Client onboarding is one of – if not the most – crucial parts of your business. Why? Because it really sets the entire stage for the experience a client will have with you, starting from when they first come into your program and onward. It adds color to their entire experience!
What is Client Onboarding?
Client onboarding is the process by which new clients are welcomed AND integrated into your program, course, or service.
Here is a simple example of an initial client onboarding process for a coaching business:
Client enrolls —send agreement—agreement signed—send welcome email—send access to program/service.
Technically, the client onboarding process starts from the point of sale and continues until the client is fully aware of how to use your service to achieve their result.
Why is client onboarding important to a coaching business?
According to research and advisory company, Gardener, 80% of a company’s future revenue will come from 20% of its current clients. That means the majority of your future revenue is going to come from the minority of clients that you already have.
You may have also heard that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current customer.
Can you see now why it is so important to create an amazing experience for your clients right out of the gate? Think of when you go to a restaurant or store for the first time. That first impression you get from that service provider sets the tone for the entire relationship- it can very well be its make or break.
It encourages not just the immediate retention of the client, but future renewals and referrals as well.
The 3 Phases of Client Onboarding in a Coaching Business
Phase 1: Setting the Expectation
So you are on the phone with your client who has decided to join your program. They (virtually) hand over their credit card to complete the transaction. You are both beyond excited for what’s to come.
Your next step is to let them know exactly what to expect and when they can expect it. Why? This is a trust building activity. It proactively gets ahead of any questions or uncertainties so that your client can feel confident in their decision and the trust they’ve placed in you.
It also can help calm your clients’ nerves. Sometimes after a transaction or exchange, clients can have some doubt creep in around whether they’ve made the right decision.
Setting their expectations (making sure they understand when and how their payment will be processed, when and how they will receive their agreement, and what to expect in their onboarding) can help to affirm their decision in choosing to work with you.
Phase 2: The Delivery
This is the phase where you welcome your client(s) into the program. This phase could include:
- Sending a welcome email
- Providing access to a portal, resources, or other materials
- Hosting an orientation or onboarding call
It is important in this phase to consider what will serve your new client best. Do you work with an ideal audience that may feel overwhelmed by a lot of information at once or would they prefer to receive it that way? Is your ideal audience tech savvy enough to receive all access via email and understand how to access, or would they feel more supported with a personal walk through? Ask yourself how many touchpoints your client needs to feel supported. Then, deliver on those touchpoints, deciding which ones you want to be personal or automated.
Phase 3: The Follow-through
This is the phase that includes orientation, gathering of information, and communication. In this phase, you are ‘following through’ on the promises made in the service information you delivered.
Just because you have sent someone a welcome email does not mean that they have consumed, absorbed or understood that information. Providing an orientation touchpoint can add that extra little support just to make sure that they have everything they need to start things off right. You want things to be as simple for them as possible and you want to follow through on your promises as completely as you can.
This is also the phase where you get them acclimated to all the resources that they have as well as answer any of their questions. This is where they start to build a relationship with you and perhaps other people in the program (if it is a group program).
You can deliver an orientation by holding a one-on-one call on zoom, a simple phone call to the client or provide a pre-recorded video. On the call, you walk them through all the program details, make sure they received the welcome email, have the required logins, generally know where all of the resources can be found, and don’t have any lingering questions.
You can also hold a virtual group meeting (perfect for group programs). This is a great way to initiate a connection among your new members.
As part of the onboarding process’ follow through phase, you may want to gather any information that will support your team in helping the client be successful. It can also help you assess where your clients are at the point of coming into your course or program so that at the end when they do a reflection, they can see how far they’ve come.
This is important to anticipate who might need extra support and whether your support system might need tweaking to make sure they get what they need.
As a bonus, this information also informs your marketing. Knowing where people are most generally at when they are ready to step into your program can help you be strategic in attracting other potential clients.
Make sure to have a system in place to facilitate communication with your clients. To whom and how do they reach out if they have an administrative or billing question or need coaching? Will you have check-ins with your client to understand how they are progressing and what support other support they need? How will you obtain feedback to make real-time improvements to your delivery, getting ahead of any client support issues?
Now that you know the different phases of the onboarding process, it is important to also know the key points to consider as you develop your process.
- Client onboarding is not really about logistics – unless it’s how those logistics serve the experience you want your clients to have.
- How many touchpoints do your clients need to feel supported? This will determine when and how you then deliver those touchpoints- whether personal (customized) or automated.
- You need to anticipate your client’s questions and concerns. It is really easy as creators to walk through a process we ourselves created- we know all of the information because we created it. Your clients, on the other hand, are probably not going to be familiar with those processes and that is bound to lead to some questions and concerns. To rightly anticipate those questions, have your entire team go through the onboarding process you have created because each person is bound to have a different perspective. If you are a solopreneur, then have a peer or even a family member walk through your onboarding process. This might even work out better for you because they probably will not know all the ins and outs of online programs and groups and may think of really basic questions that may not have even crossed your mind.
- How does your client like to receive and consume information? Is your client someone who is tech-savvy and is fine with information in different locations or would that make them feel overwhelmed? Are they active on Facebook and take to being in a Facebook group? Would they prefer to receive information by video or text?
- Consider creating a virtual onboarding manual. That could be something you attach to the welcome email that your clients can print out or bookmark and refer to later.
- Ask your clients what they need to be successful. People need different things to succeed. Some require more accountability; others, hard resources. Being able to get that information from your clients is a really great way to know how you can best support them so that they can get results.
Write down your process. Be sure that it can be easily replicated because that will not only serve your new clients, but your team as well. It streamlines the process so that your onboarding happens consistently and with quality.
Be sure to tweak this document as you get feedback from your clients and team.