Published April 12, 2023
Onboarding new client service team members is an essential process that requires a well-planned and structured approach. It is a crucial step in ensuring that new team members are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and tools to provide excellent service to clients. They’re the people who learn clients’ needs, train users on your products, and keep clients engaged with your business. Successfully onboarding these employees is important; here are some steps you can follow to get this right:
It’s important that your client service teams have a strong foundation in customer service skills. Client skills should be high on the list of qualities you look for in recruiting them, but there are no guarantees that you’ll find people who already meet your standards. Any CS team onboarding program has to cover the basics.
Effective communication is the starting point for all client service. Employees need to know how to communicate clearly and empathetically, how to listen well, and how to identify needs that the client themselves may be struggling to express. This applies across all the communication channels you’re working with: calm call handling is as important as strong writing skills.
This training should include how to handle common client inquiries and who to go to with the less common ones. When onboarding new team members, checklists of what to cover in a call and flowcharts guiding employees through common issues are invaluable in allowing new recruits to help your clients from day one.
The basics include how to use client service software. This starts with the fundamentals, checking each recruit’s experience with your choice of CRM software. It also covers the tools specific to your team’s client engagement and client retention efforts, such as account management SaaS, which the new employee may not have used before.
Be patient. What’s obvious to you may not be to them.
When you’re onboarding a team member, it’s tempting to jump straight from the practical tools to the products and services. But those products exist in a context that they need to understand. That context is your company. Provide an overview of the company's mission and values, as well as an introduction to the team and their roles. This step is essential because it sets the tone for what the company stands for, its goals, and its expectations. This information can be shared through company presentations, handbooks, and meetings. This will make new team members feel more invested in your company and help them shape the client journey, making relationships with clients run more smoothly. In onboarding employees, culture often gets overlooked, because it seems nebulous and far from the practicalities of CS work. But it flavours everything about your company, and shouldn’t be ignored.
Your client service teams need to be knowledgeable about your products so that they can provide the best possible service. Without that knowledge, they can’t discuss how you’ll meet clients’ needs, train those clients, troubleshoot problems, or deliver exceptional service to keep those clients happy.
Ensure you provide them with adequate training on your products and services so that they can be as helpful as possible. This doesn’t mean forcing them to absorb every detail straight away, especially when there’s a lot to take in. When onboarding, the team’s efforts are better spent becoming familiar with the broad outlines so that new members know how the pieces fit together. If they have to turn to cue cards or a database for details in the early days, that’s fine, as long as they know where to look.
If learning the details of products and services becomes dull and unproductive, then you can mix things up by introducing some client management coaching. Roleplaying client calls about the products they’ve just discussed will improve team members’ ability to deal with your clients while solidifying their knowledge of products.
When onboarding new employees, it’s important to set clear expectations from the start.
Client service employees need to understand what’s expected of them in terms of customer service and performance in their role. How should they engage with clients? What processes do they need to complete? How should emails and call transcripts be archived? What are your standards for client meetings?
Throughout the onboarding process, be clear on what you consider to be good performance, what lifts it up to great, and what would trigger a performance review. Providing clear expectations for performance and goals will help team members understand what is expected of them and what they need to do to succeed in their role. Clear evaluations of performance are important to help team members understand how they are doing and to identify areas where they may need improvement. This information can be shared through goal setting sessions, performance reviews, and regular feedback.
Once you’ve set expectations hold your client service team accountable for meeting them and provide them with the right level of support. Schedule regular check-ins to provide feedback and address any questions or concerns. This step is essential because it allows team members to receive feedback on their performance and to address any questions or concerns they may have. Regular check-ins can also help team members identify areas where they need improvement and provide an opportunity to address them. This can be achieved through regular one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and feedback surveys.
A well-planned and structured approach to onboarding can help to increase employee retention, improve team morale, and reduce the time and cost associated with training new team members.