What Is Your Client Onboarding Experience?

Author: Nicole Hunter Hart
Author: Nicole Hunter Hart

Did you know that it is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one? As a managed services provider (MSP), you know this first hand. Finding and closing a new client deal takes time and money, and that’s before you’ve even factored in onboarding! Many businesses are under the impression that acquiring and adding new clients is what keeps them successful. While this is a factor, in reality, a long-term client is of much more value than a single-deal client. When you focus your attention on existing clients and retaining them for a longer lifecycle, you’ll be able to build a revenue foundation that is more profitable and predictable. Let’s take a deeper look into how you can do just that.

I’m writing this new blog series in the hopes of helping you increase your client retention and revenue through onboarding best practices and strategies. Throughout the series, you will learn how to analyze your client journey from the client’s perspective, effectively structure your onboarding experience for maximum impact, successfully demonstrate your value and set the stage to build lasting client relationships by leveraging a customer-centric model. Each post in this series is designed to build upon the previous, so be sure to come back regularly as we provide you with top tips for enhancements, homework questions to consider, and helpful templates to aide in elevating your client onboarding journey.

The Customer Experience Basics

Before we begin, I’d like to cover a few of the basics you’ll need to understand in order to optimize your client experience and achieve your revenue goals.

  • Client Experience – The cumulative set of interactions between your company and your client over the duration of the relationship, however short or long it may last.
  • Client Journey – Client experiences that build over time to make up a cumulative journey.
  • Client Lifecycle – The stages each client cycles through during their relationship with your company.

Together, the client’s experience, journey and lifecycle create a framework for moving towards a customer-centric business model. Implementing this mindset into your business puts your clients at the center of everything you do. Having a well-thought-out client journey and ideal experiences is apparent to the client and directly influences your retention rates in a positive manner. Thus, helping you achieve your revenue targets.

The Customer Lifecycle Stages.png

The overall customer lifecycle and its optimization is such a rich topic that involves many different stages. The above diagram is just a simple depiction of what this might look like. However, I have chosen one essential stage for us to focus on: onboarding.

This is your client’s initial experience with you, from the moment they sign a contract until they see that first value or successful outcome. As you can see, onboarding typically falls in the early stages of the client lifecycle. During onboarding, it is imperative to establish relationships, identify your champion, set your business objectives, educate your client and close the loop with great communication. Yes, your clients care about tools and technology, but they value trust and their experience with you the most. Creating a personal relationship builds trust, and positive experiences that will carry you through the rough patches together. And trust me, there are always rough patches.

What Is Your Client Onboarding Experience?

Every MSP business has a client experience, including you. So, let’s start from the beginning and figure out what it is. You can start by asking yourself the above question. You need to really assess and analyze the beginning of your client relationships in order to elevate your whole onboarding experience. And, by focusing your attention on the onboarding stage first, you’ll be able to get on the path to creating more engaged clients who advocate for your business!

Throughout this blog series, we will delve deeper into your client onboarding experience with areas of focus on demonstrating value, onboarding pitfalls, important touch points to include with every client and how to map out a simple ramp-up plan for your client that encourages quick outcomes and promotes satisfaction and advocacy.

But first, your homework is to think about the following five questions. You can discuss them internally or write down your answers, but the key is to make sure you’re thinking about these questions from your client’s perspective:

  1. Do you prepare your client for onboarding? If so, how do you tell the story of their first 90 days with your company?
  2. What are clients trying to achieve with you? (Hint: not what they need from products/services)
  3. What are the desired outcomes? Are those clear to the client before beginning the journey with you?
  4. What does initial success look like? Do you close the loop and communicate this to the client when it happens?
  5. How does the client know when onboarding is complete and was successful? Who tells them and how?

Did you find yourself slipping back into what you need to onboard a client? If yes, you are not alone. Come back next month to find out how your answers to these questions can get you started on making simple changes that create a big impact for you and your clients!

Nicole Hunter Hart is senior manager, partner success programs at Continuum. Read more Continuum blogs here.