What is client onboarding? The complete implementation guide for your team

The global pandemic has changed forever the way people evaluate new services and purchase them online.

• 61% of B2B online buyers conduct independent research, whether online or offline, before buying

• B2B Buyers now only spend 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers

• 87% of B2B prefer online self-service compared to buying through a representative

The new B2B Buyer is more knowledgeable, more demanding, but also harder to please when considering a new service: they research, compare, verify and compile enough data to make a solid decision without any help.

Also, our screens have made business relationships less personal and the risk of fraud is a real challenge that vendors must take into consideration.

This means that, as a vendor, you’re not just here to sell anymore.

You’ll need to wear dozens of different hats to establish trust and catch your buyer’s attention before, during, and even after a sale.

Listen to them, share advice, answer questions from them or other stakeholders, remove roadblocks, negotiate, gather useful information, request documents or more data to verify your client and come up with the best offer, and close your deals… that’s a LOT of work.

This gradual shift of digital buying behavior has made client onboarding automation one of the pillars of modern sale processes – It helps deliver a superior customer experience while increasing customer retention and loyalty.

But again, what is client onboarding?

Is it worth investing in it? Is it hard to implement? Where you should start? Can it be automated?

Read our guide to answer all these questions. We’ll cover everything you need to know about client onboarding, including how to plan it, how to implement it in your department, and how to systemize it for higher ROI.

Contents

What is client onboarding?

Client onboarding is a set of activities that you, your team, and stakeholders must take in order to deliver one of your services or products – to a new customer or business partner.

Eg. You sell B2B Commercial loans, but you need to onboard and verify new customers to deliver the service they need.

During the onboarding phase, your team will make sure they understand thoroughly your client’s activity, its background, and needs, but also collect all the information required to deliver the best service while protecting your business.

For example, they could have a consultation meeting with the client and then send a welcome email with a needs list to gather data and files from the client in order to get started with a project.

All these recurring activities and tasks, which frequently include a lot of back-and-forth, must be completed with or by each new client as part of the onboarding process.

Using a client onboarding system, you can not only make this process systematic, but also frictionless for your clients and team members.

Client onboarding is one of the best resources to invest in, for companies wanting to win customers in a repetitive and secure way, no matter where they are.

However, few companies know exactly how to set it right. That’s why we’re sharing with you 6 things you need to know to out-think your competitors in a remote-first world.

Misconception #1: Client onboarding is just for bigger corporations

For a long time, client onboarding was a topic that only bigger corporations cared about.

But, that’s no longer the case.

Today, if I looked for your services in my browser, your website could actually rank next to one of your bigger competitors. For a simple buyer like me, it wouldn’t really make any difference, and I would probably still compare your service offering to any other option I come across online.

Let me put it this way, with the internet, companies can now compete on the global stage, which also means that small businesses must adapt much faster.

The good news is that client onboarding platforms come in different sizes and shapes.

There are expensive options built for Fortune 500 companies, but also affordable systems that are still very robust and more suitable to medium-sized companies.

Misconception #2: I need a tech team to design and implement a custom client onboarding

That’s not true. Client onboarding is a company-wide system that supports your team’s daily activities. It can totally be managed using a dedicated tool specifically built to design and run such workflows.

There are plenty of low-code solutions that will allow you to build a powerful client onboarding workflow without having to hire a dev team. So yes, you can build an end-to-end client onboarding process today without any help if you have the right tool.

Misconception #3: Client onboarding requires a lot of manual tasks. It can’t be automated.

Most SaaS solutions are able to automate manual tasks. That’s also the case for any client onboarding software.

They are built to remove the repetitive work from your daily schedule and transform all routine tasks into automated actions that can be done in the background while you focus on what matters: your client.

Misconception #4: I don’t deal with clients, so I don’t need a client onboarding tool

Nope. A client onboarding software is usually agnostic which allows you to use it to manage different types of people such as prospects, partners, vendors, students, or even employees.

It’s pretty much the same as a Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM), although it starts with ‘Customer’, it is oftentimes flexible enough to support any type of audience you need to manage and any procedure you need to run.

Misconception #5: I can onboard clients using a basic online form or emails, I am fine.

This misconception is causing many SMBs to lose clients. Why? Because it’s simply not secure nor scalable.

Forms and emails are not built to support client onboarding professionally. They are best for instant actions with short-term outcomes: a website visitor needing to fill out a contact form, a person needing to complete a survey, a colleague needing to send you useful information.

However, onboarding a new client is a repetitive process that takes time and requires streamlined communication, data and files management as well as enhanced collaboration across the company.

It’s not recommended building a client onboarding workflow using several independent apps: this could provide a fragmented experience and put your business at risk in terms of data governance. Also, you’ll still lack visibility on how things are going for your team, preventing you to improve things and make data-based decisions.

Misconception #6: I don’t need a CRM, if I use a client onboarding solution.

Yes, you do. A client onboarding solution is a complementary solution to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.

To make it clear, both solutions will help your team manage new prospects, but while CRMs are a great tool used by Sales team to keep track of all leads, client onboarding tools are focusing on the conversion of prospects into customers by engaging them directly.

Check out this page to learn more about how client onboarding software can truly benefit your CRM.

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How does client onboarding work?

Let’s put it this way. Client onboarding is a smart way to create customer-centric workflows that will help you convert your CRM leads faster. It directly helps your Sales team close deals faster while engaging clients.

Using a client onboarding software, you’ll guide new prospects through the steps that must be completed by them in order for your team to deliver your services. These steps include any of the following:

Your client onboarding system will also allow you to create approval workflows to facilitate your team’s work:

If any of your new prospects must systematically complete a set of steps and, you want to make sure these steps are correctly followed, you need a client onboarding system.

Let’s imagine a client intake process for a Financial Planning firm. They launched a brand-new website and start getting some decent monthly traffic.

One client is interested in learning more about their services and fills out the contact form available on their website.

A Rep receives a notification email with all the leads details and is excited to see that the client seems to qualify. At this stage, the client is no longer on the website, and the next steps will determine whether the prospect will actually reply or not.

Hopefully, the Rep uses a client onboarding software and will be able to send to the prospect, a secure link from where the lead would start the intake process.

Through the onboarding link, the prospect would be able to book a meeting with the Rep, fill out initial information needed by the time the consultation meeting happens, and even chat with the team and create a relationship.

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Automated follow-ups would go out automatically to the prospect and to the team, making sure every task is completed on time before and also after the initial consultation.

Now, imagine what it would be like without a client onboarding tool.

Each Rep would have to chase prospects and teammates at every step of the way, and it would just be a nightmare to do this for dozens of leads day in and day out!

Without a client onboarding tool, working with your leads is much harder at a bigger scale.

Your automated client onboarding will help you:
  • Automate document-heavy, client-centric routine workflows
  • Push leads down the sales funnel by engaging them directly
  • Remove repetitive tasks off your plate to focus on what drives value
  • Have clear visibility on your customers’ actual engagement
  • Make sure everyone is on the same page and reduce churn
  • Make better decisions to help leads convert faster
  • Better track which sensitive data is collected from leads from who and when

Client onboarding is such a powerful tool for your company. But, it doesn’t require you to be a tech ninja. I’ll show you below how to implement it very easily in your company.

But before we dive right in, let’s quickly discover the all different types of digital onboarding processes you might want to automate using a client onboarding software.

16 examples of digital onboarding workflows you may want to automate today

Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, I am here to help. Here are 12 digital onboarding workflows you can automate today using a client onboarding system.

Client onboarding process examples

  • Customer onboarding

Customer onboarding is a great scenario for using a client onboarding software. Common customer onboarding workflows include service subscriptions from B2B clients for example.

  • Enterprise SaaS client onboarding

Startups needing to onboard corporate clients usually need to set up custom processes in order to guide each client through various steps to facilitate implementation.

  • Tenant onboarding

Rental agencies needing to collect and screen a high volume of applications for each of their available lettings would love using a dedicated system to simplify this.

  • Investor onboarding

Lending companies offering financing options to investors will appreciate having a dedicated tool to simplify the due diligence process.

  • Landlord onboarding

Property Management companies wanting to offer a smooth and premium experience to new landlords can use a client onboarding system to manage them.

  • Student onboarding

Administrations, universities, and schools needing to manage the student enrollment process at scale and remotely.

  • Seller onboarding

Realtors can use a client onboarding software to onboard new sellers and verify their documents.

  • Borrower onboarding

Mortgage Brokers can use a client onboarding software to streamline the pre-qualification and application process.

  • KYC Onboarding

Financial service companies needing to better manage and verify new clients in a compliant way.

  • Administrative onboarding

Public services needing to help people register to admin services such as car plate registration, a new driver license request etc.

Vendor onboarding process examples

  • Merchant onboarding

E-commerce platforms need to rigorously select potential merchants and ensure long-lasting collaboration.

  • Partner onboarding

Companies needing to build and grow a partner program and wanting to simplify the registration process.

  • KYB onboarding

Some companies in the financial industry must register potential vendors in a compliant way.

  • Exhibitor onboarding

Trade Show organizers need a robust system to help future exhibitors apply, submit supporting documents and rent a location in a timely manner.

Employee onboarding process examples

  • Contractor onboarding

Recruiting and staffing companies need to hire and verify a high volume of contractors for their clients can use an onboarding platform to automate this process.

  • Employee onboarding

Companies needing to streamline their new employee’s administrative onboarding process.

Do you need a brand-new onboarding process at your organization?

Now that we’ve just covered 16 concrete onboarding processes that you may want to automate using a professional software, the question is: How to know if your organization or team need a dedicated solution?

In order to help your team decide whether a professional onboarding system is needed or not, read about Pros and Cons to be aware of:

Benefits of implementing a digital onboarding system

• Unified way of working

An dedicated system allows team members to use a company-wide predefined workflow template to onboard new users in a unified way.

• Easier decision-making

With a professional software, managers can access an analytics dashboard and better monitor the team performance.

• Streamlined end-user experience

A digital onboarding system doesn’t require to build a website from scratch, it can be deployed within a couple of days and increases brand perception for end-users.

• Fast ROI and Instant benefits for the business

As soon as your team switches to a dedicated system, you get instant visibility on what works what doesn’t and where things need to be improved. Automation will also drastically increase productivity and efficient for your team.

Downsides of implementing a digital onboarding system

Requires initial collaborative effort to set it up

Implementing a whole new process requires a collaborative effort and involvement from various internal stakeholders to redefine and brainstorm on the new process.

• Involves an additional cost

The system has a cost that must be budgdeted accordingly. However, it’s very easily to calculate ROI based on the costs involved with your current process whether related to processing time, process lags, risk of churn and IT costs when using several apps.

• Implies team training and end-user education

Transitioning to a new system will require to train all parties involved but also educating end-users to make sure they make your life easier by using your new platform.

How to implement a new client onboarding process?

Many Sales and Ops executives rely heavily on automation to fix most of the challenges faced by their teams on a daily basis during the onboarding phase.

It’s true, a perfectly automated digital onboarding workflow is a powerful tool to streamline your team’s work and sales process. But it needs to be designed in the best way possible from the very beginning.

Most teams are struggling to create highly-performing onboarding automation since they usually build it using DIY apps and systems to manage their workflows.

As seen above, there are at least 16 basic onboarding processes that you and your team would want to automate in your business, that’s why you’ll need to follow certain steps to make it right.

Follow the steps below to get started with setting up your new onboarding process:

1. Focus on one core process to improve

What is the most important service your team needs to manage repeatedly (Eg. Car insurance)? Who is the target audience (Eg. Client, vendor, partner)? What type of process should be streamlined to facilitate service delivery (Eg. New Car insurance registration).

2. Audit your current customer journey

Chances are you’re currently following a DIY process to onboard new stakeholders to your services. In order to digitize this process, you’ll need to map it out visually.

You don’t want to miss an essential step in the process:

Eg. Do you need a team member to complete a specific task during the process? Is there any notification that must be sent to your end-users to push conversion? Which part of the process should be automated versus completed by a human?

You can easily use Google drawing or any flowchart solution to map out your onboarding process before actually implementing it.

At Clustdoc, that’s the type of thing that our onboarding manager usually helps clients with during their transition to Clustdoc.

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3. Prepare your onboarding material

I am sure, you currently have a folder gathering all supporting material that must be used by your team to onboard your stakeholders.

Whether is internal instructions, email templates, needs lists, PDF forms or links to online forms.

Make sure you review these resources and keep the ones that are the most relevant to your new process.

4. Define your metrics

An efficient onboarding process requires strong KPIs. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How long should the onboarding last on average? (Eg. 10 days max)
  • What is the expected completion rate? (Eg. 80%)
  • How many leads should convert into fully onboarded or won customers? (Eg. 20-25%)

These metrics will allow you to align your team objectives when it comes to onboarding.

5. Build your digital onboarding process

Once you’ve completed the above steps, you can start building your process from scratch in your new system.

3 more tips on creating a new digital onboarding strategy

A winning digital onboarding strategy relies on a few more things to keep in mind.

Design one workflow for each of your services or procedures

It’s sometimes complicated to know where a workflow really starts or ends. Our advice is to trust your guts and break them down logically.

If you followed the above steps, you’d know what’s included in a workflow and when to move to a second workflow.

Also, keep in mind that your job is to make things easier for the end-users, so try to define a limit to guarantee a comprehensive experience.

Don’t over automate – Even if it’s tempting 🙂

On the paper, a lot of automation seems to be the answer to all our problems. But in real life, a process that is overly automated can create useless friction.

We recommend leaving room for human interactions to keep it natural and engaging, more especially if your workflows involve a lot of back-and-forth.

Once your workflow is up and running, you’ll increase the amount of automation.

Optimize your workflows on a regular basis

After launching your initial workflow, keep an eye on it to see how it goes. Are there any bugs or anything you could improve to make it even more seamless?

Make a schedule in the first months after the launch to check up on your processes from time to time with your team.

Client onboarding software: how to select the best solution?

Are you ready to try out a professional client onboarding software but still not sure where to start?

I have your back. Here are the key things to look into while evaluating potential vendors:

• Features and capabilities

• Ease of use

• Customer support

• Security

• Scalability

• Integrations

• Pricing

Features and capabilities

A robust client onboarding software must provide a certain number of features to support your growth. Features such as onboarding templates, automated reminders, form automation, task management, payments, document collection, and eSignatures are essential.

Make sure you confirm with your vendor that such features are available for you and your team and also check their feature release history to know if they have a customer-centric culture.

Ease of use

Have a close look at your new software interface. Is it user-friendly? Do you have resources and articles that help you get up to speed easily? These are key elements you need to validate before committing to a new system.

Customer support

Working with a client onboarding software provider is a partnership. You need to know you can rely on Customer support teams to address quickly any queries you and your team may have while managing new customers. Dedicated support whether on or offline is a plus.

Security

While onboarding new customers or stakeholders, you’ll probably need to request, collect and handle sensitive information. Discuss security measures with your provider as soon as possible to better understand how they handle security. A provider who cares about security will also build security features that will help you comply with data privacy regulations and protect your business.

Scalability

If you’re still a small business or team today, I am sure you’ll grow big in the next months or years. It’s therefore important when looking for a software provider to make sure the tool allows your sales team to handle a growing number of workflows.

Integrations

We’ve discussed that already. CRMs are great solutions to combine with a client onboarding system. When researching your future solution, make sure they can easily integrate with your business apps to supercharge your sales process.

Pricing

Last but not least, the pricing. Make sure that the client onboarding software companies you research have clear pricing. If you’re not sure yet on how their pricing works, request a quote and discuss your options with them to better manage your budget and calculate your ROI.

Usually, the Return on Investment on such investments is met when the cost of features available with the tool combined with the time needed to onboard a client are lower than the monthly cost of the actual software.

Why do you need to invest in client onboarding automation today?

We’re now at the end of our comprehensive guide about client onboarding. I hope you have a better understanding of how client onboarding automation can streamline your sales and ops teams’ work every day.

With digital onboarding automation, you’ll provide a better customer experience to prospects and stakeholders. An experience that will drive more engagement and build trust from the very first contact.

The current global context is putting more pressure on companies – pushing them to invest more heavily in digital experiences that are reliable, scalable, and reassuring for their audiences.

So today is the right time to invest in a new client onboarding system that is fully automated and used in a unified way by all team members.

Give Clustdoc a try and book a quick demo call with us – we’d be happy to help you to find the best solution to automate your onboarding workflows.

Clustdoc — Best plug-and-play onboarding automation for small business. Try it out today.​