January 8, 2024
10 min read

Client Onboarding: A Step-by-Step Guide with Checklist, Templates, and Examples

Elevate your business with effective client onboarding. Explore strategies and a comprehensive client onboarding checklist with examples and templates.
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Onboarding clients is the first step towards a successful long business journey. “First impression is the best impression,” is a quote to live by when it comes to this. A survey by Deloitte found that companies with effective client onboarding processes experienced a 63% increase in customer lifetime value compared to those without. That’s why personalization is key when it comes to getting onboard new clients, especially for small businesses. 

But what exactly does personalization refer to? It simply means making products, services, experiences, and communications to the specific preferences, needs, and characteristics of your client. Customers will feel valued and desire to help you more in the long term if you follow personalization for each of your clients. 

Intrigued by this process? Want to implement this in your business? Let’s delve deep into the reasons why tailored onboarding clients is crucial and how to implement it for your company in this article. 

What is a client Onboarding process? 

A "client onboarding process" involves welcoming new customers and establishing productive relationships. Setting the tone for future interactions and helping build trust is crucial in a client-business relationship. The client onboarding process ensures clients get the full benefit of the product, reducing churn and helping them get the most out of it.

Make sure your onboarding is as good as your lead generation. You want to make a good first impression. With onboarding new clients, you can keep scope creep at bay, create a positive client experience that reinforces your brand, and increase profitability.

Why is Client Onboarding Important?

An effective client onboarding process goes beyond following up on the client's satisfaction after their purchase. Many customers use it as a deciding factor before signing a contract. Did you know that over 90% of customers feel the companies they interact with could do better with onboarding and another 63% take the onboarding process into consideration before making a purchase decision?

Apart from these, here's why client onboarding process is important:

1. Establish Clear Expectations at the Outset

Onboarding is essential for setting clear expectations and avoiding potential problems in the future. Cooperation at this early stage provides an opportunity to clarify expectations, such as expected outcomes, deliverables, deadlines, and payment terms. This will make new client onboarding simpler in the long term. 

In this crucial step, leverage the capabilities of Cone's free Proposal and Billing Software to:
a. Define precise project outcomes.
b. Establish transparent payment timelines.
c. Clearly outline terms and conditions.
d. Facilitate seamless e-signatures.

2. Get to Know Your Clients' Needs

To provide your clients with the best possible service, it is important to understand their objectives and goals, so as much information as possible must be gathered during the onboarding process. This step can help you and your client avoid future issues or concerns.

3. Cut Down on Customer Churn

Getting new clients can be tempting in the service industry, but it is essential not to ignore your old ones. In a separate survey, experts discovered that businesses can achieve a 67% reduction in customer churn by prioritizing customer onboarding.

Retaining current clients is equally important as acquiring new ones, particularly since a new client's acquisition can cost up to five times more than maintaining an existing one. Client onboarding that is efficient, thoughtful, and detail-oriented sets your organization apart from its competitors.

4. Maintain Compliance With Regulations

Depending on your industry, you must integrate legal compliance into the client onboarding process differently. Before you can begin working with your client, you may need them to sign a contract and provide some legal documents. Onboarding new clients legally is essential, as it mitigates the risk of noncompliance or reputational damage.

What are the formalities of client onboarding?

Welcome and Orientation

Set expectations for your new customers and introduce them to your company. While onboarding new clients, you can send them an email or phone call, a personalized video message, or a welcome packet that contains company information, product details, and company policies.

Product/Service Training

Your new customers should be provided with the information and skills they require to use your product or service successfully. The options available are online tutorials, webinars, and in-person training courses.

Execution of the Product/Service

Assist your new customer in setting up their account, configuring their settings, and getting started with your product or service. Help them  get started quickly by providing step-by-step instructions, checklists, or other helpful resources during the onboarding process.

Feedback and Follow-Up

Make sure your new customers are satisfied with your product or service by checking in with them and taking their feedback. In addition to sending surveys, scheduling follow-up calls, or gathering customer feedback, you may also provide a feedback form.

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Personalize The Experience of Onboarding Clients

What is the correct order of onboarding clients? Check out our suggestion:

Step 1: Gathering Information About Each Client Using Questionnaire

The first client onboarding process steps start with gathering information about each client is crucial because it lays the foundation for tailoring your services and interactions to meet their specific needs and preferences. There are various ways to do this, but one of the most successful and easiest ways to gather information is by sending questionnaires directly to the clients. Having a client onboarding template or an onboarding questionnaire can help collect essential client information, such as contact details, preferences, and specific needs. This helps the organization tailor its services to meet the client's expectations.

To craft the ideal questionnaire, let's start by creating a comprehensive client profile. 

  • Begin by creating a detailed profile (such as their name, contact details, and business or personal background)  for each client. 
  • Create a list of questions that cover key aspects that are relevant to onboarding clients. 
  • Ask clients about their goals, objectives, and expectations regarding your products or services.
  • Inquire about the challenges or pain points they are currently facing. This information can help you address specific issues and offer solutions during the onboarding process.
  • If applicable, ask about the client's prior experience with similar products or services. This insight allows you to adapt your approach based on their level of familiarity and expertise.
  • Share the questionnaire form with clients through a secure and convenient method. You could send it via email, provide access through an online portal, or chat about it during a face-to-face meeting.

Give your clients a reasonable timeframe to complete and return the form.  If needed, gently nudge them with a reminder. The goal here is to establish a solid foundation by gathering the right information to make the questionnaire user-friendly and easy to understand. You can rely on software to help you consolidate client information from several of them using the forms feature of Cone’s Business management software or using something like Typeform.


But what questions to ask? Below is a sample Client onboarding Questionnaire:

Basic Client Information:

  • Can you provide a brief overview of your business?
  • Is there any resource material we can read to know more about your business?
  • Who is the primary contact person for our project?
  • What is there designation/ authority?
  • What is the preferred mode of communication for the primary contact?

Marketing Information:

  • What’s your company’s vision and mission?
  • What’s your company’s USP?
  • Who are your biggest competitors?
  • What sets your competition apart?
  • Who is your primary target audience?

Project-Specific Information:

  • What’s your goal for this project?
  • What is the deadline for this project?
  • What metrics will you use to measure this project’s success?
  • What is your budget?
  • Have you done a project like this before? What were the takeaways?

Legal Information:

  • Are there any legal guidelines with respect to this project?
  • Can we collaborate with your legal team? Who is the point of contact?
  • Are there any specifications with regard to privacy and security?

Additional Information:

  • Do you have any additional comments?
  • Are there any concerns you have about the project or our collaboration?
  • What do you hope to achieve with this collaboration?
  • Why did you choose to work with us?

Please note above are just sample questions. You can include or remove questions based on what your client onboarding process is like. 

Step 2: Have a Contract in Place so that Expectations Are Set

A contract is essentially an agreement you establish with your client. Since it is legally enforceable and lays out all the ground rules and expectations for your business partnership, thus keeping everyone on the same page. Why is a contract so important, though? That's because it's your safety net. It stops assumptions from turning into confusion. This aids the customer in visualizing the journey and establishes their expectations for the upcoming weeks or months. 

A contract you create while onboarding clients should touch all these points:

  • The contract should specify exactly what services or products you'll provide. Be as detailed as possible to eliminate ambiguity.
  • Clear timelines and project milestones. Share the project milestones, so your client knows when to expect results.
  • Clearly outline payment terms, including pricing, payment schedule, and any additional fees or expenses.  Lay out the pricing, when you'll send invoices, and when those payments need to roll in. 
  • Define the roles and responsibilities of both parties. Be clear on who's doing what. What do you need from your client (like data or feedback), and what can they expect from you?

At Cone, we provide free templates that you can use to draft your own client onboarding template, proposal or contract with your client. Let's say - you are an accountant or bookkeeper and offer bookkeeping services, it just takes few mins to start using the bookkeeping contract template and taking the step in right direction.

You can also include further information such as the termination of contract clause, and other legal stuff as you prefer. This step is highly crucial to avoid any misunderstandings down the line. It’s better to use software to manage this step like Cone’s free proposal-to-payment software which manages all the processes like contracts or proposals, e-Signature, invoices and payments automatically. 

Step 3: Get On A Call To Introduce Yourself And Discuss The Workflow

In step 3, it's time to establish a personal connection by getting on a call while onboarding the client. This call serves as an opportunity to introduce yourself, clarify expectations, and discuss how the work will unfold. 

Schedule a call with the client at a comfortable time for both.  Make the call on their preferred communication method, whether it's a phone call, video conference, or an in-person meeting. Share a bit about yourself - your background, your expertise, and what gets you passionate about the work you do.  This is an opportunity to create a personal connection and build rapport. Using a calendar reminder like Calendly or Google Calendar can make sure you will not miss any important calls. 

Reference the information gathered in Step 1 about the client's needs, goals, and challenges in the new client onboarding process. By showing them that you understand their difficulty, you can convince them that you have done your homework and genuinely care about their achievement. Make sure they are aware that you have been listening to them and that you genuinely desire for their goals to come true. Lay out the details of this journey clearly and in detail. It helps the customer visualize the journey and establishes their expectations for the upcoming weeks or months.

Encourage the client to ask questions and share any concerns they may have. Be prepared to provide answers and solutions. Send a thank-you email to the client for their time and trust after the call.

Step 4: Create A Plan And Communicate What Will Occur During The Following 2 Weeks

Step 4 focuses on the practical aspect of the client relationship. This step involves developing a thorough plan that specifies the precise tasks and deadlines for the first part of your engagement, which normally lasts the following two weeks. 

Where do we start, then? You know the objectives of your client, and you're prepared to make things happen. Next, what?  Identifying those immediate needs. What are the most pressing issues or opportunities that need tackling right out of the gate? This should align perfectly with your broader project or service objectives. Now, it's time to craft that customized plan to finish onboarding the client. Create a schedule that spells out when each task or milestone will be conquered. Be realistic, though. Life happens, and sometimes tasks take a bit longer than expected. 

Now, set clear expectations. Use a client onboarding checklist to help you and your client know what is going to happen in the next two weeks. Your plan shows to answer questions like - Who's doing what? What's the end game here? Once everything is listed, document that plan. Put it in a format that's easy to share and access – a shared document, a project management tool, or even a visual timeline. To make it more creative, you can use Canva to create the plan. 

Before proceeding with the work, review the plan with the client and seek their input and approval. As you get their feedback, start working on those tasks and activities, keeping an eagle eye on progress. And don't forget to keep the client in the loop – communicate any updates or adjustments as they happen.

Step 5: Crafting Tailored Processes - Making Personalization a Habit

By now, you've introduced yourself, set expectations, got to work on the plan, and you're rolling along. But personalization doesn't stop after the first few weeks. It's an ongoing journey. You've already started on the right foot by personalizing your approach from day one. But to make it a habit, you need processes in place. 

First things first, assess your current processes. Take a close look at how you're interacting with clients, the touchpoints along the way, and the data you're collecting. Are there areas where you can inject more personalization? Probably. So, identify those gaps.

Once you've pinpointed the gaps, it's time to develop personalized processes. This could mean creating a client onboarding template for personalized emails, setting up automated follow-ups, or even designing custom reports that cater to each client's unique needs.  Remember the data you've been gathering from the start? Well, it's your secret for personalization. Use it wisely. Personalize your communication, recommendations, and solutions based on the client's preferences, goals, and challenges. Show them you're not just a vendor but a partner who truly understands their needs.

But here's a pro tip: don't just rely on automation. Personalization should also come from genuine human interaction. Schedule regular check-ins even after onboarding clients to see how they're doing, what's changed, and how you can adjust your approach.

Step 6: Streamlining the Experience Through a Client Portal

For a moment, imagine a place where your clients can access all the information, resources, and updates they need at their fingertips. Seems amazing right? That’s what a client portal can do for you. A client portal is a virtual gateway to your world of services. Clients can log in, access documents, track project progress, and communicate with your team on this centralized platform.

So why is this such a game-changer? Well, it's all about convenience and transparency when onboarding new clients. Your clients may log in, access documents, follow the status of projects, and connect with your staff on this safe and centralized platform. it's not just about making your life easier (although it does that too!). It's about empowering your clients. When they can see the progress of their projects, access important documents, and communicate with you seamlessly, they feel in control. Creating a client portal also reinforces the sense that you're in this together, working as a team. It's a tangible demonstration of your commitment to their success.

Now, establishing a client portal may appear to be a technological task. However, there are many resources and software programs available that can assist you in making one that is specific to your needs. Here is a customer onboarding process example, Cone’s Work OS software software is one such tool that streamlines all your client interactions by providing a modern and branded client portal that enhances your firm's image and strengthens client relationships. Ultimately, providing a client portal is a win-win. Your clients get a hassle-free, personalized experience, and you get an efficient way to streamline communication and enhance client satisfaction.

Step 7: Regular Check-Ins and Feedback - Nurturing the Relationship

As we said earlier, personalization doesn't stop after the initial onboarding client phase. To maintain a healthy and vibrant relationship, you need to check in regularly.

So what do we precisely mean by frequent check-ins? It means setting a communication cadence that works for you and your client. These check-ins can take many different forms, including scheduled meetings, progress assessments, and casual catch-ups. Why are they essential? Regular check-ins provide an opportunity to touch base, assess progress, and address any emerging needs or concerns. They demonstrate your commitment to your client's success and provide a platform for sharing updates, challenges, and victories.

Feedback is another key component of this step. Don't just talk to your clients; listen to them. A onboarding a new client is an opportunity to serve them better. Find out what they think of your services, how they feel about your team, and any improvements they see. Constructive feedback is priceless because it guides your efforts to enhance the client experience further. It shows that you value their opinions and are committed to continuous improvement.

‍During the check-ins, use the client portal and personalized dashboards we discussed in Step 6 to provide visual updates and reports. This visual representation can make complex data more accessible and help your client understand progress better. And keep in mind that these check-ins are an opportunity to develop deeper connections rather than merely conduct business. Spend a little time catching up on a personal level. Ask them about their most recent successes, difficulties, or plans. To encourage a good partnership, rapport-building is essential.

Onboarding Client Checklist

Using checklists effectively can have a profound effect on your business. Are you using a checklist to onboard new clients? It's worth looking into a client onboarding checklist if you don't already.

Customer Onboarding Process Examples

Here are brands that amaze their customers with their client onboarding process:

Netflix

Little instruction is needed for Netflix users to understand how to navigate the platform and locate the content they seek. Users are already familiar with the OTT platform. A seamless client onboarding process further enhances the customer experience.

Slack

Slack's client onboarding process follows a 'learn by doing' approach. Upon signing up to Slack, the Slack bot guides new users through the process. It is a step-by-step process that users can learn while executing.

Canva

If you think about personalized onboarding, Canva is at the top. After asking users how they want to use the platform, the platform directs them to a tutorial explaining what they should do. As a result, client onboarding experience is tailored to the user's needs.

Zapier

Zapier prides itself on putting customers first. There are regular follow-up emails, detailed help documents, call-to-actions, videos, and more in the client onboarding process. With an all-in-one system, customers are given everything they need during onboarding.

Hello Fresh

With HelloFresh, you can enjoy home-cooked meals without shopping for groceries. As part of its client onboarding process, this company meets customers' unique expectations. After the subscriber joins the service, the client specifies their food preferences, delivery frequency, and delivery amount. When HelloFresh delivers meal kits, it routinely emails customers to keep them informed and to ask for feedback. 

How to automate client onboarding process?

Onboarding clients does not have to be a difficult process. By gathering detailed client information, setting clear expectations, crafting tailored plans, creating efficient processes, offering a client portal, and maintaining regular check-ins, you can cultivate a client-centric approach that stands out in a competitive landscape.

Much of this process can be automated to make client onboarding a seamless experience. At Cone, we offer you a wonderful business management solution that can help you get everything you need to complete a new client onboarding process. Make sure your clients have the best experience while you get 10x more productive. 

At the same time, Cone’s automation will allow you to focus on important aspects of onboarding clients such as personalization. This will help adapt to your client's evolving needs, leveraging data to make informed decisions, and maintaining open lines of communication. It's about treating every client as a unique individual and showing them that their success is your top priority. Sign up for Cone’s business management solution now and wow your clients at every step of the way!


FAQs

What is the correct order of onboarding clients?

The correct order of onboarding clients typically follows the following order:

a. Introduction and Welcome

b. Gather Necessary Information

c. Set Expectations

d. Customize Services

e. Training and Education

f. Regular Follow-ups

How often should you be having onboarding calls with your clients to check on their progress?


The frequency of onboarding calls depends on the complexity of the services provided and the needs of the client. It's quite common to have initial onboarding calls and then follow up regularly, such as weekly or bi-weekly until the client is settled. Post that, the calls can be as needed or monthly/quarterly.

What is the correct order of onboarding clients with QBO?


Onboarding clients with QBO typically follows the following order:
a. Introduction to QBO software
b. Gather Business Information or client questionnaire
c. Customize QBO Settings
d. Training on QBO Features
e. Data Migration (if applicable)
f. Ongoing Support and Follow-ups

What makes a good client onboarding?


A good client onboarding process involves 5 key ingredients - clear communication, understanding the client's needs, setting realistic expectations, providing comprehensive training, and ensuring ongoing support.

What is the customer onboarding process?


The customer onboarding process is the steps taken to introduce and start a new customer on to a product or service. It usually involved account setup, orientation, training, and ongoing support.

How do you create a client onboarding process?


To create a client onboarding process, it usually involves identifying key steps, detailed documentation, communication plan and training resources.

What is a client onboarding checklist?


A client onboarding checklist is a  list of items(activities) that need to be completed during the onboarding process.