Is it Time to Off-Board a Client?

How to create a clear transition from client to former client

Back Web Only Mar 31, 2016 By Kelly Azevedo

When your company closes a new client, the last thing you might be thinking is how you’re going to eventually close out the contract, too. But not matter what you sell, every business needs this departure system in place if you’re going to have clean transitions and decrease stress.

Freelancers and independent service providers know the pain of not having an off-boarding process in place all too well: A client is “done” with the work and has paid in full, but may continue to show up in your inbox and in voicemail with additional requests. Creating a clear transition from client to former client will indicate when the work ends and allow you to continue with a new contract or offer.

Here’s how to make it happen:

Identify the endpoint: For each contract you sign, it should be clear when the work is done, such as when the website is published, a report is delivered or hours are used.

Not sure how to distinguish when a client is officially done? Then it’s time to revamp your offers and contract to outline clear objectives or timelines. In some cases, an end date may be necessary for those clients who drag things out for ages; having a deadline can prompt procrastinators to get in gear.

Communicate with your client: Once you’re clear on when the work is complete, communicate those details with your client. In the same way you have a welcome process, you can create an off-boarding process to formalize the transition.

Related: Without a clear onboarding process, you risk losing new business

You’ll want to share the next steps with the client, transfer files or deliver the finished product and get it all in writing. It may seem redundant and unnecessary now, but in four months when that client is complaining that you “never delivered on the final project” it’ll be nice to have a digital trail.

Offer Follow-up services or products: If your client has been great and isn’t a problem child, then it may be appropriate to offer them an upsell — ongoing support or other products they may need. After all the work that goes into closing a new client, extending the relationship is not only smart but profitable as well.

You’ll want to have an idea of your client funnel (how they progress from one offer to another) and begin planting seeds early. One of my former clients forgot this step and on the final day of a group program blurted out an upsell offer that had not been discussed, planned or prepared, which left the team scrambling to get things together. Last-minute selling can feel desperate or pushy. So as you’re working with a client, suggest ideas for continuing work, such as “When summer arrives you should check out our line of baby hats,” or “Now that we’re close to finalizing your portfolio investments, we should start thinking about if you qualify for a lower mortgage rate to get some cash back in your pocket each month.”  

Related: Is your client a problem child?

The end is not goodbye: Even if you don’t have a service or product for the client, you’ll want to keep in touch. It’s an ideal time to ask for a testimonial of your work together, create a case study of your client’s transformation or inquire about referrals. Ending a contract isn’t the end of a relationship, so an acknowledgement is usually appropriate whether with a handwritten card to show your appreciation or a small gift. Just as you’d keep in touch with leads as they’re deciding whether to work with your company, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with former clients as they can be the best leads of all.

We’re all focused on a thousand things at once in our businesses and it would be easy to let current clients stay in cruise mode while we focus on new sales, marketing or upcoming tax deadlines. But closing out current clients with integrity, clarity and consistency will improve your reputation and bottom line.