3 steps to onboard new customers at your boutique business

business communication Aug 14, 2020

We often talk about onboarding our new employees, but have you ever considered using a similar approach to new customers?

Having a system to onboard new customers can increase your business's retention rate, repeat business and referrals. In this blog, let's look at how three steps will improve customer engagement, especially at a boutique type business.

If we consider something that we've tried for the first time, such as getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, there are many things to familiarize ourselves with. The position of the controls, adjustment of the seat, and then the sensitivity of the brakes and gas pedal. But the more we get behind the wheel, the more that the feeling of anxiousness subsides. We feel relaxed and know our way around.

This is the same experience when someone visits your store. At first they don't know what to expect, or where to locate things, but after the second or third time visiting they feel more comfortable and more familiar. 

Although that first experience can be a complete fail if the customer feels any sort of confusion or frustration—the customer will feel anxious and then walk out. But with a good onboarding system the customer can have a positive experience and feel more confident on the next visit.

The more unique your business is, the greater the benefit of an onboarding system. Take for instance a drug store, many people are familiar with how it's set up and the products it carries. The signs are in each isle and product is easy to find on their own. When your store is more unique and offers a boutique type environment, the customer needs more guidance to get them familiar and comfortable in your store. If you find that people enter your store, look around and then leave, this is a sign that an onboarding system will make a difference.

The area at the front of your store where people come in, is called the landing strip. They come through the door at a similar pace that they approached your store, and after a few steps in, they stop and assess what's before them. This is the perfect space to apply your onboarding and create a connection with the customer. 

I've been in many stores where this space wasn't utilized and ended up doing the loop in the store and walking out and onto the next store. To build confidence we look for something familiar, and if we don't find it we leave. There has to be some process to slow the customer down to have them shop instead of scan. 

To help customers become more familiar and comfortable with your store so they'll return and refer, here's some steps to improve the connection on their first visit:

  1. When the customer comes in, ask if it's their first time visiting your store. This is something they can easily answer, and easy questions make us feel comfortable. This is more effective than the vague question, "can I help you find something?" At this point the customer is gathering a lot of information and will smile and habitually respond with "just looking," or "no thank you." 
  2. Show your appreciation that they chose your store, and then asked how they discovered it. This is another easy question, it will create interest in the client, and help them relax into the moment. It also tells us what's working to draw people to your store. If it works keep doing it!  
  3. After some easy questions, the customer can open their mind to listening. At this time provide a road map to help them navigate the store. But only point out up to three things with a bit of a story around it, such as, new product just shipped in from Italy, your flagship product and why, and how to get help if they're looking for something in particular. Anything more than three will be too much information and starts to sound like you're selling, not helping.

The key to good onboarding is to get the customer familiar and comfortable with your store. People love comfort and lean to that experience far more than trying a new experience. 

Thanks for reading my blog! Please leave a comment or share this with others who would find it useful. And by the way, if you haven't already, I'd love to keep in touch! So please subscribe and I'll be sure to send you some more valuable info a couple of times a month. Have a good one!


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Christine Hourd,  Associate Certified Coach and owner of The Success Model, works with clients to help them reach their goals more rapidly. By improving how they communicate with themselves and others they more easily remove the roadblocks that impede success in their personal and professional life. Book an appointment to discuss how success coaching can benefit you. 

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