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Streamlining for Success: The Art of Client Filtering and Onboarding



Many accounting firm leaders consider business development and client service pricing as keys to sustainable growth. While these are certainly essential elements, it’s important not to overlook the role of client filtering and onboarding. 


These initial steps—which take place before we’ve spent any time working on the engagement—are more than just formalities. They’re critical strategies that determine the quality of client relationships. Something so important should have a formal process. 


The role of client filtering and onboarding 

Client filtering is the firm's first line of defense and opportunity. Having an effective client filtering process ensures: 


  • Resource optimization. The firm's valuable resources are dedicated to clients who best match its service offerings and expertise, ensuring a high return on investment. 

  • Risk management. Early identification of potential risks by vetting clients for financial stability and legal issues safeguards the firm's interests. 

  • Brand alignment. Selecting clients that resonate with the firm’s values and objectives strengthens its market position and fosters a cohesive brand identity. 


Once you’ve decided which clients you’ll work with, you need to get them onboarded into your firm to continue building the client relationship, delivering a stellar client experience, and collecting revenue. 


A well-orchestrated onboarding process delivers: 


  • Client satisfaction. Establishing a positive initial experience can significantly influence client retention and satisfaction. Clients like to know how they’re supposed to work with you, so don’t leave them guessing. 

  • Operational efficiency. Streamlining the integration of new clients into the firm’s systems allows for quicker service delivery and revenue generation. 

  • Clarity around expectations. Communicating your service agreements and client-facing helps manage client expectations, limit scope creep, and set a clear framework for the engagement. 


Best practices for client filtering and onboarding 

Creating a successful client filtering and onboarding process requires a framework you can repeat over and over again. So let’s review a few best practices to consider as you build or improve your processes. 


Develop clear criteria for client selection 

Clearly define selection criteria aligned with the firm's strategic goals and service capabilities. Make sure everyone in the firm understands (and follows) these criteria. In addition to identifying non-right-fit clients, your criteria should outline your ideal clients—those in your niche who are interested in having a collaborative relationship, value your services, and pay on time.  


A structured scoring system can help you objectively assess potential clients, promoting consistency in client selection. 


Leverage technology for efficiency 

Checklists are a good starting point, but technology can help you scale your processes as your firm grows. Employ CRM and software tools for streamlined risk assessments and data collection. 


Utilize digital onboarding platforms to collect data efficiently, process documents, communicate with clients and other team members, and integrate data across your firm’s technology ecosystem. 


Continuous communication and feedback 

Set communication standards and expectations from the outset. If you need clients to communicate or submit documents through a specific application or portal, provide training to help them use it. If you need clients to have information to you by a particular deadline, make sure they’re familiar with that requirement. 


Incorporate feedback mechanisms to refine the onboarding process based on client experiences. 


Training and development 

Ensure your team is trained on your onboarding processes, tools, and requirements. Cultivate a culture that values ongoing enhancement of the onboarding process, driven by staff insights and client feedback. 


Deliberate client filtering and onboarding processes are essential for firms building enduring, profitable client relationships. By refining your practices in these areas, you can optimize your operational efficiency and risk management and affirm your commitment to client satisfaction and trust. This strategic approach lays a solid foundation for mutual success. 

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