Picture this: you have just spent the last few weeks winning over a new prospective customer and just yesterday, they agreed to sign on to buy your products and services. Now what? If you are like most organizations, you will celebrate the success of acquiring another customer, you will enter them into your customer relationship management system, you will send them a proliferation of forms to complete and then you will forget about them and move onto the next opportunity. Sound familiar? If it does, you have just wasted a great opportunity to build a loyal customer.
You have just put a great deal of effort into acquiring this new customer, so why would you ignore the opportunity to make them a great customer from the outset? By creating a positive experience in the onboarding process, where most other organizations falter, you will quickly create ambassadors for your company.
Most organizations don’t recognize the value of accelerating the process for bringing on new customers once they have been acquired (what I call the onboarding of new customers). This seems odd because of the clear benefits that can be achieved by bringing on new customers more rapidly and more effectively:
- You speed up the process of gaining additional business from them
- You receive referrals to other prospective customers sooner
- You strengthen the relationship and increase customer loyalty and the likelihood of retention and growth
- You use your own resources more productively
A company that I worked for a few years was awarded business from a new customer. The process to bring the new customer on became so time-consuming and arduous, that the customer decided to walk away and go with our competitor. We asked them to provide the same information multiple times, we did not have an assigned support resource to help them through the process and once they agreed to buy from us, we moved on to the next prospective customer. We not only lost the original order, but the opportunity to grow with that customer and turn them into a great business partner.
There is a tremendous opportunity in looking at the way you bring on new customers, but many organizations don’t even consider this opportunity. And if they do, they don’t know where to start. Here is an example of a customer onboarding process developed with a recent client:
You will need to adjust this process depending on the good or service that you provide, but you want to ensure that you are able to complete all of the steps quickly and effectively.
Companies like iContact and Constant Contact make it very easy for their small business customers to begin using their email marketing services. They provide easy-to-use templates, online support tools and setup wizards to walk you through the initial process and have customer support staff available through phone and email to address any questions customers may have. Are you making it easy for new customers to buy from you?
As you look for ways to improve and accelerate your onboarding process, there are a few questions you should be asking:
- What activities are we asking customers to perform that we could be performing for them?
- What activities are being performed that are not measurably adding any value to the process of bringing a new customer on board?
- What data can be gathered in advance of the customer being acquired that will accelerate the onboarding process?
- What activities can be simplified or standardized (such as form completion, setup, and so on)?
- How can technology be used to automate some of the current manual activities being performed (such as form submission or data entry)?
- What decisions does the customer need to make and how can we help make those decisions easiest for them?
- What support will customers require?
- How can we measure the process results so we can improve performance in
- the future?
Once a customer first agrees to buy your products and services, you have a great opportunity to create a strong bond right away. Don’t ignore the importance of creating this loyalty early on because this will be the first experience a customer has with you as their provider. Take advantage of this opportunity to make a great first impression and create a loyal customer for life.