The Importance of Upleveling Your Client Onboarding Experience
By Mikaela Vargas
Whether or not you’re new to the pet industry, it’s pretty evident that the market seems saturated. There are many pet businesses out there offering similar services, some of which may even be local to your area.
Pet business owners are nearly always asking themselves how they can differentiate themselves and truly stand out among all the rest.
It’s not uncommon to have this worry. Are you even a business owner if you aren’t at least a little concerned with the competition? It’s even natural to tell yourself that you’re not going to really stand out and just hope for the best because it’s been working “okay” so far. But the truth is, not only is it possible for you to stand out from the rest, but you can also have the benefit of resonating with better-quality clients who are loyal, who spend more, and who want to work with your business and your business only.
How? By focusing on your onboarding and client user experience!
One of the biggest mistakes that pet business owners make when designing their websites is operating under the false impression that simply having a website and leaving it up will attract traffic and revenue. Not only that, but there are many different misconceptions about the impact your website has on your business.
In 2021, it goes without saying that almost everyone is online and trying to save time. That means user experience should be of the utmost priority. Here’s how you can start thinking about the onboarding and client user experience for your pet business:
Brainstorm and Write it Out
As with any project, you should spend time beforehand doing some brainstorming about your current process. And that doesn’t mean just sit down and think; it would help you to actually sit down with a pen and paper to go over everything. Write out a step-by-step play of what your current client onboarding process is like. Then, write out how many hours (truthfully) you’re spending doing client-facing administrative work: booking, scheduling, emailing and so on.
You wouldn’t be alone if you found that you were spending a lot more time than you thought you did. Trust me—the minutes add up!
Then, ask yourself what can be automated or outsourced. Are your processes outdated? What questions are clients repeatedly asking you? Where do they typically get stuck that requires you to have to come in manually to help? Are you keeping up with market trends when it comes to utilizing software?
Walk a Mile in Their Shoes
Pet business owners are clients and customers themselves of the companies they love, but it’s often hard to understand how your own business is truly being perceived. You always want your clients satisfied and happy, of course, but—aside from the occasional frustrated and rude client—most people don’t think it’s worth taking the time to offer feedback about what you’re doing, especially if they’re getting what they need at the end of the day.
So, be your own client and start from the very beginning (or perhaps ask a friend to do this for you so you can get an outsider’s perspective). Do your best to observe, objectively, what it’s like to arrive at your website and find the information you might need as a potential client, right down to using the contact form for more information. Is there a FAQ page? And, if so, what kind of information does it offer you?
More importantly, start from the beginning when it comes to the booking process. If you’re currently using software, sign yourself up and fill in all the required information every step of the way, including booking your service. Doing all of this will help you gain even more clarity on what your current onboarding process looks like. How long does the process take you? Did you get confused along the way? Where did you need more support?
Invest in Time-Savers
This is where that brainstorming activity will come in handy. So, you’ve added up the minutes and hours and realized you’re spending an exorbitant amount of time doing the back-and-forth tango with potential and current clients. It’s a hard pill to swallow but, face it—this is time that could be spent taking in even more clients.
Having a more streamlined and efficiently- run business means freeing up a ton of space and time. And having your business run like a well-oiled machine is not out of reach—even for super small pet businesses! Too often pet business owners fall into the trap of thinking that efficiency relies solely on more employees. But actually, the more cooks you have in the kitchen…well, you know the saying…things can get even messier.
Here are some time-savers to invest in:
1. Email Templates. It might seem like a nice touch to write out personalized emails each and every time, but you can still make your client communications personal without losing so much time. Email templates also ensure that nothing is missed or miscommunicated, and (bonus!), you’ll be more likely to secure clients when they see a professional and branded business email. All you have to do is pull in your template, customize a couple of words as necessary and hit send!
2. Automatic Call Schedulers. Rather than have a back-and-forth email exchange with potential clients to schedule that first, crucial phone conversation, consider using an automatic call scheduler. That way, clients will be booked to talk to you immediately, and you increase the chance that they’re going to follow through with that call. It also ensures that you’re not tending to other business or with another client when this prospective client calls you back. With call schedulers, you can set the times that you’re available so they don’t get missed and you’re not distracted.
3. Booking Software. This is a huge one because it is also one of the ways in which you will be keeping up with market trends and making sure your processes aren’t outdated. It’s probably one of the most important investments you’ll make for your business, and the number of benefits are truly outstanding. It’s professional, easy for both you and your clients, and will make you more money. Simple as that!
And while I know the pressure for software out there is intense (most professionals and industry experts will recommend it to any business owner), it’s for a good reason. I haven’t yet had a client unhappy or disappointed once it’s implemented. In fact, it’s typically the other way around. While they’re stressed with the amount of work upfront, they don’t realize the capacity it can handle, giving them the opportunity to work on other things in the business. It’s truly one of the best things you can do for your pet business.
Add Flair to Your Onboarding Process
Like you, people are trying to save time. They want a service that’s easy for them to get. That means that before they even get in touch with you, they’re on your website trying to figure out what your booking looks like and what the process will be for acquiring the services you offer.
Having a booking page on your website is the surefire way to make that kind of information accessible and easy to understand. It’s literally as simple as 1, 2, 3: having a page that lists out what will happen every step of the way. Potential clients will be able to see if your process works for them, and they’ll make a quick decision about whether they want to work with you.
Along with a booking page, you can offer a welcome packet or PDF that is a more detailed outline of the process and all the services you offer. Don’t just go over your process, but include commonly-asked questions, your prices according to service, how to use your booking software to get started, and add a personal touch by talking about yourself and what kind of business you’re running. Keep in mind that this isn’t just about saving time and securing clients, but it’s also about presenting your business as a professional, branded enterprise.
There is a lot to manage when running a pet business, but too many pet business owners overlook the client onboarding process because when they’re thinking about standing out, they’re trying to think big. Of course, it’s still important to think big; but it’s the little things like onboarding your clients that will make an enormous impact on your business and success in the future.
And, fun fact: by allowing your clients to take small steps before officially working with you, you’re following through on the Cialdini Commitment Concept.1 In essence, once they make even a super small commitment with you, say like scheduling a call or creating an account, they’ll be more likely to make bigger commitments to you in the future.
No matter what, though, you should always keep in mind that not every business is for everyone. Some people resonate strongly with other businesses and that is okay…in fact, that’s better for your business! By attracting only the right people who resonate with your process and what you offer, you’ll work with clients who value your expertise, don’t question your prices and will be more likely to stay brand loyal. That’s a business worth growing—and one you’ll be happier to build!
1. The Principle of Commitment and Behavioral Consistency. 2018. www.nngroup.com/articles/commitment-consistency-ux/
Mikaela Vargas is the founder of Pet Marketing Unleashed, a company focused on helping petpreneurs build optimized and stress-free pet businesses through web design, VIP Days, website & template shop, and education. She is all about creating systems and strategies that reduce stress and get pet businesses working while away from your desk or out with the dogs! Mikaela is also the host of the Facebook group, Unleashed Petpreneurs, a community filled with other pet industry entrepreneurs looking to upscale their marketing, processes, and websites with ease.