Onboarding interior design clients in 7 steps (a great guide for any service business owner)

How you design and execute your client experience is critical for the success of your business. The part about onboarding interior design clients is the most critical part of your project – regardless of what you sell.

Onboarding design clients in 7 steps TheAveneur.com
Onboarding design clients in 7 steps
  • what is client onboarding?
  • why is it crucial?
  • which types of businesses need an onboarding process?
  • how do I design my onboarding process?
  • when do I start designing my onboarding process?

Let’s dive in!

The definition of onboarding

Onboarding means that you start a client-vendor relationship. It comes directly after someone has decided to work with you or purchase from you. Regardless of what you sell – and to whom, there’s always a certain onboarding taking place.

  • If you have services, your onboarding process is more comprehensive than if you sell products.
  • If you sell to consumers, for example, through your e-commerce site, versus to businesses through your wholesale channels, the process will look different.
  • If you sell complex offers, your onboarding might require more steps and assets, than if you sell simple items.

Now, the first question is of course: what do you sell and to whom?

Once you have mapped that out, it’s time to design your onboarding, right?

Not so fast.

For your onboarding to be very successful, which also contributes to your whole client experience to be a success, or not so much… you need to identify this:

  • what are your boundaries, rules, and non-negotiables?
  • how does the onboarding happen today?

Boundaries and rules

What are boundaries? What rules do you need in your business? And, aren’t the client always right?

Your boundaries are a set of decisions that form how you create rules for your business. For example, you might have a rule that says you never take a client call on weekends.

Or, you might also have a rule that says that you are not available for questions through social media or text messages.

Or, you might decide that you are, in fact, not at all available for client projects because you are the owner and you don’t work directly with your clients, your team does that.

Whatever you decide, it’s your business and your life. Set the rules to align with what you want, and don’t want.

You also need to decide on your responsibilities. What are your responsibilities and what are NOT your responsibilities? For example, are you responsible to offer your service to people even if they can’t afford it? Or, do you decide that figuring out how to pay for the purchase is not your responsibility, it’s the clients (if they want to buy from you)…

All this needs to be stated in your client contract.

How does your onboarding happen today?

If you have had no clients yet, then this one is simple: it’s not happening. But, if you have had any clients, then investigating each process step in detail is what to need to do before you can design your signature onboarding process.

  • What happens the second they pay you?
  • What do you agree on?
  • What do they send to you?
  • What do you provide?

The 4 Elements of Client Onboarding

Below you can see the 4 elements of onboarding clients that most service professionals need to design and implement. If you sell products to retail partners, it looks somewhat similar. If you sell products to consumers, you probably don’t need to design all these elements.

The elements are:

  • Agreeing – you and your clients agree on the scope, timeline, money, and responsibilities.
  • Collecting – you collect lots of details and data about your project. Also, you collect payments and identify the key stakeholders.
  • Providing – you provide details about your business, your processes, your expertise, inspiration, and management structure.
  • Creating – you create the plan, manage expectations, and the structure for your deliveries.
The 4 Elements of Client Onboarding
The 4 Elements of Client Onboarding

Let’s (re)design your onboarding process

We have identified 7 steps in a proper onboarding process. The steps are:

  • alignment
  • agreement
  • payment
  • welcome
  • collection
  • plan
  • check
Onboarding interior design clients
Onboarding interior design clients in 7 steps.

What does alignment mean?

Alignment means that you are moving the clients from a successful sales process to starting a relationship. This requires certain activities to be sure that what they have purchased is what you plan to deliver, and of course, what you are preparing in the onboarding process is what they expect to get.

What Goes into agreement?

This step is about your contracts – what you actually put on paper to be able to deliver your value to your clients, who happily and with no issues will pay for the value they receive. Your agreement is individually designed to match your business and what kind of rules and SLA you have.

Nothing happens without a contract, right? Good!

How to collect payments

The payment part means that you collect the money your client has agreed to pay for the results they want. This could be a downpayment for your work, or a full payment for a part, or complete, project.

If you have designed your service to be delivered in parts, then they’d most likely pay for the first part. Nothing happens without a payment, right? Excellent!

Read: how to design an essential offer that sells easily

how to welcome a client in the right way

This is when you start the PROVIDE step: you provide things to your new client. By the way, this needs to happen at the moment they pay you, with no delays.

To do this, you need to have some automation in place: payment automation and delivery automation. This could be, for example, a CRM system that automatically sends the welcome package to your new clients. Either way, you need to acknowledge that you have just received their payment, and you and your team are excited to start working with them!

Your welcome package should have two parts: digital and physical.

What does collecting mean?

This is the step where you start collecting definitive details about your client, the project, and everything you need to have in place to be able to deliver an amazing project.

Tips for collection: collect everything in one go! In this way, you can get organized knowing that you have all the necessary data and information in one place.

Then you need to have an internal process for analyzing and storing the data and information. Also, you need to store all client data inside your client portal for easy access, both for you and your clients.

What happens in the planning part?

Now that you have all the necessary data and information, you have collected the payment, your client is excited because you have sent such an amazing welcome package, you and your team are on board with what’s going to happen, you know the timelines, budget, scope, who’s who at the client’s team, and who’s working in the project from your team… it’s all clear and in the contract: now it’s time to dive into planning!

  • You most likely have the kick-off call already scheduled in your calendar
  • Do you have your client binder ready?
  • Do you have created a project folder and everyone has a password?
  • Have your clients received all the important information about your processes and rules?

Bueno. You are ready to conduct your kick-off call with the clients!

What does checking mean?

I recommend you have an official onboarding check-in 30-60 days after you have initiated the project. Do this regardless of how much you have been working with the clients. The aim of this is to learn what your clients felt at the beginning of the process, and how they find your service so far.

Go to this call with an open mind for collecting valuable feedback that you can use to improve your processes!

FAQ – Onboarding interior design clients in 7 steps

Onboarding interior design clients

How do you design and execute your client experience?

Designing and executing an outstanding client experience is vital for business success, particularly in sectors like interior design. The client onboarding phase is especially crucial, as it sets the foundation for the entire project and client relationship.

Onboarding interior design clients

Which types of businesses need an onboarding process?

Virtually all businesses benefit from a structured onboarding process, especially service-oriented firms like interior design agencies, consultancy firms, and B2B service providers. Retail and e-commerce can have more streamlined onboarding but still need to ensure customer clarity and satisfaction from the outset.

Onboarding interior design clients

How do I design my onboarding process?

  1. Understand Your Offering and Audience: Analyze what you sell and to whom to tailor your onboarding accordingly.
  2. Establish Boundaries and Rules: Define what is acceptable for your business operations and what isn’t.
  3. Assess Current Onboarding (if any): Review any existing processes and identify areas for improvement.
  4. Develop a Structured Approach: Design a step-by-step onboarding plan that can include elements like alignment, agreement, payment, welcome, collection, plan, and check.

Here’s a summary of the onboarding process:

  1. Alignment: Transition smoothly from sales to service, ensuring client expectations match your delivery plans.
  2. Agreement: Establish clear contractual terms that detail the scope of work, deliverables, and obligations.
  3. Payment: Secure financial commitment to formalize the client engagement.
  4. Welcome: Provide a comprehensive welcome pack that acknowledges their payment and sets the stage for collaboration.
  5. Collection: Gather all necessary information and details to execute the project efficiently.
  6. Plan: Use collected data and agreed terms to plan out the project thoroughly.
  7. Check: Conduct a review meeting to assess client satisfaction and gather feedback for process improvement.
Onboarding interior design clients

When do I start designing my onboarding process?

Begin designing your onboarding process before you onboard your first client. If you’re already in business but lack a formal onboarding strategy, start developing one as soon as possible to enhance client experiences and operational efficiency.

The 4 elements of a premium client onboarding every design firm needs to define 1
Onboarding Interior Design Clients In 7 Steps

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