Have you ever paid for a service and while the product was amazing, the experience was really bad?
Just today, I had an interesting conversation with a friend who told me how she booked a service but afterward the business owner just stopped communicating. She didn’t know how to prepare, or even what the next steps were. She had to call and call and call without ever receiving an answer back. And not only was the business owner non-communicative, she was also months late on delivery. My friend went on to say that the end result was AMAZING, and all her friends asked who the business owner was.
However, what came next in our conversation was so important that it should be a lesson to all business owners.
She told her friends, “While I can tell you the business name, I do *NOT* recommend this business as the owner was disorganized, didn’t deliver on time, and did not communicate. The whole thing was stressful.”
She wrapped up the story this way: “It’s really sad, because she delivered the best quality, and she could have made a killing. But I just couldn’t recommend her.”
My thoughts as she raved about the finished products were wow … wow … and Wow! What a huge missed opportunity for the business owner, and a great lesson to pass on.
The onboarding phase of the client experience
When small service-driven businesses start out, the booking and fulfillment phases are typically the first phases of the client experience that the owner conquers.
The booking phase consists of getting the contract signed, the invoice paid, and the date inked in. Then the fulfillment phase kicks in, when the business owner completes and delivers the service.
However, as a service-driven business grows, the need grows for a phase that falls between booking and fulfillment: onboarding.
Onboarding is a fancy word for getting to know your clients and them getting to know you. When onboarding is successful, the client and the business owner know enough about each other’s expectations so that the experience can be exceptional. Onboarding sets the foundation for a rave-worthy experience, which boosts your chance of referrals.
Here are some examples:
- If I am a wedding planner: I need to know how many people will be at the wedding, so that I can order the right amount of items. That’s a given. However, also as a wedding planner, I need to know who gets along and who doesn’t, so a fight doesn’t break out. That’s an exceptional experience.
- If I am a makeup artist: I need to know my client’s skin tone and texture so the makeup matches. Again, this is a given. However, I also need to know why they need their makeup done. Because, for example, if I apply too much highlighter for a client going on a photo shoot, I have just screwed up her images. (FYI – too much highlighter can make you look sweaty in photos.) And, if I screw that up, it doesn’t end well for my client – or my referrals.
The list of examples can go on and on. As the situations above suggest, onboarding goes beyond the obvious. You need to dig into some personal questions to ensure the quality of the experience, beyond getting the product right.
Automate your onboarding
The most wonderful thing about onboarding is that it can be completely automated. While you do have to invest time to create time, it’s easy sailing after you set it up.
Through the use of Questionnaires and Email Templates, you will be able to create a Workflow that will automatically deliver the Questionnaires and Emails, ensuring that you and your clients are on the same page.
By sending Questionnaires, you will easily be able to collect much-needed information. While some service-driven businesses might only need to send one questionnaire, others will need to send four or five.
For example, a wedding-oriented business might need to send the following:
- Questionnaire 1: Vendor information
- Questionnaire 2: Wedding party details
- Questionnaire 3: Family details
- Questionnaire 4: Blog information
When creating your Questionnaires, you might think “Where do I even start?” You may have many, many questions for your clients. The great news is that now with 17hats Questionnaires you can use conditional logic to get right to the point and dig deep.
Conditional logic in Questionnaires
What is conditional logic? Think of it as your tool for conversation. If you were on the phone with a client and you asked a question, your next question might change, depending on the answer given.
That is conditional logic. In 17hats Questionnaires you will be able to ask Yes/No questions, Choose from a List questions, and Checkboxes (choose one) questions. Then you’ll be able to add automated follow-up questions based on the answer that they select from one of the above questions. (Hence the name of the new feature: “If/Then Questions in Questionnaires.”)
Here’s an example: As someone in the wedding industry, you send out an onboarding questionnaire so that you can get to know the couple’s families.
Does the bride have any siblings? Yes or No?
If the answer is yes, then the next questions can ask about the siblings. Maybe your next question is the siblings’ contact information.
Then you ask if the siblings are married with a Yes/No Question. If Yes, then you can collect the spouse’s name, as well as children’s information.
However, if the answer is no to “Does the bride have any siblings?” then none of those follow-up questions mentioned above is shown.
Each of your clients is different. With If/Then Questions in Questionnaires, you’re able to solicit the much-needed information, quickly and easily, while creating a pleasant experience.
It’s like having a conversation without talking. And it’s totally automated, so you reclaim the hour-plus it would take you to write down all the same information in a tedious phone call.
Not sure what questions to ask
For each service, you probably have a list of questions you ask or wish you could ask. And, if you don’t, consider this as a thought-starter:
I could do a better job and deliver better results if I knew ___________.
Or, have you ever walked away from your completed service (or delivered product) and thought, wow, I wish that I would have known _______. Or, this would have been ten times better if only _______.
As small business owners, we should strive to learn from each client experience, including the points of friction. If a client was upset, ask yourself why. Maybe it was because something wasn’t communicated up front. Once you recognize that, add that information into your onboarding process.
Let’s take action
Reading and learning are fabulous, but neither will save you time or make your experience any better. You need to take action.
If you have an onboarding questionnaire already, revisit it, and see if you can drill down on some important details with conditional logic. Read our help article here if you need some extra help.
If you don’t have an onboarding questionnaire … make one! Create a 17hats Questionnaire for one of your services. Keep the questions simple and only ask between five and ten questions so you don’t overwhelm your client. Once you create it, just send to one of your clients and see how it helps your experience. From there you can make changes and keep improving your onboarding experience.