forms, but an exceptional onboarding process can include things like a dedicated account manager, client portals, step-by-step tutorials and priority support.
WHY IS CUSTOMER ONBOARDING SO IMPORTANT?
A robust onboarding process has some lasting positive benefits for both your customer and your business.
Firstly, having an onboarding system in place makes your customer’s lives easy. Having readily accessible resources and support will speed up the purchasing process and helps avoid errors.
Secondly, it helps reduce customer churn by developing and nurturing a sense of trust and loyalty. A study revealed that most companies lose up to 75% of their new users within the first week. Added to this, up to 60% of your free trial customers never return to make a purchase.
Compare this to when you have an attentive onboarding process and it’s estimated that it can improve customer retention by up to 82%. If your customers are happy, content and feeling looked after, they’re less likely to jump ship to a competitor. Happy customers love to tell their network about positive experiences. Look after your clients and they become your unofficial brand delegates and a great source for new customer referrals.
Finally, your bottom line appreciates a personable onboarding process. The majority of your revenue will come from existing customers, so retaining clients that you have onboarded will drive revenue over the long term. Plus, the reduced churn of unhappy customers means you end up spending less on marketing and new customer acquisitions.
CREATING A CUSTOMER ONBOARDING STRATEGY
When developing the best way to onboard your customers, there’s a handy best practices checklist to consider.
1. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS
Understanding your customers is key to any marketing strategy but it’s especially important in tailoring an onboarding experience to suit their needs.
Find out all about their pain points, unique struggles, and the challenges they are facing. This can be done formally with a questionnaire or ascertained through interviews or conversations.
2. CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS
Everyone should know where they stand and what to expect out of this business-client relationship.
Did you bring them on board using a special promotion or discount? Is this a forever arrangement or have you clarified ahead of time that this was a one-time offer? Will this red-carpet treatment continue?
These are al things that might be obvious to you but a complete mystery to your client. Make sure all loose ends are tied up, all misunderstanding cleared up and everyone understands the terms of your relationship moving forward.
3. REINFORCE VALUE
You’ve undoubtedly already sold them on your product or you wouldn’t be onboarding them right now, but that doesn’t mean over time that they won’t fall out of love with your brand.
Part of the onboarding process includes continuously demonstrating how our products and services bring value to your customer’s specific use case. Customer onboarding, at its fundamental level, is a learning process. Reiterate how your product or service will address their pain points and how they will benefit.
4. KEEP COMMUNICATION FLOWING
Most sales people are after one thing. That handshake or signature on the dotted line. Once they make that sale, they’re on to the next prospect, hoping to bump up those first-time customer numbers.
But after that initial sale, a lot of companies go to radio silence, leaving their once happy customer alone and unmotivated.
Make sure you keep those communication channels open with your customer, arrange sporadic check-ins, send the occasional email – essentially you want your customer to feel appreciated and thought of.
Not only will your customers be more engaged, this communication is the perfect channel for offering and advertising new products and upselling existing ones.
5. TAKE THEM OUT TO CELEBRATE
Did you just sign a big contract with a new client? Don't be afraid to take your customer out to dinner or drinks to celebrate the new partnership, I mean, we call it breaking bread for a reason, right?
Take them out, get to know them and get a feel for the vision they are choosing you to help create. Establish a partnership that is based on more than just numbers; business is allowed to be fun sometimes.
Of course, this is the ultimate red-carpet experience and it’s not always practical depending on the client, but can definitely make an impact.
6. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE ANSWERS
Onboarding isn't just about being friendly and making your new clients and customers feel welcome. At the end of the day, it's still a business relationship and your client is coming to you because they have a problem they need help with.
You need to be prepared to answer the most difficult of questions at a moment’s notice. Remember, if a customer hired you, they consider you an expert in your field. It’s up to you to be that expert from the very first interaction.
So, be the expert, add value and treat every one of their problems as if it were an opportunity. When you do this, it can effectively eliminate "buyer’s remorse" and make your new clients feel secure in their purchase.
7. MAKE THEM FEEL EXCITED!
No matter the industry, you should make sure that your client feels excited about working with you. Positive energy is contagious and being energetic and enthusiastic will most likely spread.
Don’t be afraid to geek out on their long-term goals, people respond when you show interest in their passions.
Ultimately, the best judge of your onboarding strategy will be the person who has to go through it. Don’t be afraid to ask point blank if your customers are happy with the experience they received. Use this feedback to improve the process as well as tailor any new suggestions to that specific customer.
The best customer onboarding process focuses purely on the customer, however they should never be set-and-forget. Customer onboarding best practices are constantly evolving and your process needs to be adapted and optimized consistently. As your company scales, so will your services. The customer onboarding workflow should reflect that.
And while an onboarding process is absolutely crucial, it’s just as important to have a system in place that can take care of the everyday, routine tasks. With every new client, there will be new emails to send, new appointments to schedule and new orders to facilitate.
Implementing a CRM software system will go a long way towards automating a lot of the recurring tasks. Streamlining the process will allow you to focus more time on product development or even new customer acquisition.
Ultimately, with a robust and personalized customer onboarding process, you’ll ensure your customers stay engaged and keep spending for a while lot longer.
If you’re looking for a customer onboarding specialist or expert consultant to help you determine your next move, the right advice is priceless. As business consultants and COOs, we work with entrepreneurs every day to set them up for success by identifying where their business is suffering. We help them pinpoint which processes to re-evaluate and adjust to grow their business. And best yet… We offer hassle-free, no obligation 30-minute discovery calls to see how we could help you. Just email us today.
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