Relationship building is an imperative in not only gaining new business, but retaining it too. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of landing a new client – and ensuring they remain a client into the future – is to conduct a thorough and successful onboarding phase.
“The onboarding of clients should be considered an essential step in fostering a promising and successful relationship between accountant and client,” explains Bridget du Toit, Head of Sales and Services at EasyBiz Technologies. “Not only will it prove the accountant’s client-centric commitment, but will ultimately determine the success of both parties.”
While client onboarding has been known to take up to as long as 60 days, the most successful accountants consistently complete client onboarding within less than 30 days. This allows clients to quickly start reaping the full benefits provided by the accounting firm and its associated solutions.
Du Toit provides a few handy tips that will help trim down the onboarding time:
1. Establish a goal-orientated way forward
Be transparent with clients on goals and any repercussions that may arise if participation is not adhered to. Clients must be made aware that their participation in the onboarding phase is imperative, and that they should be available if, for example, documents or key details are required to be uploaded to the system.
“It’s important to map out the process steps, explaining to the client that each step is dependent on completing the previous ones, and that any delay in receiving crucial information will only result in interruptions to the onboarding process,” says du Toit.
2. Collect validated information in stages
One of the more essential elements to onboarding is the collection of information, which is often a tedious task. Du Toit explains that instead of asking for all of the information at once, it is advisable to progressively request it in manageable chunks.
“For example, ask the client for business contact details first, followed by business ownership details, and the fiscal year start date,” she says.
Instead of asking clients to fill in the blanks, pre-populate as much as you can so that all they need to do is validate the information. Most of their pressing business information should be readily available on the internet, making it easier for them to approve and validate rather than find all of the information themselves between other work tasks.
3. Appoint a dedicated onboarding resource
Ensure that you have a dedicated resource, or if unavailable, a scheduled time per week, to assist in onboarding new clients. By doing so, your will allow for a single point of contact for the client and eliminate the time between requests.
“This allows for a smooth transition in the onboarding process. As soon as one task is complete, the next is already waiting in the client’s inbox,” explains du Toit. “The process can be made even simpler by using the existing software tools such as QuickBooks Online Accountant’s Client Request feature to request and capture the related documents.”
4. Use a checklist
Some of the most successful and progressive firms use a clear and concise onboarding checklist to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. This not only proves a firm’s professionalism, but eliminates tedious and often unnecessary work, thereby keeping the process flowing smoothly.
“Successful onboarding should always take priority when landing a new client. A smooth onboarding process will not only delight the client, but help cement the relationship between client and firm, inevitably placing the firm in a better standing when looking to upsell additional services, gaining referrals, and allowing for long-term client retention,” concludes du Toit.