Customer success expert Lincoln Murphy once said, “The seeds of churn are planted early.” That’s why the new customer onboarding phase is so important. It sets the tone for the rest of your partnership.
Onboarding walks your new customers through the basic information they need to confidently integrate with your company. It’s a training period for you and the customer, but it can also serve to reinforce their decision to do business with you.
Converting 3PL leads into new customers is tricky enough. Once you do get a yes, it’s important to make their first experience with your warehouse a positive one.
We’re sharing our top 5 new customer onboarding best practices to start every new relationship on the right foot.
1. Step Into Your Customer’s Shoes
New warehouse customers fall into one of two buckets: new companies looking for their first 3PL partner or established companies transitioning to you from another 3PL.
Each type of customer may have vastly different expectations of you.
Seasoned companies are working off experience. They might have suffered a few blows from their last provider and are hoping to avoid making the same mistakes with you. Or maybe their old partner set a very high bar for service but just couldn’t serve them as they grew.
Newly formed companies might not know what to expect at all, making customer onboarding all the more essential. They likely have a million questions: When will the first loads arrive? Who should they contact with questions? How will you communicate with them on reorders or problems?
In either case, it’s best to approach your onboarding program from the customer’s perspective. Think about the things that would be important to you as a new 3PL customer, then work backward to ensure those things are properly addressed.
2. Turn Customer Onboarding into a Plan
According to Murphy’s blog, The Secret to Successful Customer Onboarding, a fully onboarded customer is two things:
First, they’re someone who experiences success with your company very early in the process.
And second, they’re someone who sees value and potential in the partnership.
To achieve both of these goals, onboarding can’t be left to chance. Successful onboarding is a process, one that takes hand-holding and leadership to give your customers the best start.
That’s why we recommend turning your onboarding practices into a full-blown program so that you don’t overlook any crucial detail.
For smaller warehouses, the customer onboarding plan might just be a simple checksheet that your account manager uses. They can go through all the information with the new customer via a phone call or video conference, for example.
For larger warehouses, you might offer onboarding email drip campaigns that link to video training.
Think of all the things it takes to get a new 3PL customer up and running in your warehouse. You likely have systems in place for invoicing, handling materials, receiving shipments, and so on. But it takes some work to get those systems working for every new customer.
Document all of the tasks that need to happen as well as other key information your customers want or need to know. Turn these tasks into a standardized process so that no matter who is in charge of onboarding, every customer gets the royal treatment.
The more organized you are on your side, the more confidence you build on their side.
3. Onboard Your Team
Your warehouse team is already very familiar with what goes on inside the warehouse walls. But integrating a new client is just as new to them as it is the customer.
Storing this information in a single system and making it accessible to teams can also help build better relationships with your clients. For example, Zenventory’s Inventory Management for 3PL allows you to store all of your clients in a single system, even across multiple warehouses.
While your team’s part in the customer onboarding process won’t be nearly as involved as that of the customer, it’s still an important part of aligning both sides of the relationship. They should know the customer’s biggest pain points, their expectations, and any other details that make this account unique.
4. Follow Up After the Onboarding Process
The customer onboarding process is just one small part of what will hopefully be a long, beneficial relationship. That’s why communication doesn’t end once your customer is fully integrated.
Communication remains an essential part of any 3PL partnership. Continue to reach out after the onboarding process to get the customer’s feedback, reinforce their experience, and any questions that went unaddressed.
Plus, follow-up is an excellent way to upsell your customers. Once they’ve mastered the basics of working with you and see what the experience is like, they might be more inclined to trust you with more of their fulfillment volume.
5. Continually Refine Your Customer Onboarding Experience
We said it once, but it bears repeating: customer onboarding is a process, not a one-and-done task. Continue to ask for feedback so that you can improve the onboarding experience for future customers.
This is very important considering that more than 90% of customers across industries think companies can do a better job of onboarding. What’s more, nearly 7 in 10 are willing to spend more money with companies with a good reputation for customer service.
It’s worth it to tweak and refine your onboarding process. Doing so can make a difference in churn rates, future account growth, and even whether a customer refers you to others.
At Zenventory, we believe that the best relationships are those where 3PLs and their customers can work together easily within a common platform and everyone is on the same page. Zenventory contributes to a better onboarding experience by offering your customers their own self-service dashboard within your system where they can stay informed about all their sales orders, inventory levels, and reports.
See the full Zenventory advantage when you schedule a demo.