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Client Onboarding

How to Onboard Clients With Excellence


As part of our continuing Client Experience 2.0 Master Class article series, in cooperation with Liscio, Millennial Accounting Founder and CEO Katey Maddux shares her best practices for successful client onboarding for the benefit of a more fruitful relationship for clients and staff.

Jul 27th 2021
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Onboarding sets the tone for the client relationship, so it's critical to get it right. I have tested and tweaked my plans to create a repeatable process that cultivates a great experience for my clients and my firm, beginning with the first touch and carrying through the entire relationship. 

I use onboarding to integrate the client with my firm’s processes, systems and culture. It also helps me to price appropriately and sets clear expectations so that I can have the best relationship possible and ensure success.

  • For Clients, onboarding builds trust right away. Remember, they are calling someone they don't know to discuss their financial data.  Successful onboarding puts the client at ease.
  • For Firms, onboarding creates efficiency and consistency.  It also reduces friction later!

In my firm, I use a five-step process to evaluate, price, and onboard my clients. Feel free to test what works for you!

Step 1 - Consultation Phase (free)

The consultation begins when the potential client first contacts me. I thank them and respond with five simple questions so that I can research and gauge their business before we meet :

  • Your business name?
  • What is your industry?
  • What systems are you using?
  • Are your books up to date?
  • What services are you looking for?

Once they've responded, I send them a Calendly link so that they can schedule a free 30-minute consultation call.   During the call, I ask them to tell me about their business, and then I just let them talk.  I capture the key points and explain my onboarding process. 

"We start with this free consultation call. Next is the ‘interview, assessment and proposal’, and finally the signing and engagement. I charge a flat fee for the ‘interview, assessment and proposal’ process and require that it is paid in advance."  If they decide not to work with me, they can take the assessment and proposal with them, so I do charge for it.

When the consultation is finished, I send them an email recapping our conversation and my onboarding process.  If they want to move forward, I send them an invoice (to cover Steps 2 and 3).

Step 2 - 60-Minute Client Interview (I/A/P, not free!)

Steps 2 and 3 are time consuming so I bill for the work. Billing also weeds out clients that just want the cheapest price. Once the invoice is paid, I have them upload their documents securely to Liscio for my review, and then I comb through their QuickBooks file on my own time.

The interview call is where I ask them about what I see in their QuickBooks file and documents, and how I learn about their business.  I use a list of 100+ questions, but the client doesn’t know that.  I make it casual “How does money come into your business? How do you pay your contractors?” etc. The best way to uncover issues is to get them talking - things come out naturally.

At the end of the interview, I set expectations about how we will communicate and the response time they can expect, "My typical response time is X business days. We will communicate securely through Liscio. When I need something from you, I'll request it using Liscio. When you need me, send me a message through Liscio."

Step 3 - Assessment (Included in the I/A/P fee)

After the interview, I compare their statements to what I’ve assessed in their books (there are often discrepancies).  I create a plan to clean-up any problems, and I also dig into any other systems that they're using, so that if they are using a system I'm not familiar with, I can factor in any learning curve, or consider if I want to take on that client.  

Assuming yes, I create their proposal with 2-3 pricing packages for them to choose from.  To save time, I keep a ‘master document’ listing everything I do and then edit or delete lines to customize it for each client.

When I’m ready to present the proposal, I create a task for them in Liscio called ‘Book your Proposal Call’ and include my Calendly link for them to schedule the call.  In the task, I set the expectation that they will make their decision on the call. 

Most clients are able to choose a package and we can move forward. If I don't set that expectation before the call, having to make that decision on the call catches them off guard, and they often are not able to do so.

Step 4 - Proposal Call

The proposal call is designed to explain the packages I created for them, walk through the pricing for each, and get them to choose one.  I ask them, "Now, which package works best for you at this time?"  I like to let my prospects know that this is not a contract and they can upgrade, downgrade, or even cancel, at any time. This makes it easier for them to make the decision on the call.

Step 5 - Engagement Letter

Once they have chosen their package, I follow up with the engagement letter and document of expectations. For consistency and efficiency, I use templates, which I customize for each client, and send for review and eSignature using Liscio. 

The client sees it on their mobile phone and can review and sign easily. I get 90 percent back within just a few hours of sending to the client.

Best Practices Moving Forward

To best continue the relationship, choose client-facing tools that reduce friction. Ensure that you have a mobile option for your clients to securely exchange documents and communicate with you. 

Create healthy habits that clients and staff understand and use. And above all, think of your client when choosing the technology that you expect them to use. 

If you make it EASY for them to do business securely with you, using their mobile device, they WILL respond quickly and your relationship will thrive!

At Liscio, we’re dedicated to the craft of client experience. We believe the right client experience speeds the exchange of data between firm and client, minimizes wasted motion, and creates raving fans. Liscio's platform achieves these goals by putting all of the tools client's need to respond quickly right at their fingertips -- including an all-in-one mobile app, automatic reminders, and even a mobile document scanner.  With all client communications and documents centralized in Liscio, it’s easy for staff to quickly see what is going on with each client’s account. And since Liscio is so easy for clients to use, they send documents quickly when asked. No more data silos, no more chasing clients for documents, and no more searching  across multiple platforms.To see how Liscio can help you provide a world-class experience for your clients and staff, book a personalized demo.