Episode #093 10 Tips to Building Great Bookkeeping Relationships Through Client Onboarding

Over the last few weeks we've been working away at breaking down what client onboarding is, why it's important, what's included in creating an Onboarding Workflow and last week, we shared some fantastic templates to make the process easier on you!

Join us again for this new episode of The Bookkeepers' Voice, as we share 10 Savvy Tips to help you create better relationships with your bookkeeping clients through the use of your Onboarding Process.

From personalising your clients experience, thinking about long term onboarding rather than just short term, educating your client on an ongoing basis, ensuring handover is as smooth as possible – we've got all the tips you need to make the process as easy as it should be!

Key Takeaway: “When your client has a positive experience during the onboarding process, your work will pay itself over, as they will establish trust in your brand and also loyalty right away.”

Podcast Info

Episode: #093

Series: General

Host: Angie Martin & Maia Coghlan

Topic: Building Relationships Through Client Onboarding

Useful links
Read transcript

Customer onboarding tips for successful bookkeepers



onboarding, successful, bookkeeper, client relationships, customer onboarding building relationships, streamlining, setting expectations, bookkeeping, CRM, handover, onboarding tips 



Hello, everyone, thank you so much for joining us for another episode of The Bookkeeper's Voice. My name is Angie and I am here with Maia today. Hi, Maia.

Hello. It's been amazing. We have been hashtag #teamsavvy for the last, like, two months, three months now. I've been really enjoying it.

Yeah, um, it must be so nice to not have to talk to yourself on the podcast every day.

Very great. I got very lonely there for a while. Plus, I think people just got tired of listening to my voice – I would! Same voice every single time.

Something it's nicer to listen to two people having a conversation rather than one person having a monologue.

Yeah. And because like monologues, quite often too can be turning very easily turned into almost like just crazy rants.

There's no one there to keep you in check.

Yeah, especially when it was like something like when I did the social media series where I'm so passionate about and I just go down. And it's like the domino effect. And then I go, Oh, wait, I don't need to be talking about this right now. Calm down. It's very easy to happen. But as most of you guys know, we are part of the team but a large part of the team that makeup team savvy. And we love coming in and speaking with you guys every week to discuss different ways that we love helping bookkeepers and just creating a bit of a community with you guys and supporting one another in the world of bookkeeping. So lately, we have been doing an onboarding series with The Bookkeepers Voice and this is going to be the last episode in that series. So I hope everyone has been able to learn a lot about onboarding, we've basically chatted through what onboarding; client onboarding is, why it's important, what's included in creating an onboarding workflow. And then last episode, we broke down all of the different templates that we use at Off The Hook to make our lives easier to try and help you make your life easier, which is pretty exciting. It was a very big tech talk, process talk, template talk, episode last week.

Much talk.


It was great. I loved it. I love going through different ways of streamlining businesses to be easier for me to actually run a business. So hopefully everyone else enjoyed that.


Tips for better client onboarding


Now, what we want to do to help finish off this whole process is giving you our top 10 savvy tips that we use and want to share with you to creating better relationships with your bookkeeping clients throughout the actual onboarding process. So it can begin right away, basically.

So our tip number one is personalise the experience. This one, I feel like should be pretty self explanatory. But I know when we're in the process of just meaning to get all the information done. You can kind of forget to personalise it, especially when you're using templates.

But there are ways of having, you know, base inserts where you put the business business's name the clients name in there to make it as personalised as possible. Just to make them feel like they've made the right decision in choosing you as a bookkeeper and help them really create that trusting experience right off the bat. The more you personalise it, the more comfortable they're going to actually feel. I know that's with us with Savvy in us with Off The Hook. It's definitely makes the experience difference for our clients, doesn't it?


It really does. Yeah, lets them know that we care about them. And, you know, we're talking to them specifically, and not just robot voice.


Yes, it makes a big difference. So definitely, number one, personalise the experience as much as you can while also automating the experience


Long term planning for successful client relationships



Number two, tip two is think about the long term. When you get a new client, you're not wanting a client, the client for just one bass statement. One year, you want this client for our long term

There is a lot of effort to onboard new clients and find new clients, you want to keep them?

Yes, exactly. And the more that you can actually connect with the clients, the longer they're going to have. They're gonna stay with you. Like, I think there's one client that Amy has that she's had for something like almost, like 15/20 years, I think. She's told me like, she's there were like one of her first clients she ever had when she started to do bookkeeping. She used to work with them originally, as well. So I think it actually spans almost, like 20 years, it's impressive.

Some of our clients have clients, that long as well.

Yeah. So it's, you know, you always want to think about making sure that you're onboarding process creates that feeling that you're welcoming them into your bookkeeping family, almost, because you want them there for the long term. And, you know, when you change your perspective to reminding yourself, it's for the long term, that's when you can prioritise making sure that those welcome emails and onboarding is a bit more refined, because you don't have to do it as often. That makes sense.



Yes, you want them for the long term you want them for like, basically, as long as you're in business, or they're in business. That's the goal.


Tip three, is educating the client. Now, you did this really well, Maya, in the last episode, when you were breaking down, what exactly is in our onboarding startup guide, and how we have this specific sections on educating them on what they can expect from us? And what we can expect from them? And really breaking down what each person's responsibilities are? Yeah, yeah, it's really important section in onboarding your clients, because then immediately, they have a base of what to expect.

So we have that as the that's the working relationships, part of the proposal, Mm hmm. template, and then in the so that's like, before they even sign up to become a client, they know, what they're like, what your expectations of them are, and what their expectations of you are. And then once they do sign on to become a client. They're getting started guide, again, says a little bit about like, how you run your business, like what your values are. And then it also lets them know, like, who to contact in your team about different issues, like billing issues versus your bookkeeping, stuff, like who they should be contacting? Yeah,


it makes a really big difference. And it just makes it very clear for them to understand again, who they talk to you for what thing and what is expected on both sides to help minimise those clients, but end up being a bit hard to deal with basically, what is very important.


Tip four is, they are the client, you are the bookkeeper. Remember that you are not there. I just this is it's this is such an important topic, I just I almost put it in as the number one. Everyone needs to understand the role in a bookkeeping relationship. Quite often, bookkeepers say to me that their clients think that they can be on their back and call 24/7 all the time. And this is sadly typically done because the boundaries aren't set right off the bat. They need to be set in the onboarding process. So just like how tip number three was educating them, you need to make sure that they understand that you are not an employee of theirs. You are their bookkeeper, there is a difference.

And yeah, in in the Getting Started Guide I mentioned last week, there's a section to put your business hours. Yes. And you should stick to those even if you do actually do work out. I don't mean, that's fine. That Yeah, you do whatever you want. But don't be responding to your clients outside of the time that you want to be responding to clients because otherwise you create expectations that in the long run are going to lead you to burnout.


Yes. And you know, there is these great things that you can send to You can schedule your emails to go out, I'm really guilty for this. Quite I don't do it for savvy, I do it for the other businesses I support outside of savvy, where because I don't get to those emails until I'm going to have an honest moment here till like 5pm 8pm. Some days, I schedule for all of my replies to go out the next day at 8am. And it's also it's a two fold, I do that for me so that they don't know that I'm working that late. Because that is my boundary. I'm not contactable after, like at that time of night, too. I also don't expect them to read the email that I am working on late because that's my work schedule. That doesn't mean it's their work schedule. I respect the fact that they have worked hours too. So it's a two fold. So you really need to make sure that you make it clear that you are their bookkeeper. And they are your clients. They are not your employer. They are not your boss. You guys have guidelines keep to your boundaries. It'll save a lot of stress. To be honest, even sappy, does it. We have boundaries, but we're just really nice and lovely about it.


Yeah, yeah.


Keeping your CRM platform updated in bookkeeping onboarding



Tip five is keep an updated contact record. top tip within this tip is don't make your clients repeat themselves. This is annoying for everyone. Everyone hates having to repeat themselves. And especially in bookkeeping, there's so much information you need from clients, you need to keep a record of communication you have with your clients. Whether or not you have a CRM, which is a client relationship management system. Or if you have an Excel or use Airtable or whatever you use, you need to keep an updated contact information and just update a record of your clients. It will help a lot of the back and forth process will make sure mistakes aren't made in Yeah, it just makes it so that your clients don't have to repeat themselves about things that have already told you. Yeah, you come off much more organised. And they think that you care so much about them. But even like things about like how many kids there are had they have or their kids names or things like that. It's those little things that make that relationship stronger.


So then like before you call them for you have you eating with them, you can check all the info that you have. And like oh, yeah, that's right. That's what we talked about last time. I had a little note about you know, that they said they were going on a holiday or something.

Yeah I do it all the time. And that's simply because I have so much in my mind all the time, I can't guarantee what I think I'm remembering about a client is actually attached to the right client.

You don't need to actually remember all of it, you just have to like read a summary of it later to jog your memory. And then you're like, Oh, yeah, now I know.


100%. Remember that conversation. Now


you don't have to hold it in your mind for the next six months and hope that you remember the next time you speak to them.


If you do that you're asking your brain to do way too much.


Yeah, whatever you can do to minimise this, the amount that you need to store in your brain, do whatever you can to minimise that. And the other thing that we have for this is the initial contact form, initial concept, initial consult forms slash new client form. Yeah, we have them together as like a bulk import template that is in Airtable. And it's there's two different forms and they both feed into the same table in Airtable. And this is a really great way for you to make sure that you're only asking them certain details once and then having it recorded. I believe in the initial template when you first copy it to your own air table account, it will have some duplicates in the forms. But it's up to you to go in and decide what you actually want to have in the initial contact form. And what you want to have in the new client form so that you know they're separated and you're not asking for the same information twice. Yeah,


It's just really handy like just keep it written down somewhere in some form. And remember where you've written it down. It just it creates a much nicer relationship with your clients. And again, it makes them feel a lot more valued and important. And it's, again, it's something so easy to do, that can make such a big difference.


Handover during the client onboarding process 


Tip number six is make a smooth handover. So this is for bookkeeping businesses that have teams. And this is something that is super important. And something we've been specifically looking at Off The Hook ourselves lately, as well. As the business is growing. If you have different team members on different aspects of the business, you need to make sure that there are detailed records of your communication, different ways of streamlining instructions, and making sure that the client is informed on who exactly they need to speak to, while also explaining the next step. All of this can basically be done by tip number five, keeping updated records and having a streamlined startup guide that Maia spoke about last episode. Yeah. Because in that, it tells you exactly who does what in the team, how to contact them, what the next step is. And it's all streamlined, because it's all in one document. And it's a whole process all done. Makes it a very smooth handover. So everyone knows where to go to to get more information about the client, and everything is easy as possible for your clients and your employees.


That's what we want.


Yes, because you don't want it's let's say, if you have a designated salesperson to have the sale, yep. Awesome. And then the bookkeeper get up and go. What what what is this? Yeah, what's happening? What's happening now? Would it what what kind of client is this? What do they do? What's what what


what do I need to do for them?

Yes, you don't want that you want it to be a smooth handover for everyone to again, reduce the stress, make the process easier, so that you can get those clients more and more and more without adding too much work to the actual workload. So that's a very important step if you have teams.


Building relationships and communication during customer onboarding 



Tip number seven, is let your client know the next step. Most clients again, I've said this, I think 100 times. They don't know what bookkeeping is. So obviously, they don't know what the next step is. You need to teach it to them, you need to walk them through. Think of it as you are about to buy a house. Awesome. I just personally went through this process. And thankfully, my partner knew the process. But I had no idea on the process of buying a house. I knew like you went out you do your house viewings you make an offer, didn't know how to make an offer, like what was involved in that process? Or what was the process anywhere after that. And the real estate agent that we went with? Didn't really explain the process at all. So thankfully, my partner used to be a real estate agent and he knew the process. But I was sitting there just going, Okay, super stressed out being like, what's the next step? What's what do we do now? What do they need from us? What do we need from them? What's going on? You need to let your client know the next step. Because like buying a house, not everyone knows the process. Is that a good analogy?


Yeah. I think so.


Okay, when I was writing that, I was like, Oh, I feel like that will be a good one. Um, because yeah, everyone has questions, the more you let them know what the next step is, which also is hundred percent involved in your onboarding process, or it should be it makes it easy for you and them.


And some people weren't need it, some people will know what's going on. Um, but I think it's, it's really important. Just to keep in mind the fact that just because something is second nature to you, doesn't mean anybody else is going to understand it. Yeah.


Just like sometimes when I'm talking to Maia.


You have worked with all these different people doing the same thing.

Yeah everyone has different knowledge bases, so it's also nice for those of people Do know the process and the next step to get that reminder and just being like, so this is what we're doing this? Because everyone does it different. Yeah.


How to go about successful client onboarding



So, tip number eight, client onboarding takes time. Don't rush the experience, you want to make sure the experience is again, long term, it creates a long term relationship. And you have a ongoing check to make sure that you are nurturing a successful client relationship. So what I mean by that is implementing those follow ups every single month or every other month or however, whenever you need something from a client, basically, you have those automated emails, asking them for that information, checking in on them in those emails be like, Hey, how you going? How's the business going? If they don't reply it, then they don't reply. But you're reaching out. And then doing the review, after the review email template, after the six months to actually get reviews on how the process is going. That way, the clients know that you care about their experience, and you care about how it's going for them to then you can take their feedback and help for future lead generation and onboarding opportunities. So this takes time. Don't rush it don't think that as soon as everything's immediately signed off, you're done. So relationship building continually happens.


Yeah, it definitely does.


It does. And it's, it's, it's necessary to remember that because again, these are long term relationships. So you don't do a really great job onboarding them for a month, and then just kind of forget about them for three years and expect them to be happy.


Yeah, it's like, it's like relationships with anybody. Yeah, just sort of meet them, and then chat a bit, and then never speak to them again, but expect to like unless you want something beyond them.


Yeah, nobody wants relationships when someone's only talking to you, because they want something from you. Remember that when you're always just requesting something from your client, and never asking even just how their day has been? Yeah. Hot Tip right there.


Yeah, even if you just write the email about what you need. And then before you send it, go back to the start of the email and put in something nice.


I always do that I always make a point of being like, Hey, how you going hope your weeks been going? Well, hope the week has started at Well, I do that because I would want that. Personally, I might actually reply, but it's a nice way instead of just going in, hey, I want this from you. Can you please yeah. It's much, much nicer way of doing things.




Tip number nine, is repeat yourself frequently. I do this all the time. I don't know if anyone's noticing these podcasts. But there's certain things I repeat consistently. Purpose I do, and it's on purpose. It is definitely on purpose. It helps reiterate your client, the client expectations of what you are expecting for them, so that they can have realistic expectations that are aligned with your, like your bookkeeping experience. It just makes things really clear. And especially if you repeat yourself at the beginning of the relationship, it will be understood very clearly and very…




Yes, and in a positive way as well. So if you let them contact you, or call you at 8pm for the first three months, and then you start telling them after the first three months that you can't do that anymore. It's gonna leave a sour taste in their mouth. If you start telling them your work hours and your availability, right off the start of the relationship, and then consistently remind them, theres no problem..


Yeah, then if they call you at eight o'clock at night, in the first week, you can say Hey, sorry, I don't remember. I don't do them.


Yes. It just creates a really good relationship with them where everyone understands that you can't


and everyone has the right expectations.


Setting expectations during the customer onboarding process



Tip number 10. Again, be clear about your expectations. As you can tell most of these tips are all about your expectations. Because I think that is typically the biggest issue with onboarding processes and biggest issues that turn into bad relationships with bookkeepers is that you're not clear right at the beginning of what both parties should be expecting. So I really went hard on expectations in this Sorry, guys. This one is just making it really clear what you're doing for them, like what your scope of your bookkeeping is. That way you don't get scope creep, where a client is just like, Oh, yeah. Could you do this for me as well? And in in do this for me as well. It's like, Well, no, this is what you've hired me to do. This is what I'm doing. If you want me to do that, then I will send you an engagement letter to include that in your services. Yes. And I guess it's exactly what we do at Off The Hook and at Savvy.


Oh, you want us to also do this other thing? Okay, here's a proposal sign your new quote?


Yes. And it just really make sure that they understand thats also the process as well, and that they know they can do that. All Amy's clients at Off The Hook, are aware that if they need more support from us, they can get it they just need to ask sign the proposal in it is done. That way they feel more in control with their own bookkeeping relationship, and they feel comfortable coming to us if they're still being stressed out about something. Yeah, really, yeah, it really creates a level of commitment in communication with the working relationship. And it just helps you really submit that your new client is your ideal client, and they are going to stay your ideal client. Because sometimes, you know, you might like a client, so you might let them get away with something once and then all? Well, you know, they're just so wonderful to work with. So you let them get away with it twice. And then oh, no, they just expect it now.


And then you end up doing so much extra work for them that you don't get paid to do.


Yeah and then you start hating to deal with them.


Yes, it sours the relationship because you no longer enjoy working for them. Because you've created this expectation for them that they can ask you to do whatever they want.


Yeah. So being clear with what your values are, what your services are, what you're expecting from them and their relationship at the very beginning in your onboarding goes a really long way and makes sure that you know, the whole purpose of having your own booking keeping business is that you work with people you want to work with, and that you're happy coming to work every day. By communicating your expectations and making them clear that will be done. Basically, that's the main tip of this whole episode is communication, really communicate exactly what you're expecting, and your clients will understand. And they will work within that as long as you make it really easy for them to do so. Because no client starts a relationship going, I'm going to be a nightmare client for this bookkeeper. That is my goal right now. They want a good relationship too. So because you do this all the time, help guide them into creating that good relationship.


Yes, yeah.

So I hope that helps with understanding how to do a successful onboarding process. So you can build strong and long lasting relationships. We haven't talked about too many, like actual External links in this episode. But we have mentioned past episodes that we've done. So we'll do those links for you so that if you haven't listened to all of them, you can go back and listen to them and find out exactly what we're talking about in this episode, but as always, you guys, thank you so much for listening to us. Any feedback you have, please let us know. We love hearing from you. And you know, just you guys are all amazing, and I hope you have fun streamlining and perfecting the onboarding processes.

All right, everybody, stay safe. Stay sane and stay Savvy!