Client On-Boarding Optimisation
Quickly streamline this critical business process
Successfully on-boarding new clients is crucial to your firm's success.
It sets the first impression with your clients, and it ensures compliance. Not only that, but the faster it's done, the quicker you can get paid. Yet for many professional services firms such as accountancies and law firms, the on-boarding process is a bit of a mess.
There are five common problems affecting client on-boarding processes...
Let's be honest, Excel can be a fantastic business tool. It's so easy to open up a new spreadsheet, throw in a few formulae, and hey presto you've got yourself a great new business tool!
Unfortunately, Excel often creates as many problems as it does solutions. For example, how many times have you see a formula that's not been copied all the way to the bottom of a table as people have added more rows? Or a column has a defined date format set yet instead someone's written the month by name?
And those formulae that you've created - well, you probably know how quickly they can become unwieldy. It's easy to forget how your formulae work, or even what data they're referencing. And once you start interlinking with other spreadsheets, you're on a road to nowhere fast!
Often, the very person who created the spreadsheet - the person that your critical business process is reliant upon - has left the firm altogether.
Your on-boarding process is likely to have multiple steps that need to be accomplished. And some of those steps will be mandatory, like identity verification. You might be very structured, having your processes neatly documented in a process flow diagram. But what happens when you have multiple clients going through the on-boarding process at the same time, as inevitably happens?
This is where things can come unstuck. When new clients respond at different times, interrupting your process flow. Not only that, but they provide the wrong data. Or they put it in the wrong fields. Or they don't provide anything at all!
If your follow-up process requires progress to be reviewed in, let's say, an alphabetical order, it can take a long time to work through updating records. With frequent interruption of the person working through this process, it becomes a real nightmare to keep on top of. And, alphabetical order is seldom in line with business or client priorities!
After all the trouble you may have gone to in documenting your process, it's not uncommon to find it just isn't being followed by everyone in the same way.
You know how this goes - your top fee earner, Jane, tends to capture key data when out meeting her clients, but then always fails to transfer the data from her laptop to the network. Or Steve, in Accounts, who always enters data into the billing system first, yet the process clearly states data must go into the practice management system first. Or Reshma, a fee earner's PA, who always misses out the same key data field!
The more manual steps in your process, the more chances for errors to occur.
The quicker you can get clients on-boarded, the better. But you can't be slapdash about it. This is critical client data and it must be accurate. Imagine, then, just how difficult this is when your systems don't talk to each other! For example, your CRM isn't integrated with your practice management system, and your practice management system isn't integrated with your billing system.
How is this problem tackled?
Usually by requiring people to manually rekey data into multiple systems. Not only is this tedious but it's hugely error-prone. And, if your systems aren't integrated, such errors don't usually get automatically flagged. They only become apparent when a problem occurs down the line, such as getting invoices out on time and to the right email addresses.
It's not just internally where inefficient on-boarding is causing you problems. The client experience is often woeful.
For example, you expect your clients to fill out a form in Word that is emailed to them as an attachment. The document never seems to render the same on different computers or different versions of Microsoft Office.
Then there are those clients who choose to print it out, fill the form out in their own illegible handwriting, then return a wonky scanned copy for you to decipher. Forget trying to use OCR software - you've got no chance!
Perhaps you're a little more advanced and you direct clients to complete online forms. This sounds like a great improvement, until you realise that you're getting your clients to repeatedly provide the same information since you need it to be entered into multiple places and systems. An infuriating process for clients given how little time and patience people have in their lives in today's world. What normally happens when you infuriate your clients is that they just give up, leaving you with incomplete information that you've then got to go and chase, thereby annoying the client further still!
Why efficient and effective client on-boarding matters
The challenge of efficiently on-boarding clients can be a tough nut to crack. This often means that the problem gets repeatedly kicked into the long grass, never being properly resolved.
So what happens instead? Well...
In the short-term, undesirable working practices start to emerge. People arbitrarily decide to work at risk, which can be contrary to compliance, and represents commercial and reputational risk. It can also leave your firm with egg on its face when work is started for a client that subsequently fails to be approved.
At the same time, slow and cumbersome processes mean you miss the opportune moments to on-sell and up-sell other services to new clients.
In the worst case scenario, you lose clients because of perceived poor service.
In the medium-term what often happens is that you double-down on the problem. You increase head-count, and thus costs, to administer the complex process to try and avoid a poor reputation for customer service.
As your firm grows, and the workload increases, your on-boarding process just ends up taking longer and costing ever more money.
The long-term impacts can be pretty painful.
Stagnated growth. Poor market reputation. Lower than average profits.
Tackling this issue in the long-term usually requires a much greater investment too. Bigger and better systems are required - for example, needing to swap out multiple systems at the same time to solve the issue. This means greater training costs and time.
What starts as a minor irritation can truly become a significant business problem.
There are three ways to tackle this problem, as follows:
Recruiting more people can seem like the easy answer, but you have to ask yourself, is it really?
The recruitment process is costly. Adding more staff to non-fee earning admin tasks is costly. And it doesn't really address the problem.
A targeted solution focuses on implementing a tailored solution to specifically address the problem of inefficient client on-boarding.
One approach to this problem is to take a holistic view. To solve this problem - and as many others as you can think of - you can implement a BIG system to bring about a solution. Typically, this will be some form of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Practice Management Solution (PMS). These types of system are great, and professional services firms are well served by having them in place. The downside is that to get them in place take a lot of time and equally large amount of money.
In response to client demands, at CRM Insights we've developed a targeted solution to help professional services firms improve their client on-boarding. Using a combination of consulting expertise and software products, we're confident that we can help you to optimise your client on-boarding.
Here's the 5-step approach that we follow:
In recognising that efficient client on-boarding can have an outsized impact to your firm, our systemised approach aims to deliver improvements within a 3-week timeframe, for a fixed price.
If you want help to optimise your client on-boarding click the button below to have a free consultation with one of our experts.