You did it. Your marketing effort and fabulous sales pitch landed you a brand-new client.
You may think this is the most important moment in the client relationship, but the onboarding phase is what will determine the difference between long term success and an increased client churn rate.
The onboarding stage is vital for retaining new clients because it’s when they get to see you “walk the walk” from your initial sales pitch. That’s why you must work through the necessary administrative tasks quickly to move on to where your firm truly adds value. It’s also when the client gets connected with your team and it’s essential that people within your firm make a good first impression as well.
You might use manual bookkeeping systems or sophisticated accounting software to handle your client's accounts more swiftly. But just like bookkeeping, onboarding can be a tedious manual process or efficient streamlined practice.
It is critical to assure that when you’re ready to onboard new clients they get a proper checklist of documents that you need from them. This preparedness will show your professionalism and make the client satisfied that one of the most critical functions of their business is being handled by the right firm.
While welcoming a new client and conducting an onboarding process, you might find different documentation requirements for every client type. This article will provide you with a thorough onboarding checklist to keep you ahead of your game and get you everything you need to begin working with the new client.
A signed contract is the first document required for your working relationship to begin. The contract should include details on the scope of your arrangement, and a complete, signed copy should live in your client file, ready to reference if needed.
After your initial kickoff meeting with your new client, send a welcome email that clearly outlines next steps, expectations from their side, and a timeline for the initial scope of the project.
It’s time to start the information gathering process. You can include a questionnaire in your welcome email that provides them a checklist to get started. At the early stages of the engagement, the responsibility is theirs to ensure you have the documentation you need to be as effective as possible.
Simplify this process by giving them a foundation to stay organized through the information-sharing stage.
Whether your client used accounting software like Quickbooks, Xero, or had a manual accounting system, you will need access to these records. This will help you and your employees to gauge accurately the current condition of the accounting records even though you might have an idea of the condition through your previous discussions with the client.
The second item on your client checklist is access to their accounts, including credit cards, loan accounts, and banking accounts. You might also want the client to include information regarding the way these accounts are used. For example, the firm might be using a credit card account for transactions with suppliers and a banking account for receivables.
This also includes gaining access to the most recent account reconciliations to get a better view of the financial health of the company.
Handling inventory accounts is a complex process that includes supplier payments, wastage, handling expenses, accrued revenues, and order fulfillment ledgers. You will have to ask to allow you access to the firm's inventory records so you can get a better picture of how previous accounting systems handled inventory and now how your accounting firm should go about it.
The company's payment processes and the receivable process should have invoice proof. All of this documentation needs to be gathered to verify previous records and any invoices that need to be cleared in the next accounting cycle.
Information and documentation regarding prior year tax returns are another checklist item that is quite important for the employees to understand the accounting health of the company.
Whether it is a small business or a scaled one, financial reports for their operations are also important tools for an accounting firm. These statements include balance sheets, financial reporting at a portfolio level, income statements, and cash flow statements.
Once you have the documents your firm needs to begin work, it is important to set regular status update cadences and communicate these checkpoints to the client so they know what to expect. You may want to schedule meetings with the client to deliver reports on their accounting process. These meetings can be monthly, bimonthly, or weekly, depending on the capacity of your bookkeeping firm and the expectations of the client.
All of these elements of the checklist for onboarding new clients might seem overwhelming to you. However, once your employees get the hang of the onboarding process, it is a matter of time before you start to attract more clients because of your professional processes.
Now that you’re aware of the list of documents and other requirements for onboarding a client, let’s see how you can manage this checklist effectively when you have a plethora of potential and new clients joining frequently.
The most simple way to maintain your checklist is to write it down. You can keep separate files for each client which can help in cross-checking the documents you have received and the ones you are yet to receive.
However, if your employees are dealing with a multitude of clients, it is possible to have this list mixed up. Another drawback of this method of maintaining your checklist is that you cannot insert hyperlinks or connect them to other documents. As a result, it is quite possible that you miss out on important documents and ask the company for them again. This will reflect badly on your company's performance as an accounting firm.
- Simplistic method
- Separate physical files for each client which are safe from cyber-attacks.
- Possibility of human error when handling multiple clients
- High probability of missing out on documents which will reflect poorly on the firm's performance.
The second way you can keep a live record of documentation and update your checklist is using applications like Dropbox which can help share files quite easily. You can update the records on cloud-based spreadsheets and documents which other employees can also easily access.
However, it would not indicate the overdue tasks. Assigning work to other employees would require collaboration over email which might get missed and cause delays from your end. As a result, your accounting firm might be missing deadlines which is not a good performance indicator.
- Live document
- Applications like Dropbox can be used for sharing
- Does not include a deadline indication feature
- Assigning work to other employees would require collaborating by email rather than a platform.
Easy-to-use accounting software like Jetpack Workflow can simplify your accounting firm's operations to a great extent. Gathering information, assigning work to other employees and departments, and keeping track of deadlines through this software is easy.
Here are some benefits your accounting firm will get when signing up for Jetpack Workflow and using it for efficient client onboarding as well as subsequent tasks of managing their accounts:
- Easily import client information via a CSV file.
- Add projects, set recurrence, and duplicate – set up a custom recurrence and duplicate it across all clients. Created projects become searchable items.
- Add a task, recurrence, and duplicate.
- Easily search for projects, tasks, or clients within seconds.
- See what your staff is working on and view what is overdue, due today and due this week.
- Easily reassign work to another team member.
- Stay on task with the help of automated summary emails.
If you’re looking for simple templates for accounting and onboarding new clients, check out these free resources which include 32 workflow templates that can help you to stay atop your customer onboarding process and help you display your working professionalism.