Monday was Columbus Day, a holiday focused on exploration and discovery. Like the outset of any journey, exploration and discovery are important parts of a direct marketing agency relationship. At the beginning of such an engagement, client onboarding, and more specifically the discovery process, sets the tone for the health and well-being of the business relationship.
Onboarding at its simplest is the process of both parties discovering the other’s work style and exchanging information in order to work together efficiently and effectively. To be successful both parties need to be actively engaged in the effort. Just as Columbus didn’t know much about the world he was sailing into, when it comes to onboarding a new client relationship, much is still unknown and yet to be discovered.
Sure — you’ve no doubt gotten to know this new client over coffee, meetings and too many phone calls to count. Not to mention the initial painstaking RFP process that HAD to have uncovered all of the necessary information to onboard that new customer, right? Well, not necessarily. Even though the chances are pretty good that various elements of the process were touched on throughout the “getting to know each other” phase, the reality is there’s a myriad of details that require further discovery in order to resolve the “we didn’t know what we didn’t know” Catch-22 conundrum.
It would be naive to think that one size fits all when it comes to the discovery phase of onboarding a new client. However, IWCO Direct has developed systematic and repeatable processes that aid in defining all of the necessary information needed for a successful engagement. Here are a few key steps that can help the waters remain calm as we set out on our voyage together:
Setting and agreeing upon expectations
From the beginning we establish expectations of each other, so there are no “surprises” about who owns which part of the engagement: What to expect, the overall process, turnarounds, revisions, scope creep, commitment levels, our role, the client’s role, next steps, etc. Addressing these areas from the “get go” will reduce any potential future misinterpretations or conflicts. We assign outstanding items by functional area so it’s evident which areas will be relied upon for which answers.
Systems and processes
At IWCO Direct we continually fine tune our systems and processes to create and ensure a consistent onboarding experience for all new clients. Our comprehensive direct marketing onboarding questionnaire covers all aspects of the business relationship, from data exchange and processing to service-level agreements and everything in-between. These consistent and repeatable best practices set the foundation for efficiency and efficacy.
Consider client nuances and idiosyncrasies
Of course, no two relationships are alike. While the client onboarding process must remain disciplined at its core, it must be fluid enough to proactively spot and adjust to any nuances without becoming rigid. After all, everyone knows the devil is in the details. And it’s the details that are needed in order to drill down and discover what we don’t know and what we need to know.
Refine and refine some more
Onboarding is not something you set up and forget about. It’s continual learning that’s always evolving. As in any relationship, it’s important to regularly assess and address those areas that can be enhanced and improved upon.
IWCO Direct onboards many clients annually, and we learn from each and every experience. We’re always looking to probe further and immerse ourselves into our clients’ business. By being prepared from the start, and setting the course for the new relationship, we can set sail on a successful journey now and in the years ahead.
If you want to know more about IWCO Direct’s client onboarding and integration process, contact me.
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