Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Whether you’re a digital agency or a professional services business, client onboarding is a critical process to get right. Nail it, and you set the tone for successful, long-lasting client relationships.
But nailing it isn’t always easy. With more than 90% of customers believing that companies could do better when it comes to onboarding, expectations have never been higher.
At the same time, providing a smooth and seamless onboarding process isn’t just about pleasing clients. It’s about organizational efficiency, too. As your business scales, you’ll need to find smarter, faster ways to onboard new clients.
By automating your client onboarding, you solve both of these problems. You offer a slick and seamless experience for your clients while saving time and money. In this article, I’ll highlight five ways you can achieve this.
Related: 3 Secrets to Streamlining Your Accounts Payable Process
1. Handling first contact and lead generation
Backing up a step, let’s look at some ways you can automate and streamline the processes leading up to client onboarding.
Before a client agrees to work with you, they’ll make first contact, usually via your website. They’ll likely have a few questions they need answering — and chances are, these are questions other prospects will ask as well.
Instead of spending countless hours answering FAQs, you can automate these initial interactions with an AI-powered chatbot. The bot can either answer questions directly or direct prospects to a self-service knowledge base.
At the same time, chatbots can capture lead data, ping it to your CRM and schedule automatic email follow-ups — all without you lifting a finger.
Related: 5 Essential Automation Technologies for Your Restaurant
2. Gathering client information
Once a client has agreed to work with you, it’s time to collect all the information you need from them to do the job. This could include:
- Basic details and contact information
- Project details and goals
Businesses often resort to gathering information via email, spreadsheets or other shared docs. This can lead to key client info being scattered all over the place or lost altogether.
With the right form-building tool, you can quickly create and share digital forms that guide clients through the process step by step. The best tools allow you to add context to submissions via embedded video, text or attachments. They also allow you to send automated reminders for missing info.
If you choose a form-builder with a Zapier integration, you’ll be able to connect to all sorts of different tools and set up automated workflows. For example, once a form is completed, you can automatically trigger the following actions:
- Add client information to your CRM
- Create Slack notifications to inform your entire team
- Send a “thank you” email to the client explaining the next steps
3. Scheduling meetings
Most aspects of client onboarding are ripe for automation, but it’s still a people-focused process. At some point, you’ll need to have a face-to-face meeting or video call with your new client.
There are plenty of ways you can streamline and enhance the process of scheduling meetings.
With a scheduling tool like Calendly or Coach Marketing Hub, which is my company, you can save tons of time spent in back-and-forth emails trying to find a suitable slot for a call. And by integrating your scheduling tool with Zoom or Teams, you can automatically create meetings once your client has picked a time slot.
Related: Lacking Balance in Your Business? 5 Ways Automation Can Help You Achieve Peace of Mind
4. Transcribing client meetings and calls
Video and phone calls are a great way to build solid professional relationships with your clients. But because they’re one-off events, you can’t go back and change what was said if you missed something.
Worse still, once the call is over, it can be difficult to remember what was said and what wasn’t. Without leveraging technology, all you can do is arrange time-consuming follow-up calls or risk making big mistakes.
This is where automated transcription tools come in handy. By transcribing your meetings, either in real-time or retrospectively, you have a record of what you discussed. You can then search the transcription for keywords or phrases.
Transcription tools are also great for refining your calls. You can go back and look at the way you communicated, the order you discussed key points and the way it was received by the client — and make improvements where necessary.
Related: 3 Bad Habits Most Entrepreneurs Are Guilty Of — And the Simple Solution for Stopping
5. Managing proposals, contracts and signatures
Client onboarding involves many legal formalities. Although this might seem boring, it’s critical to set out and agree upon project scope, expectations and costs at this early stage.
Managing proposals and contracts manually can be an arduous, time-consuming task. But it doesn’t have to be. With the right proposal software, you can automate large parts of this process while removing the risk of human error. For example, you can:
- Use templates to automatically generate proposals, quotes and contracts
- Integrate with your CRM to populate documents with client data
- Allow clients to view, comment on and sign e-documents
- Automatically update your team via Slack when a document is viewed or signed
- Automatically secure payments or deposits
And this is just scratching the surface. With a growing range of ready-made integrations, including automation tools like Zapier and CMH, you can create all kinds of automated workflows.
How much time could you save?
Let’s round off this article with a quick thought experiment. How long would it take to manually complete the processes I’ve discussed in this article?
It’s hard to quantify, but when you consider we’re talking about answering a prospect’s questions, writing a follow-up email, gathering key information and adding it to your CRM, informing your team, scheduling a meeting and drafting a proposal and contract, it’s fair to say the answer is many hours.
If you multiply that number of hours by the number of new clients you onboard each week, you can see roughly how much time you could save by automating your onboarding process.
Now, just think how much value you could bring your business with all that time you’ve managed to claw back.