Bookkeeper’s Guide to Onboarding New Clients

Tim Sines

If client onboarding is a journey, you're the dependable guide. It's your job to navigate your client from start to finish. Ultimately, your job is done when your client succeeds, but that’s a long way down the road. For now, your focus should be on laying a solid foundation, setting clear expectations, and building a relationship based on trust and mutual understanding.

But how?

In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of client onboarding. We’ll share actionable tips you can use to ensure that every new client feels valued, understood, and excited about the journey ahead with your firm. Let’s get started.

Get To Know Your Client

Starting the client onboarding process is like beginning a new adventure. For accounting firms, this adventure starts with really getting to know your new clients. Effective client onboarding goes beyond numbers and data. To successfully onboard your client, you must know their story, and their goals, and then set a path together that leads to their success.

Why Understanding Your Client Is Key

To understand your client's business inside and out, you’ll need to do more than just tick a few boxes in your bookkeeping client onboarding checklist. Approach onboarding like you’re partnering with your client for your mutual success. And of course, their success is your success.

Start by understanding the nuances of your client’s business model, financial goals, and challenges. This way, you can create an onboarding plan that aligns perfectly with their unique needs.

Challenge the way you think of onboarding. It’s not exclusively about getting the client to understand how you do business. It’s also about identifying their needs and adapting your approach accordingly. At the end of your client onboarding, you should know the essentials of their industry, be able to anticipate the hurdles they might face, and prepare solutions that steer them toward their objectives.

Why Understanding Your Client Is Key

Streamline the Onboarding Process

While onboarding is one of the most important processes you’ll do, it should never compromise your firm’s efficiency. Fortunately, you can onboard clients without sacrificing your team's productivity, the quality of your services, or the personal touch that sets your firm apart. With the right strategies and tools in place, onboarding can be a seamless, efficient process that enhances client satisfaction and reinforces the value of your firm.

Streamlining your onboarding process is crucial for maintaining workflow efficiency and ensuring your clients feel valued from the get-go. By refining each step, you minimize confusion, maximize resource utilization, and show your clients that you respect their time and business. We’ll include tips on how to create your welcome kit below, but first, here are 10 tips to streamline your client onboarding process:

1. Automate Where Possible

Use your workflow software to automate repetitive tasks like data entry, document requests, and initial client communications. This ensures accuracy and frees up your team to focus on more client-specific needs.

Would you like a step-by-step guide to onboarding your clients?

Download this free resource now: The Ultimate Onboarding Guide for Accountants

2. Develop a Pre-Onboarding Client Questionnaire

Send a pre-onboarding questionnaire to gather basic information about your new client's business model, financial history, and expectations. This helps you tailor the onboarding session to address their specific needs right from the start.

Remember that the goal isn’t simply to ask generic questions. Focus on asking the right questions. From understanding their financial statements to getting a glimpse into their future aspirations, your new bookkeeping client checklist should be in-depth and never perfunctory. Getting to know your client is exciting. They’re not just data on a page. They have real-life aspirations.

In addition to your questions about their business and hopes for the future, also ask about their past experiences with accounting firms. This should include any expectations they may have for this new working relationship.

3. Create Customizable Bookkeeping Client Checklists

Develop a customizable bookkeeping client onboarding checklist that can be adapted for different types of clients. To save time in the future, create one standard bookkeeping onboarding checklist template for each customer persona. You can then customize the checklist further based on what you already know of the client. This ensures that all necessary steps are covered without overwhelming the client with irrelevant details.

4. Clear Communication Plan

Establish a clear communication plan with set intervals for updates and check-ins.

The rhythm of communication in any client relationship can vary, and finding the right beat is crucial. During the onboarding phase, establish a communication protocol that aligns with your client's comfort and your team's capacity. Whether it's through scheduled calls, emails, or an integrated feature in your accounting practice and workflow management software, ensure that this protocol respects both parties' time and preferences.

Build a working relationship that values clarity, responsiveness, and mutual respect. Respect your client's preference for communication frequency and channels. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your client always feels prioritized.

5. Client Accessible Portal

Implement a client portal where your clients can easily access their financial statements, reports, and any other relevant documents. This promotes transparency and keeps all important information in one accessible place.

6. Educate Your Clients

Take time during the onboarding to educate your clients about how your workflow software and processes work. This empowers them and can reduce future confusion and unnecessary communication.

7. Set Realistic Expectations

Be clear about what your services include and the timelines for deliverables. Setting realistic expectations early on prevents misunderstandings and builds trust.

Setting clear expectations is the cornerstone of any thriving client relationship, especially in bookkeeping and accounting. Also remember that while you teach your new clients what they should expect from your services, it's equally pivotal to understand and respect what your client expects from you.

Always lead with transparency. Use your accounting client onboarding checklist as a starting point to delineate the scope of your services, the timelines, and the nuanced ways your firm elevates its experience. Be candid about what your team can deliver, and use this opportunity to highlight how your services address specific needs and pain points.

Remember, setting clear expectations is not a one-off task. It's an ongoing commitment. As your partnership evolves, revisit and realign these expectations regularly to ensure that the service you're providing continues to resonate with what your client expects from this relationship.

8. Establish a Feedback Loop

Integrate a feedback loop into your onboarding process. This allows you to gather insights into your client's onboarding experience and make necessary adjustments to improve your process continually.

9. Review and Refine Regularly

Onboarding is not a set-and-forget process. Regularly review your onboarding steps, checklists, and client feedback to refine and optimize the process continually.

By implementing these tips, you can ensure that your onboarding process is not just a procedure, but a strategic, client-focused journey that sets the stage for a successful and lasting partnership.

10. Check In During the Onboarding Process

Managing the onboarding process requires careful attention, ongoing communication, and a thorough understanding of the steps involved. Although a well-prepared welcome kit and introductory emails lay the groundwork, it's the consistent, thoughtful follow-ups that truly guide your client relationships toward success.

Make it a point to check in regularly with your new clients. These interactions show that you're not just invested in their financial success but also in the relationship you're building together.

Set up a communication schedule that respects both your and your client's time. Whether it's weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, ensure that these check-ins are not just routine calls but productive conversations where real value is exchanged. Use these opportunities to clarify doubts, provide updates, and reinforce that your team is always within reach.

Also, welcome feedback throughout the onboarding process. Encourage your clients to share their thoughts, experiences, and suggestions regularly. Make it clear that their input is not just welcome – it's invaluable. Use structured feedback forms or casual conversations to gather insights. Then act. Show your clients that their feedback is being heard and implemented. It's this adaptive approach that transforms good services into great experiences.

Check In During the Onboarding Process

Create a Welcome Kit

A welcome kit or letter sets the tone for your relationship and is a pivotal tool in managing expectations. Here's how you can create a welcome kit or letter that effectively sets the stage for a successful partnership:

1. Start with a Warm Welcome - Begin with a personalized greeting that reflects your firm's culture and the value you place on each client relationship. Express your excitement about working with the client and your commitment to their success.

2. Introduce Your Firm - Provide a brief overview of your firm, including your history, mission, and the services you offer. Highlight your expertise and success stories to build credibility and trust.

3. Outline the Onboarding Process - Clearly describe the steps of the onboarding process. Include a timeline and what each step entails, ensuring your client knows what to expect and when to expect it. This transparency helps prevent confusion and sets a clear path forward.

4. Set Expectations for Communication - Detail your communication protocol, including how often the client can expect updates and the best way to contact your team. Emphasize your commitment to being accessible and responsive.

5. Provide a Checklist or Action Items - Include a checklist or list of action items for your client. This may include documents they need to provide, forms they need to fill out, or other tasks they need to complete. Make this list as clear and concise as possible to avoid overwhelming the client. Here’s where you may also include your engagement letter. By the way, Mango allows you to create an engagement letter in seconds. Learn more here. https://mangopractice.com/engagement-letter-software/

6. Introduce Key Team Members - Introduce the client to the key team members they'll be working with. Include brief bios and contact information to personalize the experience and make the client feel comfortable with your team.

7. Explain How to Use Your Client Portal - If you're using a client portal like Mango, provide clear instructions on how the client can access and use it. Consider including a brief tutorial or FAQ section to address common questions.

8. Set the Stage for Feedback - Encourage feedback by letting the client know their opinions and experiences are valued. Provide information on how they can provide feedback throughout the onboarding process and beyond.

9. Include a Warm Closing - End the welcome letter with a warm closing that reinforces your enthusiasm for the partnership. Express your confidence in a successful collaboration and extend your support for any questions or concerns they may have.

By thoughtfully crafting your welcome kit or letter, you provide a clear, comprehensive guide for your clients, setting the stage for a smooth onboarding process and a strong, successful partnership.

Final Thoughts

When onboarding new clients, every interaction is an opportunity to reinforce trust, commitment, and the shared vision of success. Make every touchpoint count, and watch as your client relationships transform into partnerships that stand the test of time and tide.

But remember, the right tools can turn a good onboarding experience into an exceptional one. Our software, Mango Practice Management, is designed to make this journey seamless, efficient, and incredibly intuitive. With Mango as your partner, you will be able to onboard your clients into a new era of accounting and bookkeeping excellence.

Eager to see how Mango can transform your client onboarding experience? Sign up for a free demo today and take the first step towards redefining your client relationships.

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