Happy customers often make the difference between a company that flourishes and one that fails. According to Entrepreneur, “it costs approximately five times more to attract a new customer to your business than it costs to retain an existing [one].” Don’t just gloss over that statement. Let it sink in. The key to driving growth is to create an excellent customer experience, which will help you retain your customers and attract new clients.

An often-overlooked key to increasing your customers’ satisfaction lies in onboarding and implementation. A vital yet mysteriously under-invested and under-supported function in your customers’ journey, onboarding is your company’s first impression, so make it a good one. A positive experience will set your clients and internal teams off on the right foot to get the most out of your services.

One of the biggest mistakes companies often make during onboarding and implementation is failing to empower their customer with enough digestible information about the process. If you command all the information about the process, you become an accidental bottleneck. If you share endless detail, you inadvertently lose your audience’s attention.

Instead, invest in a process that allows your customer the right level of visibility and self-service. The more you can get your experience to mimic how they track their food delivery orders or packages, the more familiar it will be to them. Today that may feel out of reach because:

  • It takes too much time to provide that level of visibility
  • Your process is highly customizable
  • Your customer requires white-glove treatment
  • Your customer is often the reason for the delay

So, how can we exceed expectations and ensure that customers have a great experience despite these challenges? Here are a few ways you can better manage client expectations from the start.

Standardize What You Can

If you standardize your process (i.e., make templatized versions of each step of the process for your team and your customers’ team), you can significantly increase your team’s bandwidth. Your customers’ confidence levels will also increase as they see what you have laid out and hear you speak to the historical data you have gathered on risk points and potential areas where you can move faster.

Investing the time to standardize your process also creates a foundation for accurately measuring your throughput, identifying bottlenecks, and determining where your customer can improve. Even if your process is highly customizable, you can standardize your approach and create self-service tasks for your customers to follow.

Be sure to include these three elements as you standardize your process:

  • Descriptions: Include attachments, screenshots, or videos to accompany instructions. Follow former US President William Howard Taft’s guidance when he said, “Don’t write so that you can be understood. Write so that you can’t be misunderstood.
  • Dependency: What steps need to be completed before this step is done?
  • Duration: How many working days should the project take?

Plan a Schedule and Maintain It

One of the first steps you should take while onboarding new clients is to set clear expectations in terms of the process’s length and schedule. This step is especially important in long implementation processes to avoid burnout and maintain engagement throughout the project. Making a client wait weeks with no end in sight is a surefire way to breed customer dissatisfaction and destroy all the excitement they had to begin with.

Distribute this plan to every interested party with a section highlighting their specific responsibilities and timeline. At a minimum, three parties should have a personalized copy of this plan. For example, the salesperson who closed the deal, the executive sponsor responsible for the outcome, and the customer and internal teams executing the work. If these parties all have access to the whole picture, along with a consolidated view of just their responsibilities, you are set up for success.

Assign Clear Tasks and Roles

Have you ever had to postpone a project’s deadline because you didn’t hear back from a client in time? Deliver accurate information about what you need from the correct person throughout the process. That will not only help them prepare but will help you combat unforeseen delays too.

This step is instrumental in giving your onboarding process the transparency it needs to run smoothly. If done correctly, you will no longer need to call anyone out unceremoniously, and you will no longer field “where are we at?” calls.

Communicate and Celebrate Regularly

Regular communication with your customers is essential to managing their expectations and checking their pulse. Progress reports are a great way to keep your clients informed, guarantee everyone is on the same page, and keep team members and customers motivated. This is an invaluable tool for celebrating milestones and calling out risks, but it can be time-consuming. Automate these updates whenever possible so you can spend your bandwidth on problem-solving and relationship building.

Done right, this will save you time and energy in the long run as you won’t have to respond to constant emails and phone calls from parties who want a status update.

Client onboarding and implementation is the first step to creating a successful relationship with your customers. Your product or service is designed to do great things for your new customers, so invest in and build your implementation experience in such a way that it celebrates the new partnership. That outstanding experience will lead to greater customer retention and growth.