When I was starting my web development business, I made the mistake of putting all my effort into getting new clients. New clients would get my attention when I was trying to win the work, but then we’d move from the “dating” phase and into the “real relationship” phase as they became a client. Unfortunately, I underperformed during this transition period when crucial client care was needed.
I had set expectations about my services as we negotiated before the project began, but I came up short on service after the contract was signed deposits were made.
Today we’re going to look at what steps you should implement if you’re going to blow your clients away as you get started with their eCommerce project.
Things To Have In Your Onboarding Process For Client Care
An efficient business is built on systems. You need to have a system that reliably gets you leads and turns them into clients. Similarly, you need to also have a system to get these new clients set up with your company.
Let’s walk through five easy steps you can take to ensure you have industry-leading client care.
1. Confirmation of Start Date and First Payment Receipt
The first step in starting your projects well is confirming that you have received the payment from your client as expected and give them a start date for their project. In general, I only give clients a start date once they have made the payment because until then they aren’t clients, they’re prospects. That also means the finish date is up in the air because it depends on when we start. Lock those dates down for the client quickly so that they have their expectations set correctly.
2. Set Expectations Up Front
The next step should be making sure your client knows what it’s going to take to have a successful project. I ask them to read my client success page, which I talked about in my previous post on building an ideal client profile. This page lets them know what a good bug report looks like, and what type of communication they can expect from me during a project.
3. Regular Communication Is Key To Client Care
Communication is so important though that you can’t just leave defining how your clients will hear from you to your project success page. You need to include it in their first confirmation email as well. To be ready for big projects your clients should expect a minimum of:
- An email on Monday detailing what is planned for the week
- An email on Friday recapping the week and laying out the plan for next week
Yes, that means your Friday email will layout the week, and then on Monday, you’ll repeat the same information. Saying it twice means that your clients don’t have to go looking for it later, they have the crucial information right there in their inbox. Make sure that your forecast for the week includes any schedule changes on your end. If you have to head out early one day, then your clients should be aware of it so that they can set their communication expectations correctly.
4. Introductions Between Teams
Next, who specifically on your team will your clients be working with? The first email is the time to make those introductions. Even better, schedule a kick-off call with any team members that will touch the project to make sure that the client knows them. If at all possible, make it a video call because the closer you can get to shaking someone’s hand the more trust is built. Smooth projects happen because both parties trust each other.
5. Setup The Client in Your Project Management System
Make sure that your client, and anyone on their team, is set up in your project management system. Do this before your project kick-off call so that they have a chance to look through it and can come with any questions they may have about how the system should work.
The best way to interact with your project management system should have been laid your in your project success documents as well, but it never hurts to go over it a third, or fourth time. Also, make sure that you link them to the help documentation for the project management system that you use. Think from your clients point of view, and see ways to make it easier for them to access what they need to be successful with you. Having access to the help documentation can head off any questions that your clients have about the basic functions of the system so you don’t get bogged down in training and can keep moving their project forward.
The first task I always assign to my clients is reading that project success page. Having this step listed as a task assigned to a client does help hold them accountable for reading the project success page.
Standing Out Above the Crowd
So far, everything we’ve planned to do to start up a client project is the bare minimum that a good eCommerce consultant will provide. That’s what it takes to be a top consultant, but it won’t help you stand out from the crowd. To have exceptional client care, you need to take it all one step further.
This next step is figuring out what will help make the client feel like they just entered the “family” of your business.
What will make them feel like they’re working with a premium consultant, one that is not only providing the value to justify their rates but one that is head and shoulders above all other competition?
I always start by sending them a handwritten card. Don’t use a plain note card, it doesn’t make you stand out. I grab some nice cards, give them to my kids, and let them go to town decorating the front of them.
These cards suit my business because, in my expectations, I explain to my clients that I’m a husband and father first, and a business owner second. My clients know that, and I tell them that their expectations need to be set accordingly. When they get a handwritten thank you card with my kids “art” on it, it helps seal the deal on the type of interaction they can expect from me.
If that doesn’t fit with your company, or you serve too many clients to give this kind of detail, then you can look at a service like SendOutCards to handle this process for you. By leveraging SendOutCards, you can upload a list of the recent customers that need a card, and then SendOutCards takes over and puts something just a bit more personal in the hands of your clients. Always be on the lookout for ways to automate while keeping it personal.
You can even take it a step further by paying attention to your customers and what they say during your meetings. I’ve had a client mention they like coffee so I’ve sent them a few pounds of a local coffee that they would never be able to purchase.
By taking a few extra minutes and spending just a bit of extra money, you can take a good client and turn them into a raving fan for your services. These extra touches will also give you a bit of extra leeway if something comes up and you have an issue with delivery on your end of the project. Because you’ve treated them so well, they’re more likely to roll with the punches and help you get the project back on track.
Extra Steps if You’re not Starting The New Project Right Away
If you’re busy and aren’t getting to your client’s project quickly, then you need to take some extra steps to bridge the gap between signing and starting.
While you don’t have Monday and Friday update emails to send, you can send them a weekly update email to let them know that their project is still going to start on time. You can also use this time to encourage them to gather any other materials you’ll need to hit the ground running on their project.
Have a list of the logos, content, or server access you’ll need and then use the few weeks before you start to make sure that you have these items. When it comes to the weekly update email, double check your list and see what you’re still missing and remind your client that you need these items to get started right away.
The point with the project onboarding is to make sure that your new client feels special and cared for. Far too many businesses sign a client and then drop all communication until they’re ready to start. This isn’t convenient for this client. Always try to see it from their point of view.
Make sure you use the window between signing and starting to show them how much you value their work. By using this time well, you can establish your credibility as a top-notch service provider.