So, you've acquired a new client. Congratulations! It's always a wonderful feeling to know your sales and marketing pitch was a success.
However, customer acquisition isn't where the work ends. Rather, it's just getting started. It's much easier for customers to churn at the beginning of the relationship when they feel no loyalty or investment in your business.
This is where an onboarding process enters the picture. With onboarding, you can ensure customers master your product or service before they get frustrated and fed up. And, you can use this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them so they stay loyal to your company over time, creating opportunities for you to upsell and cross-sell.
Let's discuss a step-by-step onboarding process you can implement at your business. Then, we'll provide a questionnaire template that can help you identify customer needs.
The 5-Step Client Onboarding Process
1. Establish the client.
Before doing anything, you should legally establish the client with your company. That means writing up a proposal for the project, building a contract, and setting up payment for your work.
This step is important because it ensures the client is bound to your agreement and that you're not doing work for free. Also, the proposal will set clear guidelines for the work you'll be doing.
2. Understand your client's goals.
Even if you already have an idea of what the client hopes to accomplish, you should always have them directly explain their goals. You can do this with a client onboarding questionnaire (template below) that asks customers all the questions you have about the project.
Using this questionnaire, you can turn your client's answers into actionable team goals. Make sure everyone on your team is aware of each step and deadline and use this time to assign a lead contact for the project based on who can best meet the client's needs.
3. Schedule a kickoff meeting.
Once a plan is laid out, it's time for the kickoff meeting. This is your chance to introduce your client to the team and get everyone excited about the project.
This meeting should set a confident tone by making it clear to the client that they put their trust in the right team. While this is a time for introductions, it's also a time to show the work that's already completed. Relay your business goals, timeline, lead contact, and step-by-step responsibilities to prove to your client that you're prepared and ready to go.
4. Officially welcome the client.
Once the kickoff meeting is completed, you should formally welcome the client to your business. Send them a welcome package with a personalized note, video, and even some branded merchandise. This will act as proactive customer service and it'll let the customer share their experience with others.
Additionally, you should provide any other important documents and information that the client may need moving forward. This includes details about your business, like contact information, business hours, location, as well as reassuring documents like client testimonials and case studies. These resources make new customers feel more comfortable and further reassures their investment in your business.
5. Plan a check-in call after 30 days.
After 30 days, your team should check in with your client. By this time, your plan has been sufficiently tested and your client will have a good feel for your team's progress.
Use this time to give your client feedback on how the onboarding is going. Ask them any additional questions and address any of the client's concerns. Take this call seriously as the more genuine you are about hearing and responding, the less likely they are to churn.
Now that we understand each step of the client onboarding process, let's focus on step two by building an onboarding questionnaire.
New Client Onboarding Questionnaire
A client onboarding questionnaire is a survey sent to new customers to get more information about their needs and goals. Businesses use this form to ask about specific details and ensure their team is achieving exactly what the client wants.
You can use a free or paid online survey maker to create this questionnaire. These providers let you ask as many questions as you'd like and create a survey design that aligns with your brand's image.
However, when creating your questionnaire, don't go overboard with adding questions. After all, you don't want to give new clients too much work to do. So, only include questions that your team needs to know the answer to. While customer feedback is great, there's another time and place to ask for that information.
Below, we've curated a list of the best questions you can ask clients in an onboarding questionnaire.
16 Customer Onboarding Questions to Include in a Questionnaire
While the unique services and value proposition of your business will impact the specific questions you add to your questionnaire, here are 16 common questions to help get the process started.
To streamline navigation, we’ve divided them into four broad categories:
- Basic Client Information
- Marketing Information
- Project-specific Information
- Business Information
Basic Client Information
1. Who's the main point of contact at your business?
Ask this question to streamline communication. While your company may have connected with multiple individuals during the course of the sales and marketing process, most companies prefer to designate a primary point of contact. Asking this question makes it easier for your team to get the information they need and shows that you respect the client’s preferred communication preferences.
2. What's their contact information?
Along with asking who your primary contact(s) should be, ask for their contact information and their preferred method of being contacted. While many business contacts now have email, phone, and SMS channels, many have a preference when it comes to day-to-day operations, urgent requests, or other inquiries.
3. What's your business address?
While you likely have this information on hand, it’s worth adding this question to your questionnaire. Why? Because it gives your client the chance to select a different address if they prefer for mailings or other communications and also provides a paper trail in the event that there’s an issue with the address given.
4. What's your website URL?
Here, you’re looking for any websites associated with your new client. This includes their primary website along with any blogs or other informational sites and all social media profiles. Since you’re working on behalf of the client, it’s worth knowing as much as possible about how they operate and what they’re doing online.
5. Are there any documents about your business that we should read and keep on hand? If so, attach them here:
Some businesses have preferred style guides or directions for content-creation agencies, others have specific policies around sourcing, procurement, payment, and billing. By asking for these documents, you can start a continually-updated repository that keeps you in the know about key client operations.
6. What are your brand's goals and vision?
Goals and vision are often two different things. Goals may be related to business objectives such as increased conversions or ROI, while visions often speak to industry impact or reputation. Asking about both gives clients the chance to tell you about themselves in their own words, in turn helping you better understand their focus.
7. Who are your main competitors?
The competition often informs best practices for your client. By asking this question on your questionnaire, you can conduct research into your client’s main competitors to see what they’re doing differently and if it’s working. This helps your team come up with a strategy to keep your client on top or improve their position against competitors.
8. Who's your target audience?
Your client’s target audience helps you better tailor services to meet their needs. For example, if you’re a marketing firm, understanding their ideal customer lets you create campaigns that are specifically designed to engage certain demographics, interests, or spending patterns.
9. What are your overarching goals for this project?
Your clients came to you for a reason: To help them achieve project goals. This question is an opportunity for them to describe the big-picture outcomes they’re looking for, and why they matter to the business.
10. What specific metrics can we use to measure success for this project?
Measurement matters. It tells your client if their project has been a success, and informs the next step in your partnership. Successful measurement, however, depends on the right metrics. Ask this question to understand what metrics the client wants you to use, how they define these metrics, and how they measure success. Make sure to ask this question even if you’re generally familiar with the metrics being used since companies often have their own unique approach to measurement.
11. What's your budget for this project?
Always ask about the budget up-front. Better to know what you have to work with than reach the end of the project and discover you’re way over budget, or realize you could have done more to help your client achieve their goals because they had more capital on hand. Complete budget knowledge also lets you create a comprehensive breakdown of your services, what they cost and how this aligns with budget expectations.
12. What's your deadline for the project?
Even the best projects don’t always hit deadlines, but it’s important to understand what your client’s timeline looks like. This lets you create a series of project milestones that are predicted on specific conditions, such as the client providing you with agreed-upon information. This helps instill client confidence and reduces the risk of potential conflict.
13. Have you worked with a similar company in the past? If so, what were the company, project, and results?
History helps you understand context. For example, if your client has worked with a similar service provider and their experience wasn’t positive, you have an opportunity to earn their trust and their ongoing business. But you also face the challenge of overcoming the negative impression of their previous experience with a company in the same space.
14. How did you hear about our business?
This question helps your team better target your marketing efforts. For example, if clients consistently say that they found your company on social media, this means you’re targeting the right audience. But if very few clients talk about word-of-mouth referrals, work may be needed on the impression clients have when projects are complete.
15. Why did you select our business for this project?
Asking clients to highlight what drew them to you lets you get a sense of what they want. For example, if you’re a website design firm and clients point to the unique nature of the projects you’ve done in the past, this can inform your design decisions going forward to help ensure you create something that stands out.
16. What more can our team do to ensure this is a smooth, satisfactory process for you?
Based on previous experiences and company culture, new clients may have specific requests or preferences that can help streamline communication and reduce the risk of misunderstandings. As a result, it’s always worth asking this question up-front rather than two or three months into a project.
For a smoother onboarding process, read about the sales to service handoff.
Create a Winning Client Onboarding Questionnaire
Creating a winning client onboarding questionnaire is about giving new clients the chance to tell you about themselves: What are their business goals? Their experience with previous providers? The metrics they use to measure success?
By creating a questionnaire that captures both basic information about your client’s business and lets them highlight their specific needs, you can develop a reliable framework that encourages new clients to answer and helps streamline the onboarding process.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.