When coaching new organizers, I find they often struggle with the initial client contact. Instead of gathering information they need during the phone consultation, they spend too much time trying to convince the prospect to hire them. If the client hires them, they struggle because they don’t have the information they need to do the job effectively. A client onboarding process will solve these problems and build a positive client experience.
What Is a Client Onboarding Process?
Simply put, a client onboarding process is a way to welcome new clients into your business. It helps you make the best first impression. It showcases your professionalism and organizational skills.
Why Do I Need One?
You’re likely nervous about your new client but remember that the client is nervous too. They want to be sure that your services are worth the investment. By creating an organized and seamless onboarding experience, you demonstrate your value from the relationship’s start. Your clients will be happier because they know what to expect from you and when. Besides, a standardized procedure means you will be sure all of the legalities (contracts, etc.) and payments are taken care of before you work together. And as a bonus — when you are ready to scale your business, you can hand off the client onboarding process to an employee or virtual assistant with no loss in quality.
Where Do I Start?
The client onboarding process starts long before the client contacts you. You need to prepare intake forms to collect the client’s contact information, a description of the project, and learn about their styles and preferences. You’ll also need your letter of agreement, photo waiver, and terms and conditions document ready. If that all seems overwhelming, don’t worry. I’ve created everything you need in my New Organizers’ Essentials pack.
Another essential step in the process is to decide how you prefer to handle your client appointments. Generally, there are two approaches:
- Make an appointment to declutter space and partially organize, measure, and create a list of products. Then, make a second appointment to install the product and finish the project.
- Make an appointment to measure the space and create a list of products needed. Return for a second appointment to declutter, organize, and install the products.
The advantage of the first option is that you learn the client’s preferences. You have already partially decluttered, so you have a better idea of the amount of product to purchase. Also, you prove your value early in the relationship. But it can be more work because you have to put things back and get them out again. It may get cluttered again if there is too much time between appointments.
The second option is straight-forward because you declutter and organize everything all at once. However, you may purchase too much product (Always check the store’s return policy before buying!) or the wrong product if decluttering and organizing doesn’t go the way you expect.
Then again, maybe you will use both options depending on which one fits your clients’ needs. Whatever you choose, your onboarding process needs to incorporate this.
How Does It Work?
You need a standard operating procedure in place. It can be a simple checklist that briefly describes each step in the process from initial contact to preparing for the first appointment.
Initial Contact Phase
In the initial contact phase, you:
- Capture the client’s concerns (listen, not talk).
- Collect the information you need to understand their organizing project.
- Ask them to define their goals. Specifically asking them, “How would you define success on this project?” shows that you are actively listening and attuned to their needs.
A positive initial contact sets expectations and outlines your communication schedule. And it defines the roles and responsibilities of you and your client.
Post Initial Contact Phase
After your initial contact, your onboarding process ensures you adhere to the communication schedule and meet the agreed-upon deliverables. You will need to get the client integrated into your system by recording their contact information, and (if they agreed), adding them to your newsletter list. You will need to prepare the contracts, letters of agreement, proposals, etc.
It’s often during this phase that business owners falter. They delay preparing and sending the documents (leaving clients to wonder if the business owner has forgotten them). Or they send information to their clients and neglect to follow up. To solve that problem, I’ve added checkpoints for setting reminders, so nothing falls through the cracks.
The Welcome Package
Remember that the purpose of onboarding is to welcome the client to your business and make them feel like they are valued. One way to do that is to send a Welcome Package. A good Welcome Package should make the client feel like they have done the right thing by choosing to work with you. It should contain:
Personalized Welcome Letter: This can be an email or a written letter sent by USPS. Thank them for choosing your business and tell them how much you’re looking forward to their project. Include their first appointment’s date and time and review what they need to do to prepare. Explain the attachments you have included and why they are essential. Tell them you will contact them XX days before their appointment. Remind them of the cancellation policy and let them know how they can contact you. Invite them to join you on social media.
Proposal: If you are doing corporate organizing (even small businesses), a formal proposal is most likely expected or required. It is optional if you are doing home organizing but, including a proposal in your welcome package highlights your professionalism. Your proposal contains the project objectives, timeline, expected results, and payment terms.
Contracts, Letters of Agreement: Send the contract or letter of agreement for signature. If you send these by USPS, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. You want to make it easy for the client to mail the documents back.
Business Contact Sheet: A one-page document containing all of your business contact information. Include your business hours, social media platforms, and a brief “about me” section with your picture (headshot).
The Process: A one- or two-page document outlining the process you have established with the client. It describes the goal of the project, the process, expected results, and payment terms. You can also include some answers to questions that clients usually ask before the first appointment. Not only will this will help put your client’s mind at ease, but it will also reduce the number of phone calls and email questions from clients.
Client Only Exclusives: A one- or two-page document with a list of organizing tips or a case-study similar to their project. It helps confirm their decision that you are the right organizer. You can also include branded “swag” such as reusable cable organizers, a receipt organizer, or (from this creative Canadian organizer) hand sanitizer.
Test Your Process
Once you have created your onboarding process, it is crucial to test the system before using it. Onboarding is the client’s first point of contact and will set the tone for the rest of the relationship. You do not want your email and document templates riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes.
The best way to test your system is to find a few friends or family members (who would provide positive feedback) to pretend to be new clients. Ask them what they find challenging or where you can make the process smoother and easier.
Continuous Improvement for Your Onboarding Process
Processes are never stagnant. Continually improving your onboarding procedure is normal. On your master copy checklist, note client questions and concerns. Record the date when you perform a task. Is there too much time between certain tasks? If so, improve it. Ask your clients for feedback too. Record their challenges and obstacles and use feedback to streamline your procedure.