Intentional Onboarding: The Key to Strong Client Relationships

Get ready for QuickBooks® Connect 2018 - learn how "intentional onboarding" can help your firm.  Zach Cochran is presenting this topic on Nov. 5 in San Jose, so find out more about QuickBooks Connect, Nov. 5-7, and register today.

Each new client comes to an accounting and consulting professional in need of help, but with different expectations and definitions of what success means. Often, these definitions are incongruent with the professional’s definition of success. When the expectations are not in line, frustration and disaster are almost guaranteed. 

You have probably found yourself in a situation surrounded by frustration. Right after you take on a new client, you quickly find out they are not responding to your phone calls or emails. You are unable to gather the information you need to get started. The client calls you angry and surprised by your billing, frustrated, because they assumed you would be completing more tasks than you were expecting.

You are left with a frustrated client who is quickly filling your inbox and taking valuable time away from the time you allotted to spend on your other clients. Now you are behind, overwhelmed and frustrated, just like your new client.

Over time, Two Roads learned that we have a short window to overcome objections to gain the trust of a new client, so the method we  identified is to effectively set and meet expectations at the beginning of the relationship. When expectations are defined and agreed upon, everyone is set up for success. The accounting professional is in control of their time and schedule, and knows how to succeed. The new client is comforted by the communication and their stress is jettisoned by just knowing there is a process in place. By setting and meeting expectations early in the client relationship, the accounting professional can have a satisfied, happy client who is referring new business and will continue to be a healthy source of revenue.

How can you do this? Here are five ways Two Roads sets expectations for our clients through intentional onboarding. 

1. Document your process. Set aside time to sit down and think through how you do what you do. What is the main software you use to deliver service to your clients? How do they systematically work together? The answers to these questions will help you document your processes. Create checklists for every function and task. In doing this, you will have a greater understanding of your process and product, and you will be able to explain it to others with ease. This will help you set expectations for your client by explaining your process and helping them picture what working with you will actually look like.

2. Identify the right clients. Know what you are looking for with regard to industry, communication style and personality. All of these factors contribute to a successful long-term client relationship. 

3. Set expectations as you sell. From the first sales meeting with a potential new client, begin setting expectations. Inform them of your process and what life could look like working with you. Let them know what will change and what will stay the same. Be as specific as you need to be. The potential client needs to know what they are buying!

4. Intentionally onboard. Once you entered an agreement with your new client, you have a short window to win them over. This is where having a plan to intentionally onboard them comes into play. Devote time to documenting your process of adding a new client. Think through what usually goes wrong and what new clients usually ask the most questions about. Have a plan in place and get out in front of these issues before they happen. The most efficient way to do this is through checklists and practice management systems such as Karbon. The checklist will keep you on track and bring clarity to your whole team working on the account.

5. Follow through. Most importantly, you have to follow through on the expectations you set for the client! The best way to do this through effective communication. Sometimes, you have to over-communicate. Leave no room for assumptions or interpretations. You have set them from the beginning so you should be able to meet them - and, hopefully, exceed them.

Join me for "Intentional Onboarding: The Key to Strong Client Relationships" at QuickBooks Connect 2018. I look forward to meeting you!