Building Bookkeeping Relationships through Client Onboarding
Client onboarding is defined as the process of welcoming new clients to your bookkeeping business. Over the last few weeks on the Savvy blog, we’ve been talking about onboarding a lot, including why this process is so important, what is included in creating an onboarding workflow, and our recommended templates for making the process as easy as possible.
Today on the blog, we are excited to share our top ten tips to help you create better relationships with your bookkeeping clients through the use of your onboarding process.
Tip 1: Personalise the Experience
When you make a good first impression, you give your new client confidence that they made the right decision in choosing you as their bookkeeper. One of the most important things you can do from the very beginning to make a good impression during the onboarding process is personalising the experience.
Many people think that personalising the experience is bound to take a lot of time and effort, but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth! Automation has made our lives a lot easier in the twenty-first century and this can be seamlessly applied throughout the onboarding process.
When onboarding your client, you can personalise their experience through the use of automated emails. At The Savvy Bookkeeper, we recommend having a 50/50 or 70/30 structure of automation versus manual aspects to save you time. You can use tools like auto-propagation which can automatically add personal data into the email template such as the client’s name and business name.
Tip 2: Thinking Long Term
When it comes to clients, those that stick around for the long term are the most favourable to bookkeepers – so thinking long term from the very beginning is so important. Typically, when you are in the process of onboarding a new bookkeeping client, you are usually thinking of all the information you need to obtain in the short term such as the necessary details needed to get their account set up. But this shouldn't be your sole focus!
As part of thinking long term, we suggest that you focus on the lifetime value of that client and what can be done at the very beginning in creating a successful long term relationship. By having a beautifully planned series of welcome emails and ensuring you regularly review their work and check in with them, your client is sure to be happy. You’ll also create that brand trust and loyalty right away.
Tip 3: Educating the Client
It’s important to remind yourself that your clients are business owners and usually not numbers people! In fact, it’s possible that numbers stress them out and they’ve engaged you to help them get back on track with their finances and allow them to get on with their business.
So from the very beginning, it is your responsibility to educate them on what you are doing to support their business, and carefully explain why. Handing over their books may have been a big decision, so make sure they’re fully across all that you’ll be doing. This will give them the peace of mind they may very well need.
Be sure to carefully run through each aspect of the onboarding process and explain why it’s important. Sign them up to client nurturing newsletters to educate and inform them on bookkeeping and subjects that matter to them. By providing them free resources to review during the onboarding process, they can also familiarise themselves with your processes. This in turn helps you understand whether they are an ideal client for your business. Win-win!
Tip 4: They are the Client – You are the Bookkeeper
This tip is about remembering who you are and managing client expectations. We have worked with many bookkeepers in the past who say that their clients think they can be at their ‘beck-n-call’ 24/7 or that they simply treat them like an employee. This is exactly what you want to avoid. This negative atmosphere almost always never ends well as it does not form the basis of a successful long term relationship.
It's great to know that there is an easy way to avoid this situation if you’re on the ball from the beginning. That is, if you implement some basic principles during the onboarding process.
Firstly, it is your responsibility to spell out the expectations for yourself as the bookkeeper. By doing this early on, you’ll avoid any confusion. If you make your services clear, your client should understand that they have not hired a new employee but a service that has its own guidelines and boundaries.
Tip 5: Keep an Updated Contact Record
This is most often a highly underestimated tip but we believe it is one of the most important. We’ve spoken about personalising the client onboarding experience from the beginning, however this one is all about impressing them.
So this tip includes a sub-tip and that is: Don't make your clients repeat themselves! There is nothing worse than asking your client for information they have already provided you. Not only does it look unprofessional, but they are sure to become frustrated.
The best way to avoid this is to take notes at every chance and log them in a program such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This way, you have everything you need about all of your clients in the one place and when you need it, you can jump in, get what you need and on the odd occasion, impress them with something you ‘remember’ about them. You don’t need to tell them that it was written down!
Tip 6: Make the Handover Smooth
Handover can make or break the onboarding process, especially if your bookkeeping business is made up of a team. If there is a point where you need to hand over your new client to a team member, it is crucial to ensure that your internal communication is strong.
Your handover should include the last time you touched base with the new client and a detailed summary of their business and where to find their records. For your client, it is important to continue to offer personalised and streamlined introductions as well as informing them exactly what they need to know and who will be looking after them moving forward.
Tip 7: Let Your Client Know the Next Step
This tip continues on from the last one. This one is all about ensuring that your client is always informed of any changes or what the next step is. For many bookkeeping clients, you are likely to be their first bookkeeper and it’s not unusual for them to have no idea what the process is.
By providing a clear breakdown of the different steps involved with the onboarding process including the ongoing bookkeeping workflow, you’ll put their mind at ease by ensuring they are always ‘in the loop.’ It’s also great to remind yourself that you’ll also save a heap of your own time. If your instructions are well detailed, they are likely to answer 90% of your clients questions straight away.
Tip 8: Client Onboarding Takes Time
Like many things in life, client onboarding can’t always be done perfectly and to the most ideal schedule. When you onboard a bookkeeping client, the process isn’t finished when you gain access to their accounts. Client onboarding is the start of a long term relationship which should take around 30 to 90 days to complete with a quarterly, bi-annual or annual follow up to check in to ensure the relationship is being nurtured for long term success.
When you plan your time around checking in with your client and nurturing the process in general, you will positively impact your client retention rate. You will also continually perfect your onboarding process. It’s important to remember that the more you nurture your client, the more likely they’ll leave a wonderful review for your business. This is a bonus in your lead generation efforts!
Tip 9: Repeat Yourself Frequently
This one's for you, never the client. Be sure to repeat yourself all the time, and ensure your client never has to! By repeating yourself all the time, your clients expectations will always be aligned with what you're doing and it will help them understand what you expect from them as well. As they say, more information is always better than little or none at all. So don’t forget to repeat yourself all the time (without ending up sounding like a broken record – balance is key).
Tip 10: Be Clear with Your Expectations
The tenth and final tip for building strong client relationships during the bookkeeping onboarding process is ensuring there is a clear understanding as to what is expected at all times to make the relationship work. This applies with any good relationship – including dating!
Like any friendship or relationship – be it personal or professional, people are not mind readers. Especially for business owners who engage with your services, it’s likely that they have little to no knowledge of the world of bookkeeping and what you are doing or expect from them.
The key to getting this step right is education, ongoing communication and requesting information using phrases such as “this is what we’re going to need from you” and “this is when we’re going to need it by.” Heard of the KISS principle? This is what it’s all about: Keep It Simple Stupid.
If you haven’t already implemented a client onboarding process or perhaps you didn’t know where to start, we hope that our 10 Savvy tips for creating a successful bookkeeping onboarding process will help you achieve success.
Just remember: you can build strong and long lasting relationships with your clients, it just takes time. By sticking to our tips and working through the process with new clients as they come, you’ll be sure to obtain some fantastic long term clients and save yourself a lot of time and work in the process.
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