Episode #090 What is Bookkeeping Onboarding and Why is it Important?

Get ready for a new mini series of The Bookkeepers' Voice. Today Angie and Maia are going to be talking all things onboarding, a topic that we will cover in great depth over the next few weeks.

We're kicking off the first episode in this series with getting super clear on what onboarding is and why it's important. Tune in for some useful examples and great information that you can start implementing in your business.

“Onboarding” is a bit of a buzzword in the community at the moment, so we hope you're excited for this new series! We're excited to share with you all the ways your onboarding system can improve your business.

Key takeaway: “By implement a Bookkeeping Onboarding Process and Workflow you will be able to have more efficiency, reduced scope creep, and happier clients”.

Read transcript

Summary keywords: onboarding, client onboarding, bookkeeper, bookkeeping business, onboarding processes, customer onboarding system


What is onboarding and why is it so important for your bookkeeping business?


Angie Martin  0:01 

Good morning, everyone. hope you're all having a fantastic Friday. My name is Angie, and I'm here again with Maia and we are part of the savvy team.


Maia Coghlan  1:27 



Angie Martin  1:29 

Today, we're actually going to be talking about something that we know is a hot topic in the world of bookkeeping, and also kind of a buzz worthy word, but also something that I think


Maia Coghlan  1:43 

hasn't always


Angie Martin  1:44 

been done hundred percent the way it's supposed to be done. So we thought we'd do this podcast series to help you guys optimise it as much as possible, which is pretty exciting. That topic is onboarding and client onboarding. So basically, what usually happens with onboarding as you go through, you're done your digital marketing presence, you've done your website integrations, your sales follow ups, you've gotten that signature in your proposal, however you send off the proposals. And now you officially have a new client, which is always very exciting. And, you know, kind of also gives you the now what moment. In the world of bookkeeping, we're all obsessed with this now, what moment and we're always trying to perfect the onboarding. But


Maia Coghlan  2:37 



Angie Martin  2:38 

I hate to say this, guys, very few bookkeepers actually do onboarding the way it is actually supposed to be done. So first thing, onboarding is not a kind of lead generation.


What is client onboarding?


Maia Coghlan  2:54 

And let's just reiterate that onboarding is not lead generation onboarding is what happens after they sign the proposal. And they are now your client? Yes,


Angie Martin  3:07 

yes. So you are not selling to them. At any point, you have already sold to them, they are already with you. Now it's time to officially welcome them and help your client retention process. So it's not about getting them


Maia Coghlan  3:24 

how to integrate, yes, integrate them into your systems and workflows.


How can I streamline the onboarding process for my bookkeeping business?


Angie Martin  3:29 

Yes. So it's introducing them to everything. So anytime you have, you know, a client that just won't do the receipt bank process that you've told them or just won't do the proper calling you on the right days, if you have certain days that you work on them. That means that there's actually been a bit of a miscommunication in your onboarding process, and actually informing them of the processes and teaching them how to use it so that they feel comfortable. So sorry, guys about being a bit negative there. But we want to help you. Make sure that you have a really streamlined onboarding process in making sure that it's successful, to go from original engagement with your new client to a long term, successful relationship that you both love engaging. Basically, you want to make sure that the clients are in with you for a long haul. That's like the dream of most bookkeepers you want them to be with you for years and years and years. And a successful onboarding will actually do that. So I have some stats for you because I love showing you stats. And it's more US version stats, but it's very relative to the stats here in Australia as well. So in the Harvard Business Review, it's been record like report That if you can prevent 5% 5% of your clients from leaving you, that will actually increase your bottom line profit by 25 to 95%. That is insane. I had to triple check those figures. So basically what that means that if you can stop, let's say one client from leaving you keep that one client retention rate up. That means that your in profits are going to increase from them continually repurchase repurchasing with you continually doing those onboarding. And also, typically, if you have a long term bookkeeper, then the business will grow. And that means that they will need more bookkeeping, which will increase the profits?


Maia Coghlan  5:53 



Angie Martin  5:54 

yes. I had to look that up quite a bit. Because I was like, are those figures right?


Maia Coghlan  6:00 

It's a big range as well. 25 95% is almost the full hundred percent. Yes,


How has COVID impacted onboarding processes?


Angie Martin  6:05 

it's a massive range. And the reason why they've done it like that, because it wasn't a study that was done for product base or service base. Specifically, it was for Gen. Gen. Yes. So in regards to let's make it really realistic to right now. So let's say when COVID hit, you had a really successful onboarding process before and he had really loyal clients who were able to stay in business. A lot of people, although they were able to stay in business, they may have dropped the bookkeepers, because they were worried they couldn't pay for them. And it wasn't the top priority. You have a successful onboarding process that will make sure that you have that client retention, and they wouldn't have dropped you. And ideally, also, the businesses would have been in a great shape anyways, and they wouldn't have to close. Yes. So since COVID, everyone has had to do shopkeepers, which is an added service that you've been able to do each month since COVID has happened. By having your client retention rate, solid, your profits per month would have gone up probably like the, let's say about 45 to 50%. Just because you have kept that 5% of clients on board. That's how those figures kind of work. It makes you know, the 95% goes for people who sell products, because then they just keep buying, let's say skincare range, the better retention they have, the more and more you just buy their skincare. So that's how it goes up to the 95%. Which is not bookkeeping. But it's still an impressive figure to know.


Maia Coghlan  7:47 

Yeah, definitely.


Angie Martin  7:48 

Yes. The second stat I have is from the EU, us work News and World Report stats, which is also really great stats just to learn business things, says that 82% of clients leave one business and go to another because of client service issues.


Maia Coghlan  8:10 

That's a huge,


Angie Martin  8:11 

that's a huge percentage. And it's also something that is hundred percent true in bookkeeping. How many? Yeah, you go, you say,


Maia Coghlan  8:22 

how many clients do you have that are coming to you from a previous bookkeeper?


Angie Martin  8:29 

because of bad service?


Maia Coghlan  8:32 

and service or bad relationship?


Angie Martin  8:34 

Yes, it is. I think to be honest, it makes up over 50% of clientele. For bookkeepers, to be honest.


Maia Coghlan  8:42 

Yeah. I mean, there's only there's one of two options that I guess there's a few options. There's a basically they haven't had a bookkeeper before, or they've had a bookkeeper before and for some reason, it's not working and they're switching service. It might be that their mum was their bookkeeper before and she didn't want to do it anymore, or it's too complicated for her. They're still coming to you. from a previous provider. bookkeeping. Yeah. Even if it if that provider was them. Yeah.


Angie Martin  9:08 

And if it's if they've come to you, and that happens all the time that they've had a bad experience, and they're a little bit jaded to fix that jaded experience. It's all in the onboarding, because that's as soon as you create that strong onboarding system. You set all the ground rules. So there's no


Maia Coghlan  9:29 

simpler lead gen as well. Yes. It's not just in the onboarding. But once they sign you don't. You don't send your lead generation process. You're giving them this added value and you're trying to create a relationship with them. Once they sign the proposal. That doesn't end. It's just now called onboarding and you have to continue to build the relationship. Make them know like, and trust you. Give them value and make them feel like yes, they've definitely made the right choice in choosing you.


Angie Martin  10:07 

Yes. And it's something that we really focus here at savvy. You know, my, my outwardly title is the client relationship manager, because that's basically what I am 100% focused on


Maia Coghlan  10:19 

all the time,


Angie Martin  10:20 

is making sure that we are making you guys happy and comfortable to come to us with your problems. And to help make sure that we can help solve them, whether you have to pay for service or not, whether we can give you ideally, we try and give you as much as possible with value added content, just for free, to make sure that you continually are having a positive experience. That's the whole point of like what I do most days, but that can also be done in bookkeeping. And a lot of it can be done in just simply welcoming them. By having a really successful onboarding service, you can build their relationship address any lingering concerns or questions they might have, and get them up to speed on how together you can work to have a really successful and efficient relationship that can be for the long term of their business. That's a big section of it, because people go, they do there is some clients that do welcome their bookkeeping, businesses like clients, but you say, Oh, hey, great to have you. But you missed this sections, where you actually re enter a like re re discuss the overall understanding of what the scope is that you can be working on with them. The tools that are required, not an optional tool, but a required tool to do the bookkeeping, and making sure that they understand what is expected of them, and what is also expected from you, as well. So it really creates that environment of really clear understanding. It also can provide them extra knowledge as well to understand what you're doing. Because the biggest thing is, we always say your clients don't know what you're doing. They don't know where to begin. So they don't, they don't understand.


Maia Coghlan  12:25 

But they don't want to understand.


Angie Martin  12:26 

Yes, the onboarding process is a really good way to stick, put in little bits, to help them understand in their understanding, like in their wording, what you're doing,


Maia Coghlan  12:38 

and have them appreciate you, yes, I know what you're doing for them, then they're going to appreciate you more than if you keep it a secret, like they don't need to know all the details, then they'll just tune out. But some understanding of what you're doing to benefit their business is always appreciated.


How to create an automated customer onboarding system?


Angie Martin  12:57 

No. And it's, it's really good as well. And it can really just enhance your interactions. And by creating an automated onboarding system, it eliminates the ongoing touch points that are needed, but makes it so that you don't have to do it each time. Which is really, really handy. Simply because I feel like this is going to surprise a lot of people. The first 90 days of having a new client is the most important. So if you think about it, your onboarding process should be a minimum of 30, which I highly don't suggest to do just 30, it should be really 60 to 90 days, I'm actually going to be talking later on about a six month strategy that is much better for creating the ongoing relationship. I can't remember now if it's this episode, it's next episode, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be talking about the six month strategy, which also includes getting reviews from new clients, which is the best time to get. So the 90 days, the first 90 days to give you a bit more of an understanding about the first 90 days this is the time where you are the your client experience is the most fragile your relationship with a new client is the most fragile. And this is also when you can make the most impact for them. Because it's like you can think about anytime you've just purchased a service or an ongoing membership or something. Mm hmm. Do you feel always like it's 100% the right decision if it's a huge chunk of money that you're not used to having to pay someone


Maia Coghlan  14:50 

if you're not 100% Sure. You need that support from the person that you're paying. So that you can Feel comfortable. Exactly.


Angie Martin  15:02 

Exactly. And I actually wrote, as I was writing my notes for this podcast, I actually was like, Oh, I can relate this back to the kind of dating analogy we've been using every once in a while. And it's, you know, in your first 90 days of dating someone new, that is the most important time to get to know them. Same as your bookkeeping client,


Maia Coghlan  15:26 

saying you're building a relationship, the relationship is new, you need to nurture it,


Angie Martin  15:30 

exactly, anyone it for the long term dating. I just thought that it could be a little bit big. But you want to make sure that they're really understanding the journey of working with you. And it's also a really effective onboarding process helps ensure the success and client satisfaction. So that makes sure that you can maintain an execute a good relationship with the client, while also inspiring loyalty and advocacy for you. The best kind of onboarding processes creates clients that are loyal to you. And that will suggest you to anyone and everyone they know. That's amazing. Yes, and there's actually I can think of two of our clients that are really good at this, that most of their business is from word of mouth, and client referrals. There's one specifically that does a really good job, they actually on the phone while talking to their clients. They're like, hey, if you know anyone, don't hesitate to send our contact through, we're always keen to help and support people.


Maia Coghlan  16:47 

It works.


Angie Martin  16:50 

So that is what onboarding is. Now, we want to talk about a bit more of kind of said some of the key words about why it's important. But I thought it would be really good to actually break down really why it's important to do it right. First off to do it, right. Because you can do like a sketchy kind of onboarding dot, you know, it's an email, this is what I need. But you want to do it the right way to really create the long term. Goal


Maia Coghlan  17:23 

use, yeah, you also want to, is to two huge benefits to doing it the right way. You create that extra bond with the client to ensure they're there for the long term. And you also minimise the amount of work that you need to do to get them into your systems.


Angie Martin  17:45 

Yes, and build that relationship. Yeah. And also a good client onboarding, one will actually make it so that they understand why you need certain things. So they don't, you have to go back to them every single boss season for like four times to get their information, they'll do it right off the bat, because they understand why you need it helps reduce that nagging section that we all have to do sometimes. So first and foremost, creating the onboarding workflow is proven to increase client confidence, satisfaction, productivity, and overall performance for you. because everything's getting done, super easy. With the client with no issues. It reduces stress and confusion for both parties. So it reduces the stress. Like all all business owners have their own things that they're worrying about, right, just like we do. But when it comes to time, typically for like GST, bass in the financial year, these are just high stress moments for business owners, because again, they don't really understand the process. Yeah. Yes. And then that stresses you out, because you've got so many clients that you need to do best. It happens four times a year, every single time we all get stressed out. Well, that's not true. A lot of us get stressed out. But there is a couple that I know I talked to that you're like, Oh, that's all done. It's all sorted. But it helps just break down that stress and confusion on going for you guys. So each time you need something. It's not, oh, gosh, I have to email this person again to get it


Maia Coghlan  19:41 

which is great.


Angie Martin  19:44 

Again, it sets the tone for the long term relationship. So if things aren't being done smoothly, right off the bat, with onboarding them, it's going to create an An easy and negative feeling towards working with you. And if that happens within those first 90 days, it is nearly impossible to get that feeling. To fix that feeling with that client. It's the same as dating. Again, if you get a bad feeling and first 90 days, you've just stopped dating them. So it's really important to make sure that they feel good about choosing working with you and believe that they have done the right thing with investing in working with you. It's also really good as I said, to create a cure clear process in detailed communication platform. With a successful onboarding platform, he can solidify their confidence in you reaffirm that they made the right decision again, and eliminate the confusion over scope of work terms, availability, and what happens next. Those are like the biggest things that people always wonder after the push go with the bookkeeping. Most thing is what happens next. What's the actual doing? Cuz typically what happens I know a lot is like someone they document and then folks, yes, yes. sign the document. And then Oh, can you do this? And this?


Maia Coghlan  21:34 

The scope just creeps, which is an issue? Yeah. Yes. So Oh, and I've got this other thing that I didn't mention, I've got this other thing that I didn't mention. And maybe you can do


Angie Martin  21:47 

everything? Yes. So it really creates thought, understanding that this is what they've hired you for. And I really like right off the bat explaining your availability in the onboarding system. That way, you don't get that really high demanding client who calls you every day, because that's not okay.


Maia Coghlan  22:13 

If they do call you every day, you can refer them back to the onboarding process and remind them that you do not take those calls on every day, you only take those calls, on the days when you said you would take this course. Secondly,


Angie Martin  22:28 

it's the best way of reminding or if they're saying that they need to be doing this all the time like this needs to be done urgently. You go well, actually, no, it doesn't need to be done urgently. As we've said in the past. These are the days that we do this. It can wait till here.


Maia Coghlan  22:46 

Yeah, yeah. And setting expectations for them for when they need to have their receipts in. And when they have to have certain information to you buy


Angie Martin  22:55 

all that stuff. It's amazing. And when it's done properly, it can just save a lot of headaches for you in the long run. But really, a successful onboarding process is worried about connecting with the clients. But actually, in the long term, it's making your life easier. So the short term, it's to connect with your clients long term, it's to help you do your job.


Maia Coghlan  23:24 

and retain clients. Yes,


Angie Martin  23:26 

yes. So I kind of created a bit of a breakdown in the top things that an onboarding process should include for you just to start off this new series. In it, you want to welcome clients to set the tone for a successful project. You want to educate them, to help them feel comfortable in answering your questions, and that they've made the right decision. You want to equip them to feel empowered in their communication, and also asking for help when they need it. If they don't understand a process that they have to do. I think a lot of people don't use receipt bank because they actually don't take the time to learn how to do it. And then they're afraid to go back after three months of working with a bookkeeper to be like, I'd use it but I don't know how kind of awkward at that point.


Maia Coghlan  24:26 

It's not that difficult. If you just give them the right steps up front about how to do it, then it's perfect. Yeah, exactly.


Angie Martin  24:35 

Then, another thing that's really important is that you provide your clients with extra value. Now for me, I'm a massive value added person. So this is one of my favourite things. This is where you can send them extra resources that are designed to help them to be a better client and make most of the time their time with you. So this could be something lining them up to your RSS feed in your newsletter so that whatever blogs that you are publishing they get, because the blogs that you're publishing are direct value added to educate people on bookkeeping. Or you might create your own email strategy that's just for your clients to create that value added information as well


Maia Coghlan  25:24 

help things like, yeah, things that you could include in that, for example, or updates with junk Kiba. When you're getting the same question from everybody, instead of answering them all individually, send them an email newsletter. Yeah.


Angie Martin  25:42 

So it helps helps create that value added information. And, again, don't think of it just as giving them information, but it's helping them to be better clients, for you. That's the main thing about educating that's why I love doing value added resources for the bookkeeping industry is that when you give them value added in information, they become ideal clients for you. Which is really important


Maia Coghlan  26:12 

and it reduces the amount of time you have to spend answering questions. Exactly, exactly.


Angie Martin  26:17 

Um, another thing that is a must when doing onboarding processes, is reminding clients of expectations and boundaries. This is the time to be doing it. If you wait past the 90 days, you're too late and bad habits have already been created.


Maia Coghlan  26:36 

Yeah. Your good habits right from the start?


Angie Martin  26:39 

Yes. Again, it creates a better client and more happy because if you let them push the boundaries in the 90 days, and then stop letting them then they'll get upset and be like, well, this isn't what the service I was getting before.


Maia Coghlan  26:55 

Yeah. Yeah,


Angie Martin  26:57 

you know, it gets them confused as to what they can expect.


Maia Coghlan  27:03 

So you need before you can do that, you need to think about what you want, what you want the expectations to be and what boundaries you want to put in place, what works for you what works for your business. And you might want to change up some of these things, you might want to change up your availability. And when you're going to be actually taking calls from clients. Think about that. And then put it in your onboarding system.


Angie Martin  27:29 

Yeah, it's really important because it just makes you enjoy your life and having your own bookkeeping business so much more. The next thing that's also super important, and the last thing that has to be in an onboarding process, is what happens next. To be honest, I have never hired a bookkeeper, because I've always done my own bookkeeping. So once I do eventually hire a bookkeeper next financial year, that's going to be my biggest question, because I'm going to know all of the other things because I already do bookkeeping. But I want to know what the next step is in working with them. Because your clients aren't going to know that only you know that. So you have to tell them what the next steps are so that they know what they can expect. Which you're actually really good when you onboard a off the hook or a savvy client, you get right on that right away, don't you? Yeah,


Maia Coghlan  28:33 

yeah, yeah, I send them a link to the form that they need to fill out, like so for off the hook to the bookkeeping clients, they, they know that they're going to expect this email and that email, and there's going to be some forms for them to sign and they're going to be sent logins for receipt bank, and all this stuff. So they know, they get like a list of this is what's going to be happening. This is what we're going to be sending you and this is what we need you to give us. Everything. Everything's there. Yeah, just send a list. Just get sent to them.


Angie Martin  29:07 

I love it. And it's it's so easy. Like it wasn't hard to create those emails over that process is just, you need to really think what you need from them and what they need from you and then create that. And again, it can be an automated email guys.


Maia Coghlan  29:25 

Great. Yeah, I don't I don't write that out. Just add them to this thing and it sends it. I don't write them out.


Angie Martin  29:38 

Yeah, we did it once. And now you never have to do it again. Yeah.


Maia Coghlan  29:45 

And so, before you can, the sort of therapy, I guess we're going to go into


Angie Martin  29:57 

we're going to go into the actual process of writing Today, yeah,


Maia Coghlan  30:02 

yeah, but you need to think about what you want the process to look like before. Same as what you want your boundary. So like, you can tell them what's gonna happen unless you know about what's gonna happen and what you actually need. And that doesn't mean like you don't have to get it right the first time. You can edit.


Angie Martin  30:30 

Yeah, there's this amazing tool that it you button and it says edit in email templates. It's amazing.


Maia Coghlan  30:39 

Yeah, it doesn't use it the first time. Yeah. You know, if you if you don't, if you forgot to add something, if you think of something later, if you think actually that doesn't need to be in there anymore. It


Angie Martin  30:55 

It's amazing. So what we're going to do…have a plan


Maia Coghlan  31:00 

what we're going to do is plan actually walk it through with you


Angie Martin  31:03 

to create that plan into create that strategy over the next couple episodes that we're going to do with this one. To finish off today's episode, I wanted to just reiterate what can happen when you do a successful onboarding, strategy and workflow. So what will happen is you'll get less churn, more efficiency, reducing scope creep, happier clients, more returns, upsell clients, again, for one off things like health checks, or, you know, onboarding or job keeper 2.0. And also will help you ensure bookkeeping compliance as well, which is a biggie because they will understand what needs to be done. So that can all be done successfully improperly, to your standards, which is great. Yes. And next episode, we're going to do a massive Maia geek out to talk about actually creating these workflows and how you can actually implement it with all of your different tools that you're using, which is basically where Maya is going to be able to go into and go through the workflow for you and help you streamline as much as possible.


Maia Coghlan  32:33 

Yes, yeah. Awesome.


Angie Martin  32:35 

Thank you so much for joining us. Yeah. Thank you so much for joining us today, guys. And as always, do you want to do the signoff?


Maia Coghlan  32:47 

Stay Safe, Stay Sane and Stay Savvy.


Angie Martin  32:49 

Amazing. Thank you so much for joining us guys. Bye.