Offboarding: Saying goodbye in the right wayby
When clients and staff leave, make sure it doesn’t get personal. Remaining professional, creating a good reputation and learning from the experience is crucial in the offboarding process.
Offboarding, often regarded as the last step in any professional relationship, holds a unique significance in shaping reputations and fostering lasting impressions. When approached with care, it becomes an opportunity to demonstrate professionalism, enhance the company's image and transform farewells into valuable learning experiences.
October’s episode of The Bookkeeping Show, hosted by AccountingWEB's Joanne Birtwistle and Zoe Whitman from the Six Figure Bookkeeper, delved into the intricate art of offboarding.
Featuring Nicola Fallon, managing director of Virtual Accounts and Taxes Ltd and Claire Bartlett, director of Accounting Excellence award winning firm Arden Bookkeeping, the panel discussed their own experiences and explored strategies on how to initiate an efficient, helpful and positive offboarding experience.
It’s never easy when a client or staff member decides to part ways or even if you have to let them go. “I remember the dread I felt when I lost my first client,” said Bartlett, adding “I actually cried.”
Throughout the episode, Bartlett and Fallon reflected on the ways they coped as well as how their processes and attitudes have evolved. They emphasised the importance of learning through experience which is especially true with the UK currently experiencing a skills shortage.
The panel focused on the positives as they looked at what they get out of the offboarding process. Maintaining good relationships with honest and open communication can set the stage for long-lasting connections and prove beneficial in the future.
Bartlett and Fallon came up with essential techniques to uphold a good reputation and a positive offboarding experience for both clients and staff.
1. Don’t take it personally
Both guests emphasised the importance of remembering you’re a business when clients and staff leave.
“You feel like it’s because you’ve done something wrong,” Bartlett said. However, regarding staff, she revealed, “Most of the time it's purely because we cannot compete with larger firms’ salaries and benefit packages.”
Fallon agreed, “It’s a business relationship, it’s not personal.”
2. Remain professional
Understanding that it’s not personal can help you maintain a professional relationship and reputation.
“Reputation is the most important thing,” Fallon said. She encouraged bookkeepers to remain positive because a negative experience can cause a ripple effect within the profession and damage your image.
The panel suggested dealing with offboarding in the same way as onboarding and understanding that both are equally as important as the other.
3. Be proactive
Bartlett emphasised that the main aim of the offboarding process is “always keeping it as smooth and stress-free as possible for the business owner”.
Sending over information before it has even been requested is one way this is achieved. Fallon agreed, indicating that the speed of the response is important.
Both Bartlett and Fallon use disengagement letters and clearance packs to make the process easy and efficient.
4. Have transparent and open conversations
When asked whether bookkeepers have a similar process to an exit interview, Bartlett and Fallon said that they both hold informal and relaxed conversations during the offboarding process.
“I have an informal chat/meeting to discuss the wins that we’ve had, that’s also important to leave that thought in their mind of all the things we’ve achieved,” said Barlett.
Reflecting with the client or staff member helps end the relationship on a positive note.
5. Learn from the experience
Whitman discussed how crucial it is to use the experience and feedback provided as a learning experience.
“Notice what didn’t work so well and how to add that into the process going forward,” said Whitman.
She advised that having regular communication as well as making the clients/staff feel valued throughout the relationship as a way to potentially prevent the need to offboard.
What’s in it for you?
Creating an efficient and helpful offboarding experience can provide future prospects. Recommendations are one benefit that can come out of this.
Fallon shared that she has had clients recommend her to other businesses. “It’s all about keeping those relationships and building a reputation and getting referrals, that is my end goal,” Fallon said.
Bartlett discussed that despite losing her biggest client, she remained professional and trained the recruit. When they later handed in their notice, the client came back to Bartlett and asked for support whilst a replacement was found.
“It’s so important to keep these channels of communication open and that relationship going,” said Bartlett.
Ensuring that clients feel comfortable about coming back is essential, which is why the offboarding process is so important. “Anybody that leaves you is now a prospect to come back so have that in mind when somebody is leaving,” Fallon concluded.
This episode of the Bookkeeping Show, brought to you in association with FreeAgent, is now available on demand.
Do you have any other strategies for a positive and efficient offboarding process? Let us know in the comments.