How to create a customer onboarding system for fashion buyers
Today’s post is a big nugget that you can use in your business immediately.
Let's assume after blood, sweat, and tears - finally you won a new customer, congrats! Well done!
And you know what frustrated customers do?
They go somewhere else.
They probably out-listed another vendor to work with you.
Not placing bulk orders is one thing.
Out-listing someone off completely is another.
What this really means is:
Even though they don't know you yet, they have high hopes.
They're convinced with YOU it’s the beginning of a new profitable business.
They're excited – you are excited.
There is something magical about it: You proudly look at the new signed order sheet on your desk.
Time travel story
It may not have been the most terrible failure in my business life - but it is one of the most memorable.
A while ago, when I first started out, I had no structure for an onboarding process for clients in place.
A successful fashion chain store we were trying to approach for several months (almost years!) placed their first order with us.
And this with two departments at one stroke.
What a start...
We got all their manuals – and we did our best to follow the customer guidelines.
Which turned out to be very different from what was written in the manual and what the buyer expected us to do.
And on top of this, both departments had completely different expectations.
Both of their procedures differed from each other.
We created a full mess of misunderstandings.
The process took much longer than we planned.
We lost time with re-sending samples.
Our new customers started to think we just don’t get it.
Their tone became tougher.
They might have even started to doubt their decision to place orders with us.
Delays in both departments.
Several styles ended up in airfreight – not hard to imagine - what shall I tell you?
Could we have avoided this?
The first orders matter so much. We completely spoilt it.
First orders matter so much, and we completely spoilt it
I learned it the hard way. This mistake really cost me in the past.
I understood – time for planning and structuring the whole customer onboarding system.
It became clear to me:
The need to map out an onboarding process to create confidence.
- Achieve satisfaction
- Reduce questions and confusion
- Work efficiently
And of course, develop a great relationship with our customers.
First orders are far too important.
Above all, I wanted to make them feel that starting to work with us was a smart decision.
Let’s switch again to our first picture
So you have your first signed order on your desk. How do you show that you are worth your buyer's trust?
Questions you might be wondering:
How can you
- make sure you understand what they expect?
- create transparency for the customer?
- arrange that everybody has the info they need to navigate through your company?
- help my client to experience the value of our cooperation before even getting started?
Create your onboarding system
How your new business partner feels about the start with you sets the tone for the cooperation.
With your professional onboarding, your customer understands even before you get started:
“My orders will run smoothly.”
This will put them at ease.
They stay positive, confident, and cooperative.
Buyers want to feel good about their decision.
There’s no better time like the beginning of cooperation to make sure you’re on the same page.
First thing: When you start out with a new client you will get a bunch of documents.
Purchase conditions, vendor agreements, quality insurances, supplier manuals, label book, packing-shipping instruction, technical requirements, material standards..., – lots of stuff to study and to go through.
They can be pretty looong and sometimes even strange. As the garment exporter, you have to go deeper.
- Do you have supporting documents you can hand out to your clients?
- What could you create or provide to help them?
- Are there any important matters that your clients need to know about your process?
- Who is their contact partner for which department/brand/ field?
This is your chance
There are a couple of things you can do.
To help you do that, let’s look at a few options
A good opportunity for you to guide them, right?
Since all is new clear roles and responsibilities.
Make sure that your customer is introduced to everyone in the company who handles any aspect of their account.
Or who they may need to contact further.
Set up a Zoom session to introduce colleagues.
Use these tools to provide extra real person interaction for certain types of contact. How can they reach them?
Their contact details. Email, mobile, and skype.
Do you have a file in place that the buyer can hand over to his/her entire team and other departments?
Like import-department or other departments which are integrated into the full process?
The goal is here to give them easy-to-use help to understand your company and navigate straight to a person who can help them with their matters.
Your clients will appreciate your professionalism and clarity.
And they’ll engage as well.
What happens is that after my approach they did the same.
They mapped out a sheet with an overall picture of how to navigate with them.
I don't mean the official documents (that I talked about above like supplier manual, contracts and stuff) – but the very practical shortcuts to know.
What shape or form
You can develop just a file to send out or you can have a section on your website “Welcome! Onboarding for new clients.” Or: "Here’s how to work with us".
Or you can create a short video.
Make sure to understand:
How about setting up a meeting or Zoom call to get clarity for any questions?
This reduces back and forth communication that can become a time suck.
It's easier to ask questions at the beginning.
Further along, it can become quite embarrassing asking questions you might feel you should have known already.
We are fascinated by logic because we are not logical persons
Yes, we are humans.
We want to work with humans.
It’s not only the process - but also to get to know each other and to understand company cultural values.
Special goals or simply different unique language and do’s and don’ts.
With these, I mean the informal sense of organization norms.
For example, in some companies speaking very casually in communication is appropriate – whereas in other clients' companies this is completely out of tolerance.
Get a feeling for their culture, too.
So, here’s the last tip for you today
In my sales philosophy, a sale isn’t really a sale until the client gets the results they were promised.
First-order: Surprise them and do something amazing.
Demonstrate that you’re serious about them getting results from your cooperation.
Covering only the basics will not excite them.
In all ways think about what value you can add extra.
In a Nutshell
Customer onboarding in total is to set expectations, standards, and workflow.
To help you meet all requirements and make things clear right from the start.
The goal is here to find a successful start together.
Onboarding isn’t just to avoid problems.
It’s an awesome way to show your expertise and value for the client in the early stages of your cooperation. The stage when you can use momentum for the relationship moving forward.
If you can get your new buyers head-nodding at this stage, the all-important transaction will be much easier and more fluid down the road.
Happy exporting y’all.
Make a great start.
- Do you have an onboarding process that is working out? Tell us!
- Or do you think of establishing one and lots of ideas popped up in your head already while reading it?
Would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Stay well and appreciate you spending your time with me here.
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