Onboarding efficiency

Onboarding efficiency

Improving Onboarding Efficiency is a clear pathway to achieve a great ROI from The Gap. It is an important strategy for ALL firms, and particularly those who are:
  1. Experiencing high client growth (or looking to) 
  2. Keen to generate referrals for new client growth
  3. Suffering from scope stretch
  4. Wanting to promote their Advisory services 
  5. Looking for ways to increase client retention
  6. Wanting to increase their average client spend

What is Onboarding?

Important info
Effective client onboarding is so much more than getting authorities to act, adding information to your database, and assigning a team member to a job.

Client onboarding is the first opportunity for your firm to prove to new clients that they've made the right choice. While there are a number of boxes to tick when bringing a new client on board, effective onboarding (using a considered and consistent process), ensures you start the relationship on a clear, reliable, productive, positive, and engaging footing, leading to a better working relationship.

Effective onboarding combines the skills and attributes of your marketing, administration and accounting teams, creating a cohesive client experience strategy.

The key objectives of onboarding are to:
  1. Determine services, price, and delivery timeframes.
  2. Agree on how clients will pay for those services.
  3. Introduce and transition clients to the team members who will manage service delivery.
  4. Set up jobs in your workflow system.
  5. Ensure ‘time critical’ services are delivered.
  6. Meet your professional and legal obligations with regard to engagement letters, Anti-Money Laundering / Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML / CFT) due diligence checks, and client authorities to act.

A robust onboarding process allows for additional objectives to be met:
  1. Clearly understand the prospective client's objectives and goals
  2. Understand the size of the opportunity for your firm (how you can support client objectives and goals)
  3. Gain confidence that the prospective client is a good 'values' fit for your firm  
  4. Delight your client with an official welcome that celebrates the beginning of the new relationship
  5. Clearly communicate what clients can expect from your firm
  6. Thank the referrer if applicable (to encourage further referrals)
  7. Complete a one-month follow-up call to get feedback and stay connected
A common reason for clients leaving their accountant is that they don’t see the value in what their accountant does for them. The value conversation should be undertaken regularly and an effective onboarding experience is a great way to start that conversation.

Having multiple touchpoints in your client onboarding process allows you to stay connected, framing you as proactive, even if the annual work will not begin for some months. 

Defining your process

Navigate to  Main menu >   > Bridges > Proactive Onboarding bridge.

Review all of the documents in our onboarding sub-folder with team members who are involved in your current onboarding process. In particular, take a deep dive into the first three documents which specifically relate to defining your process:
  1. The Guide to Effective Onboarding.
  2. The Client Onboarding Experience PowerPoint Slide.
  3. The Client Onboarding Checklist.
If you already have a documented onboarding process, compare this to the best practice approach outlined in the above Gap documents and update accordingly. If not, use the Gap content to document your best practice process.

Next, decide which team members will be responsible for each step in the process, clarify expected timeframes for completion, and determine how you'll track the onboarding of each new client through your defined stages.

You may like to use Trello or other project management software to track onboarding progress.

Best practice onboarding process

  1. The exploration phase: undertake a Proactive Accounting Meeting (PAM) with your prospective client; face-to-face or virtually to ensure they're a good fit for your firm.

  2. The proposal: build a tailored client proposal based on the services you’ve gained conceptual agreement for.

  3. Complete the administrivia: undertake all necessary checks and box-ticking activities to ensure you are compliant, including AML / CFT checks, client authorities to act, updating client details in your practice management or CRM system, creating client folders in online storage systems, and sending a professional clearance letter to the client’s previous accountant.

  4. Welcome your client on board: both digitally and with a human touch by sending an email and a client welcome gift or pack. This is your greatest opportunity to wow your new client. Aim for a 48-hour turnaround.

  5. Introduce key team members: add a name (and a face) to the person who is responsible for completing the client work.

  6. Get billing and payments sorted: we recommend setting an automated email to go out three days after the proposal has been accepted to get the client’s approval for Direct Debit or request the initial payment.

  7. Thank the referrer: it’s likely your new client came via a referral so make sure you thank the referrer, so they continue to refer your business.

  8. Set up jobs in workflow: schedule jobs in your practice management system or workflow software and assign the team member responsible for doing the job and the expected completion date.

  9. Schedule any ‘time critical’ jobs: your new client may need Xero training, a Cashflow Forecast, a Tax Review, or have an upcoming tax payment that may be missed as they transition from their previous accountant. Agree on the timeframes with your client and make sure the work doesn’t fall through the cracks.

  10. Follow up in a month: check-in to see how they’re going (by phone, not email).

'Selling' the process to prospective clients

Once you've defined your onboarding process operationally, consider how you market the customer onboarding experience to your prospects.

Navigate to  Main menu >   > Bridges > Proactive Onboarding > Client  Onboarding Experience PowerPoint Slide.

Use this template to define the experience for your clients. Provide them with a graphical representation of what they can expect when they switch to your firm. In their mind, the task may seem overwhelming; breaking it down into simple steps can help overcome this objection. They'll feel supported and excited about this new relationship, even if you'll not be completing work for a few months .

Engage an external designer to create a truly branded image of your client experience.


Aim for continuous improvement

Being proactive from the outset not only makes your firm look efficient but also shows that you care about client outcomes. Research shows clients are most likely to do a u-turn or ‘churn’ within the first 90 days. So ensure your process wraps up onboarding well within that timeframe.

Don't stop there though, there will always be ways to improve both the customer experience and the efficiency of what you deliver. Take feedback and act on it; this is one of the greatest opportunities to delight a customer.

When you deliver an on-brand, reliable and engaging onboarding experience, you’ll improve your bottom line. 

A truly great onboarding experience will encourage referrals for new business.

This information has been carefully prepared, but it has been written in general terms only. It should provide insight and context to help with decision-making and creating your unique processes around onboarding.

Having a great onboarding process is key to growing your firm. - Andrew Argue
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