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We all know how important it is to start on the right foot with clients, as first impressions count, right?! Absolutely, and therefore creating a top-notch client onboarding process is often at the front of people’s minds, particularly as we are so excited to get that new client or customer! But what about the end of the relationship? We have the money, the client has their beautiful product or their service is delivered successfully, that’s it, right? Well yes, but how you exit the relationship is actually almost as important as how you enter it and providing your client with a killer offboarding experience (rather than just a quick email saying thank you and goodbye) can reap a lot of not-so-obvious benefits for you both!
What is Client Offboarding?
Offboarding a client is the process by which the working relationship between you and your client comes to a close.
This happens when you have delivered the project you were contracted to do, or when a retainer client serves you notice, or vice versa.
Benefits of a Killer Client Offboarding Process
It can be really easy to ignore this element of the client experience, but when done effectively, can convert a happy client into an absolute raving fan. It says a lot when you continue to go above and beyond after you cashed that last cheque and technically have delivered everything detailed in that contract and believe me, clients notice it.
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1. Clearly defines the end point of a project and your services
If you’ve read any of my other posts on my blog you know I am a stickler for stand-out levels of communication. Failing to communicate effectively is what I believe to be the biggest cause of a less-than-stellar working relationship with your client and as such, there are certain points where over-communication is just the way to go. This is one of those points. If you don’t clearly define where the services paid for end, then you will find inevitable drift (particularly if you strive to go above and beyond for your clients), for example a request to provide a team training on how to use that system you created, or troubleshooting three months after your project was implemented.
2. Succinctly reminds the client of the work you have done together, the goals achieved and the impact had
This is a good method of circling back to what you originally committed to delivering and demonstrating you’ve done the work they paid for. Bonus points for adding in the results or impact, as it is an opportunity to remind your client just how much value you have delivered for them.
3. A final opportunity to overdeliver
This will help ensure that your final interactions with your clients are absolutely stand-out in the best way possible. One way to do this is to share some useful resources or FAQs in your offboarding pack (more on this below) to help them troubleshoot without you.
4. Ensures the client has everything they need
You and your client can easily get lost in a sea of admin and document handover, so creating some structure for this ensures nothing falls through the net. Providing checklists with the person responsible assigned to each one provides clarity and encourages action, as well as preventing a drip of emails in coming weeks asking for copies of a particular document.
5. Reminds them of additional services you could provide for them in the future
Client retention is a lot cheaper than going out there and finding more clients, so giving examples of other ways you could work together will increase the chances of them coming back to you, just perhaps in a different capacity. You are also in the position where you have gained some valuable insight into how you could add value to their business in order to shape some custom packages you know are a great fit for them.
6. Provides you with testimonials and feedback
Testimonials are an essential element of the sales process, no matter what your selling style is, as it provides that ever valuable social proof. Asking for constructive feedback (I do this in the same form) in a private forum is also AMAZING for spotting any holes in your process or service. Working without a boss, believe it or not, does actually have its downsides, as it can be difficult to evaluate your own work.
7. Turns your client into a passive lead generation source
I believe referrals to be the most valuable and effective way of gaining new clients. First of all, when you have primed your client to actively refer you (hint, most of this active part of this process will take place during offboarding), you don’t have to spend as much of your time marketing! There is also no better way to sell your services than have a happy client rave about you to someone else and I generally find the people coming to me are also a great fit for my business as well.
How to Create a Killer Off-Boarding Process Step-by-Step
This is the process I follow in my business whenever it is time to offboard a client. I generally follow an 80% systemisation and automation to 20% personalisation split in my core business processes, however, this one is actually more like 50/50; I put a lot of value in ensuring my client’s end our working relationship with the best possible view of me and my business as firstly, my worst business fear is disappointing a client and secondly, I know how much it benefits me in the long run!
If you have delivered a project for your client, check-in with them to see if there is anything else they need, ensure that you have delivered everything required, check that they are happy, whether they need any further support etc. This helps you work out everything that needs to be done before you can part ways.
If you are on a retainer, clarify on what exactly needs to get done before you part ways.
2. Send your Client Offboarding Packet & Final Invoice
Similar to an onboarding pack, your offboarding one is a way to clearly communicate to your client what happens now and what to expect. It is also a vessel to position their thinking and remind them of how great you are and what you’ve done for them!
Include a succinct summary of the work you have done and the impact, be this in the form of metrics or before and after examples. It is also an opportunity to be proactive by including some helpful resources and FAQs to help them after your working relationship has ended.
You also need to go over the admin that needs to be done by both you are your client e.g. downloading your shared Google Drive folder, revoking your access to their systems etc.
This is also the perfect place to ask for a testimonial, give them details of your referral scheme and share with them alternative ways to work with you in the future.
It is important to send your final invoice alongside it in the unlikely event you have someone that won’t pay. I personally wait for final payment before beginning the offboarding process my end (e.g. giving them final access and handing over all of their documents).
3. Send your Client a Thank-You Card and/or Gift
This is optional, but I think a really nice touch and is another way to overdeliver for your client. I personally hand select all of the gifts I send my clients and add in a branded and personalised thank-you card. I see the extra time spent as an opportunity to further demonstrate how much I have enjoyed working with them and my ability to actively listen, but I have a bit of a knack for gift giving and really love researching gifts!
You can also get a gift box type service that is a lot quicker and easier, with the only potential downside being you can’t add a personalised touch. If you’re short on time though, this will still do the trick.
4. Share & Promote Your Client
I will say that you should always ask to do this first. Most clients will love it, but sometimes they like to keep their back-end operations a bit more under wraps (particularly if they are high profile) and if you have delivered a big project e.g. a course creation or website redesign, your client is very likely to have planned a launch or big reveal and you most definitely do not want to steal their thunder!
Let your client know you would love to promote and share their work with your audience and ask if they are comfortable with you doing that, when is appropriate and if there are any other guidelines they would like you to adhere to.
If you have a testimonial from your client, share this alongside showing what you did for them to attract more potential clients!
5. Stay in Touch
This is often the most overlooked element of offboarding and where the hidden gold can be!
Two to three months after we have ceased our working relationship, I like to reach out and check if they are happy with everything and did they have any final questions. Has the product or service you delivered to them had the desired result?
I also offer at this point to feature them and promote their services in my email newsletter or as a case study in my blog post. There’s no exchange of payment here, it is just a way to triple check that you are providing a high-quality product or service (sometimes checking in later down the line reveals issues you weren’t previously aware of) and nurture the relationship.
Referrals from previous clients can be a great (and in my opinion, the best) source of future clients so it really makes sense for everyone to keep supporting them and maintain the relationship.
That’s A Wrap! Creating a Standout Client Offboarding Experience
Putting your client at the heart of everything you do is such a critical part of building a high quality and sustainable business and over time helps builds your reputation and can reduce the amount of time you spend marketing.
Creating amazing client management processes and systems is part of my service offering, so if you’re looking for some help with yours, click here to apply and see where I can help!