We all know that how you finish something is just as important as how you start it, especially when it comes to your service provider business. We’ve talked about the onboarding process here on the blog, and today’s article is about the other bookend of the customer experience; the offboarding process.
The offboarding process is the end of a project timeline, where you are at your client or going separate ways, or extending that time if you decide to move forward with another offer. For a coach, this could look like a call at the end of a 90-day group program for a service provider. This could be after you finish writing code to the website, and you’re now handing off the deliverables.
How you end a relationship with your client can be just as important as how you start, as there are so many opportunities here to leave a lasting impression that leads back to more leads for your business! When we can craft an amazing client offboarding experience (and not just a quick see ya email) you can reap the benefits that are easily missed by service providers.
BENEFITS OF A GREAT OFFBOARDING PROCESS:
There are three major benefits I have seen through having a great offboarding process; testimonials, referrals, and retention.
Testimonials don’t need an introduction. Having social proof showcasing the results you’ve helped bring about is a great way to show your skills as a service provider. The offboarding process is a great opportunity to ask for these testimonials, as opposed to waiting three months when you need them.
Client retention is the fancy term for how long a client stays with your business. So an example: A personal training client signs up for a 3-month engagement, then re-signs for another 12 months. You have retained that client for 15 months. Client retention actually represents almost all of my business’s revenue, as my clients tend to re-sign with me through my offboarding process. Retention is great because it is so much easier to work with a client who you know, as opposed to trying to acquire a new client.
Referrals, or word of mouth, as we all know can be one of the best forms of lead generation (and flattery). While some clients can refer when given the opportunity, taking the initiative to give them a clear pathway to direct potential clients your way. We’ll get into how later in this article!
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR OFFBOARDING
Okay, so we’ve talked a little bit about the benefits of the process, now let’s talk about what should be included in the offboarding package. I’ll be breaking this down from what I personally use in my own offboarding process, which has brought me extended contracts, great referrals, and awesome testimonials.
Who doesn’t love seeing a highlight reel of all they’ve accomplished? Having a summary of the accomplishments that your client has done is a great way to:
Remind them of all they have done (depending on how long they have been working with you, it can be hard to remember all their wins!)
Have them be in a reflective mood. So if they want to leave a testimonial, they remember all the good stuff that you’ve done. And also, it’s a great way for them to be able to document just the growth that they’ve had since working with you.
We want our clients offboarding to be a CELEBRATION, not a melancholy parting.
This is the “formal” part of the formal parting. We want to give a clear pathway of what your client can expect as they move on from this current service. How long will they have access to you post offboarding? Can they still message you with questions? When should they have all revision requests in?
Give them a clear understanding of when the relationship is completed, what that will look like, so they are clear on what’s to come and when they are officially transitioned off of this service’s client roster.
If you have any additional resources in your business arsenal that you know would be really helpful to your client, here is the place to add them! I like to include some tech tutorial videos (as system software can be hard to set up), blogs, and any other helpful items I can think of to help further my client’s progress after they have moved on. I think these are a great way to keep former clients in your ecosystem, even if they aren’t financially investing in you at this time.
Files + Downloads
Unlike resources, files and downloads are all the materials you and your client worked on, and are providing in this hand-off. This is a great place to consolidate all the calls, notes, final files, and more in one place, as opposed to across several emails or messages. As a service provider, if you have specific final copies of files you need to send, they can be added here. For coaches, this could be your calls and notes. It makes life much easier for your client, and makes sure you have sent everything to them!
TESTIMONIAL + FEEDBACK REQUEST
Y’all, it is so important that you ask for the testimonial while your client remembers what you did with them. Don’t ask for testimonials when you need them. Ask for them at the end of the offboarding process so that you’re able to get a really good, detailed testimonial that you can use when the time is right. You can ask that very simply through a testimonial form. Asking questions like these are great to pull out a powerful statement:
What was your life like prior to working with me?
How is life now after working with me?
Would you recommend us to a friend and why?
What was the highlight of your time with us?
You can also ask for feedback as well. I like to collect internal feedback on the service as well, just to help me be a better provider for the next client. If there is anything that can be done better or a new idea or concert that could make my service better, I want to know!
So if you like being able to get word of mouth out and want to make this a recurring process, add your former clients to a referral program. Now you can just create a referral request, but I have personally found creating a specific program where you can consistently let your former clients know what offers you have available, so they know if they have potential leads they can refer.
As a bonus, you can make it an affiliate program where you compensate your referrers for every lead that signs up with you. I personally like doing this as a thank you for passing my name along to someone who otherwise would not have found me! This can be cash like mine, or I’ve had clients send Amazon or Starbucks gift cards. Regardless, having a referral program also helps add to your marketing efforts when it comes to lead generation.
This is the part where you If you have any additional offers, especially for those who have already worked with you before. This is a great opportunity for you to be able to remind them if you haven’t already told them about it already have these upsell options so that they can get additional support. You can make it super simple. If you are a coach, it can be additional month-to-month support. It could be a private community with other alumni of your service. For service providers, it could be one of your adjacent services.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN CREATING YOUR OWN OFFBOARDING PROCESS?
It’s important to understand that like with any part of the client experience, your offboarding process is fully customizable based on how many touchpoints you are wanting. All these components can be done in a video, email, offboarding packet or a series of calls. What matters is what makes sense in fully supporting your client as they end (or extend) their relationship with you.
Here are some great questions to ask to figure out your own offboarding process:
What does my client need in order to feel fully prepared to continually succeed post our work together?
How can I open a dialogue for my offboarded clients to give me clear feedback?
How do I want my clients to feel at our offboarding? How can I set that up now?
I also like to think of my favorite client offboarding experiences when I was the client and think about how I can create a similar experience for my clients. Or avoid mistakes done by others who had a less than stellar onboarding process.
If you’re looking at all the above and thinking, “I don’t have the time to make all that!” know that it’s more than likely that you already are doing most of them, and haven’t placed them into a streamlined process yet.
What can help save you time here is templatizing the process, so you aren’t recreating everything for each client who offboards. I created my Mocha templates for this very reason. I took everything that I knew that a service provider, creative, or consultant needed in order to create a really bomb offboarding process, and created 30 customizable templates for you to implement quickly into your business. You can check those out below.
Offboarding is a lesser-known, but powerful process that leads to not only great benefits, but leaves you on a high note with you and your former client. However, it only works when the rest of your client experience is just as powerful. Check out my post on customer experience to be able to understand fully what the end-to-end experience is, the benefits of it, and how you can build your own luxury client experience.
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I live in Melbourne, Australia, but I’m from the States (Washingtonian through and through). I’m a cat-mom, wifey, and in love with a good workflow (it gives me that warm, fuzzy, Christmastime feeling). My goal is to help female entrepreneurs stop having to choose between creativity and productivity to build a successful, sustainable business.