Your prospect said YES! They are ready to work with you. You’ve successfully turned a lead into a prospect, and that prospect is now a new client. Woo-hoo!
So, what’s next? Now that the customer is excited to work with you and is ready to sign on the dotted line, how do you get them on board and well-positioned to become a loyal, long-term client?
Do you have in place a process to welcome him to your travel business? After you’ve booked his trip, do you have a way to manage how you communicate with him, to make the most of your time, and to get the most from this new relationship? If you don’t, or if you think your existing process could be improved, coming across this article is, indeed, a lucky find!
What is Client Onboarding?
Client onboarding refers to the practice of welcoming every new client into your travel agency.
It’s possible that this is not the first time this particular person has come across your agency. After all, he’s just agreed to work with you so, to an extent, he is already familiar with you and some aspects of your business. But, since he hasn’t worked with you before, there’s more he’ll need to know about how you operate and how your services work. Likewise, there’s more that you, as his advisor, need to learn about him.
Now is the time to begin building your travel agent/client relationship for the long haul. You must build rapport, answer questions, and clarify how you and them will work together toward the same goal—a remarkable travel experience!
Your onboarding process includes everything that should take place after your lead-generation process is completed, beginning even before you start working with a new client and continuing throughout the entire booking process.
Depending on the processes you already have in place or choose to implement during onboarding, it is likely that the new client will:
• Accept your proposal.
• Sign the contract: travel services agreement, client terms and conditions, or planning fee agreement.
• Pay the deposit.
However, if that’s the extent of your onboarding process, you are missing steps that will significantly enhance the client benefits you provide, greatly increase the client’s lifetime value to you, improve your profits, and make your life easier.
Who Needs a Client Onboarding Process?
Remember, travel advisors are in the service industry. All service-based businesses and their clients benefit when there is a clear and definitive process for onboarding. In fact, the quality of your onboarding process ultimately not only facilitates a successful trip, but also plays an important role in your ability to achieve and sustain straightforward and satisfying, long-term client relationships. When you put a solid onboarding process in place, you are starting out on the right foot and taking the first step toward establishing deep and lasting relationships with new clients!
Why is a Client Onboarding Process Beneficial to Your Travel Agency?
• A clear and well-executed process for onboarding new clients provides several key benefits to your business.
• It helps you grow and scale your travel business.
• It ensures the clients quickly learn how you and your business work, so you and your staff won’t have to answer the same questions again and again, and constantly assure them that you are on top of things.
• It allows you to repeatedly reinforce your terms and conditions.
• It builds client confidence and helps eliminate confusion, which saves time for you.
• It keeps you from spreading yourself too thinly.
• It maintains consistency by providing a blueprint for other travel advisors and virtual assistants within your agency to follow.
NOTE: As an agency owner, you are pulled in a million different directions. Sure, you have some of your own ways of doing things, but wouldn’t it be great to have a clear process you can hand over quickly to your new independent subagents or virtual assistants? Training staff and contractors who ask for your help is time-consuming. When you establish and put into place well-documented processes and protocols, new team members can get up to speed quicker, and you are freed up to spend your time on money-making activities.
How Does an Effective Onboarding Process Build Client Relationships?
An effective onboarding process defines responsibilities and sets expectations. And not only does it reinforce your clients’ decision to work with you, but it also clarifies what you’re going to do for them, how you’re going to do it, and when they can expect milestones. So that you can deliver what your clients have signed on for, the process facilitates obtaining data from the clients. It’s critical that they accept accountability for their part and take responsibility for meeting your deadlines and responding to your requests for information in a timely manner. Remember that your clients may never have worked with someone providing travel services before. And even if they have, your processes might be different. So, covering all the bases as you explain the process will help create a comfortable professional relationship with no surprises.
It helps you understand your clients’ needs. Perhaps you already use tried-and-true ways of working. However, implementing a comprehensive onboarding process will help your clients truly understand how you work and exactly what you need from them. This builds their trust in you, by ensuring they understand you’ve got their back and are dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. It also provides an opportunity for you to grow your understanding of who they are, and clarifies what they want to achieve. This plays a significant role in your ability to deliver exactly what they want and need.
It helps you retain more clients. The last thing you want is for a brand-new client to walk away from you. Instead, you want your clients to stay with you on a long-term basis. In fact, research shows that retaining a client is much more cost-effective than gaining a new one. Having an excellent onboarding process ensures you can focus on making your clients happy from the word go, so they’ll stay with you for as long as they need your services.
Client Onboarding—The Process
The ideal client onboarding process is one that works for your agency and allows your clients to seamlessly settle into a positive and fulfilling business relationship with you. It’s also a process that you will repeatedly use with every single new client you take on.
Once you’ve come up with an initial draft of your onboarding process, test it out and tweak it accordingly. Do this a few times until you have what works for you and your agency. Then, convert that to a set of steps that you can replicate for every client you’ll ever have. Think about it: Devoting ample time and effort to developing the right process now will save you countless hours of work and frustration in the future.
If you offer different types of services for specific groups of clients, such as cruise-lovers or FITs, you may need to create more than one onboarding process.
There’s no hard and fast rule that states your client onboarding process should be written. But it will help, especially if you want to scale your business. It also will help ensure you don’t miss any steps and the process is the best and most effective it can be.
Having clear documentation that explains exactly how you onboard new clients into your agency means that you can create a consistent customer experience, regardless of who in your business handles the process. Also, over time, you will be able to alter or amend the process to ensure it stays effective and relevant. This will guarantee that your onboarding activities are successful, true to your brand, and representative of the type of service you want to provide and be known for.
What are the Benefits of Automating the Client Onboarding Process?
• Having an automated onboarding process benefits agencies of any size in multiple ways, by:
• Creating a systematic workflow.
• Alleviating the need to recall information from memory.
• Saving you time. (The more steps you automate, the less time it takes for you or your staff to carry out the required tasks.)
• Increasing productivity, so you can focus on your money-making activities.
• Helping you create consistency in your customer experience. (Automated processes are the same for every client. Once you have a set of steps that you’re happy with, you can deliver the same smooth experience to all your clients in the future.)
• Reducing the margin for error and the omission of information. (Because automated processes are standardized, individual steps take place without manual intervention and the possibility of mistakes that could cost you a client; i.e., missing key steps, not meeting deadlines, etc. As a result of fewer errors, both the customer experience and outcome for your agency will be better!)
What Do You Need to Create an Onboarding Process?
• Legal contracts and travel agency disclaimers.
• Travel agency forms.
• Scripts that can be used with and without automation.
• Checklists to make sure you aren’t missing a step.
• Reminders for you and your clients.
• Tools for staying in touch with your clients.
• Customer relationship management (CRM) software.
• E-sign capability through your CRM or an e-sign program.
• Email automation, whether through your CRM, your GMAIL or Outlook, or another tech tool such as Dubsado, Monday.com, AirTable, or similar.
Client Onboarding—Evaluate & Enhance Your Process
Stress can be a red flag that something is not working well in your onboarding process. Think about the entire process flow and list any areas that cause you stress. (NOTE: Flow suggests that, ideally, there should be a lack of stress!) Fine-tune those areas to improve your process and thereby eliminate the accompanying stress.
If you are not sure whether your process is working, Travel Industry Solutions offers an entire Client Onboarding training for its Gold and higher members, including a self-assessment guide, customer-facing documents, checklists, and on-demand video training. This training is built on the processes and procedures I used to grow my agency to $8 million in revenue in just two years, and now it’s available to travel advisors everywhere.