How to Onboard New Clients

Are you starting to get a ton of new customers? Have no idea what to do when it comes to onboarding them? Then stick with me until the end of this article, because I’m about to teach you how to onboard new customers for beginners in five simple steps.

By the end of this article, you’re going to have a better understanding of why customer onboarding is important as well as five simple steps that you can start following today to onboard your customers more successfully.

Why do we need to onboard?

The first thing we need to do you understand is why do we even need to onboard our customers? We need to do so because customers need to feel like, you know what you’re doing. If you don’t actually onboard your customers, then you’re putting all the onus on your customer in order to figure things out as they get started with your product or service. And so it’s really important for you to take the second out of your day to actually show them the ropes before you expect them to handle everything on their own.

Both of you guys need to feel momentum towards achieving the client’s goals and the reasons why the client even decided to buy your particular product or service. If you don’t onboard your customers, then you are exposing yourself to a high risk of customer churn. And what that means is that when it’s time for your customer to renew their contract with you, they have little to no reason to do so because what did you do for them during their time of need? So it’s really important that you understand from the get go, how important and valuable customer onboarding is.

Step 1: Schedule a handoff call from Sales to Customer Success.

The first step we need to do is schedule a handoff between our sales team and our customer success team. What this means is that the sales rep that’s closing this particular deal needs to also introduce the customer to the customer success team member that’s going to be helping them through all of their onboarding and success habits over the course of the contract. To do this effectively, I recommend that your sales reps get clear notes in the CRM that you use about this particular customer.

Why did they come to you? What are they looking to solve and how are they looking to see solve it with your particular product or service? This way when it comes time for your success team member to own this deal, they can actually read up on the notes. And then pretty much pick up the conversation at where the last conversation with the sales rep left off.

It’s important to use this handoff call as a time to build rapport with the client and the customer success team. Typically, this is only going to take you 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the complexity of your particular product or service. The main outcome from this meeting is that your customer is going to fully understand what they need to do next in terms of starting to see the value out of your product or service.

And you’re going to have clear expectations as to what the customer is holding you accountable for in terms of helping them achieve those particular goals. Make sure you don’t leave your handoff call without understanding the expectations of your customer and what they’re going to hold you accountable to especially when it comes to the renewal 12 months from now.

Lastly from this handoff call, you’re going to want to make sure that you also schedule your follow on call on whatever cadence works for your customer or that your company follows. This is often either right once a quarter or once a month. Also, make sure that you set a very clear goal as to what you want, the client as well as yourself to have accomplished for each other by the next call. This will make sure that we are frequently moving it with momentum over the course of the customer contract so that they’re continuing to see value from your product or service.

Step 2: Build your client onboarding checklists based on your client’s desired outcomes.

Now we need to build onboarding checklists that are based on the client’s goals. The cool thing here is that after you start to talk to some of your customers, you’re going to start to understand their different customer personas and what they’re trying to achieve with your product or service. What this will allow you to do is to start building out, differentiate it pathways for each of your customers to help them achieve their particular goals.

This can be done in the form of gradual step-by-step campaigns, or if you’re just starting out in building out the customer success functions in your company, you can use a simple one to two page handout with your customer. Do me a favor here and make sure you don’t overwhelm your customer. It’s way better if you had 90% of your customers following along with your checklist of five for onboarding, then it would be to just have 10% of your customers following a checklist of 15.

A general suggestion I can give you here is don’t ever give more than five things before your customer has to talk to somebody in the customer success team at your company. The reason why is because you want this time period for them to do a little bit of independent learning on their own, before they sync up with your customer success team to have a 20 or 30 minute conversation walking through the five things that they went over.

These small wins allow your customers to gradually build confidence in your platforms product or service while also not necessarily always needing you for help. This is super important for you later on to make sure that you aren’t going to be stuck answering every single question that your customers ever have for you.

When you’re creating these onboarding checklist, think about what every single major milestone is for them to be so called activated in your product or service. This could be, for example, the first time they log into their account, or it could be the first time they check out their data. Whatever it is, make sure that it’s something in which they feel like they’re getting more and more value with each milestone they hit. And that it’s something that’s super low hanging fruit and achievable for them to do with your checklist.

Another way to think about this is, you know, those forms that you have to always fill out when you go to your doctor’s office for your annual visit. The form that has all your personal information as well as updates from the last year that your doctor might not be aware of as to whether you’re taking different multivitamins and whatnot.

Well, that’s pretty much what this onboarding checklist is. It’s an opportunity for your customer in this situation to fill out the things that they need from you while also starting to get ramped up in your product or service to start achieving success.

Step 3: Give your clients time to complete the onboarding.

The third step we need to do is make sure we’re giving our clients time to actually do our onboarding checklist. Depending on the number of things that we’ve asked our customers to do, they’re going to need a couple of days in order to sift through everything while also managing all the other things that they have to do in the day to day.

So, what I recommend is you give them some space and give them three to five business days before your next check in with them. Remember, this is a time period in which we’re not only building confidence in terms of our abilities to help them through their customer success journey but also we’re building confidence with our customers so that they are somewhat independent in solving their own problems with our particular product or service.

Step 4: Follow through with your scheduled follow up.

The fourth thing we need to do is actually follow up on our schedule follow up. Do you remember that follow on meeting that we scheduled at the end of step one? Well, this is pretty much the part in which we need to actually execute on that. It’s a good time for us to check back in with that customer and see how they’re doing with onboarding.

Ask them if there’s anything in the original onboarding checklist that wasn’t addressed, that they would love to get clarity on. This is also a great time for you to ask your customer for feedback about your onboarding process, to see whether or not there are additional things that you can add into your onboarding checklist to better help your future customers.

Aside from this feedback, it’s also a great time for you to establish whatever cadence is best for you and this particular customer. Ask them if they like to meet with you once every week, once every other week, every month, quarter, et cetera. Finally, if you’re looking for even more data about your onboarding experience, it can be a good time for you to build in a post onboarding survey that you can send the customer after this follow on call.

Step 5: Iterate and automate

The fifth step is to iterate and automate. In other words, you don’t want your customer success team to be predominantly sending things that a user could have figured out on their own, or it could have been onboarded on within your application. Take some time to explore user engagement platforms or other SaaS tools that allow for in app messaging such as Intercom or Drift.

These sorts of platforms will cut down on some of the mundane steps that your customer success team may be currently doing. Long term you want these check in calls to actually be focused on building the relationship with your customer, as opposed to just a walking through actions that could have been outlined in a helpful help article.

What this might mean is that after you get your basic onboarding checklist up and going, you might want to ask your customer success team to start putting together helpful videos, as well as written documentation in a help center that outlines every single core user action when they’re getting onboarded so that users can self-service themselves.

By doing so, you’re going to be able to build stronger customer loyalty in these check in calls because your customer success team is going to be actually interfacing with the customer in a more human level as opposed to just teaching them how to do a thing or two on your site. If you want some tips on customer success and how to build customer loyalty, be sure to check out my articles on that.

Big Takeaways

Two big takeaways from today’s article:

  1. The first one is make sure that you’re always focusing your customer on getting them closer to achieving their goals when you’re onboarding them.
  2. The second thing to remember is the acronym KISS. It wasn’t just Michael Scott that popularized this. It’s really important that you keep it simple, stupid. And what I mean by that is you need to make sure that onboarding is not a really elaborate process for your customers. If your customers lose confidence in themselves on day one, they are much less likely to even try again on day two.

So make sure that your onboarding checklists are really easy to follow along and that you’re on standby in order to help them out in these early days in gaining confidence in your product or service.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out my YouTube channel to get new videos every single week I’ll help take you from zero to self-starter as you grow your business, get more customers, and hone your business acumen. Also, feel free to share this with anybody that you think might benefit from learning how to onboard their new customers.