2 Big Mistakes in the Agency Client Onboarding Experience

By Jason Swenk on November 6, 2022

What is your client onboarding experience like? Is it seamless and easy? Do your clients feel important and seen? This is the first impression new clients experience with your agency and it might be the most important interaction. Today’s guest has been an agency owner for more than two decades and has adapted to the many changes in the industry. He shares how he has adapted to changes in the market, how he has an agile approach to project management and the most common mistakes in building the customer onboarding experience.

Michael LaVista is the founder and CEO of Caxy Interactive, a Chicago-based software and technology agency that helps companies unlock 4-5x growth by setting up new and efficient systems. Their expertise includes user-centered design, content management systems, e-commerce, mobile app development, and much more.

Michael is also the author of Superpowered, a book that goes over the seven leadership superpowers that technology executives can use to grow a more profitable organization.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The benefits of an agile approach to project management.
  • Ways to attract great agency talent.
  • Avoiding mistakes in new client onboarding.

Sponsors and Resources

Wix: Today’s episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out Wix.com/Partners to learn more and become a member of the community for free.


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Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host:  Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and bringing a new perspective to the show.

When it Comes to Agency Growth, Either Adapt or Die

Michael has been in the agency business since the “dot-com boom” in 1999 when his agency helped clients adapt to the arrival of this new tool. Back then, they believed all you needed was a great idea, then smack a “.com” on it, and you’d make a million dollars. “It was like the wild wild west,” he recalls.

Over the years, they’ve had to change their focus five or six times, from e-commerce to content management and more. Agency owners know you either evolve or die, so after their past focuses were commoditized to audiences they finally landed on offering tech solutions for business growth. They help companies whose current systems impede their growth. With their help, they unlock 4-5x growth. Over several decades in the business, they’ve amassed a remarkable client list, including Motorola and North Western University.

Roadmapping Growth By Updating Client Technology Systems

Michael’s agency creates a technology roadmap for profitable companies that want to grow but still run on spreadsheets and home-grown strategies that don’t scale. They re-engineer their clients’ businesses taking advantage of available technologies. As much as we’re all aware of the available tools, not many are implementing them from a digital transformation point of view.

They commonly run into companies with systems designed around how they worked at some point in the past. A company starts as a single store but as they grow to multiple locations it may have new challenges. So, instead of being based on an idea, these companies’ systems are based on things that can easily go wrong. What happens then? What Michael’s agency does is helps these businesses engineer a system that will help them grow and open up.

A common misconception about their agency is their work with a company changes everything and replace employees with technology. According to Michael, in all the years working with different companies, upgrading their systems has never resulted in massive layoffs. Moreover, commonly the person doing the mundane tasks eliminated by the new systems are the owners and executives.

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Benefits of Taking an Agile Approach to Project Management

In his career, Michael has learned the human mind is set up believing it knows step-by-step how something works.. The reality of course is that any big project has unforeseen complications. In these cases, you should be ready to adapt.

This is why he likes to use the agile approach to project management, meant to help teams deliver results with fewer headaches. In short, they lay out a general plan highlighting what they want to accomplish and they prepare for the fact that the “how” will likely change depending on circumstances. This allows them to deliver exactly what the client is paying for with the right priorities. Having a list of priorities ensures they always know what they should be focusing on in case the plan changes. For example, if you have prioritized ten goals you know number 10 is a good candidate to be modified.

For Michael, this is a good way to work transparently when it comes to what’s really happening at any time. It’s much better than letting the client believe the project will be finished by an exact day and time.

2 Big Mistakes in Your Agency Clients’ Onboarding Experiences

In his agency, Michael has seen thousands of customer onboarding experiences. Two big mistakes are:

  1. Making it all about the agency. Some companies build their customer onboarding experience by thinking only about what they need. They approach it with “Here are all the things we want” and “This is what we need you to do”.
    Instead, it should be mutual and, best case scenario it should be easy and seamless. Your customer onboarding is the first contact they’ll have with your process and it will leave an impression, so make it a good one. There may be a ton of stuff you need them to do, but do you really need all of it right away?
  2. Not thinking about the entire client experience. Set up success early on by looking at the whole picture. Consider the entire client journey from the moment they sign on. Look for ways to set them up for success by preparing them for the most common struggles. You should always be aware of the hurdles new clients struggle with and be proactive in helping avoid or solve those. Track the entire experience to really understand their pain points, where people get stuck, what they are nervous about, etc.

Developing Ways to Attract Great Talent

Michael admits his agency needs to work on their methods for recruiting. He’s not alone; agency owners can get so busy with the work they don’t focus enough on their own marketing. You should always be hiring and part of this is to constantly communicate your culture. In Michael’s case, the most difficult hire has been developers who know what they’re doing. His agency is now developing a strategy for creating media to market his agency’s approach to technology with a spotlight on the developers. This shows viewers who they are as a company, what they do, and attracts employees that are a good fit.

When it comes to internal processes, Caxy Interactive focuses on creating a great project management communication system. They’re empowering developers and trusting them to work without someone watching over their shoulders all the time. They focus on communicating what was going on, asking for input and ideas on a daily basis. The feedback is good and developers are positively surprised.

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