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The 10-step client onboarding checklist every business needs

Learn how to start your projects perfectly with this 10-step client onboarding checklist. Plus, meet a tool that simplifies the process.
January 23, 2023
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Aswinchandar M

The key to providing an outstanding client experience from the start is consistency and efficiency. And the easiest way to ensure that is via a helpful new client onboarding checklist. 

Need help figuring out where to start?

We can help!

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In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to consider to craft the perfect onboarding checklist template to suit your business needs. We’ll also explain what onboarding is and why it’s so important.

Finally, we’ll show you a unique customer onboarding tool to help you orchestrate it all flawlessly.

Let’s dive in.

What is client onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of providing each new client with the guidance and resources they need to start using your product or service. The goal of onboarding is to provide a positive customer experience from the start and quickly demonstrate the value of your offering. This is crucial for ensuring client retention.

It involves:

  1. Exchanging essential information with the client.
  2. Establishing internal and external workflows.
  3. Setting up collaboration tools.
  4. Outlining the next steps and setting clear expectations.

But wait.

We should note that onboarding won’t look the same for every business. For example, a contractor’s onboarding checklist will differ from a checklist for a marketing agency. Similarly, your company’s client onboarding template may look different from that of another; it could also differ based on the kind of client. 

Still, you should know these three essential types of onboarding models:

  1. Low-touch onboarding is when you let clients take a self-service approach with little involvement from your onboarding team. You can provide resources like a knowledge base of how-to guides and FAQs, along with customer service and support via email or phone.
  1. Medium-touch onboarding combines self-service with elements of human communication — e.g., training webinars and 1-on-1 customer support — for products and services with a steeper learning curve.
  1. High-touch onboarding is a human-centric approach that offers a bespoke, personalized walk-through experience, usually for enterprise clients. This is beneficial for service-based offerings (e.g., content marketing agencies) or products that require extensive training.

Typically, medium- and high-touch onboarding require the most planning and collaboration for smooth operation and customer satisfaction.

That’s where this checklist comes into play.

Why do you need a client onboarding checklist?

The first 90 days after a prospect converts into a client are crucial. In the single-minded focus on nailing your client onboarding, it’s easy to slip up on the little but important things. This is especially true if you have multiple team members working on customer onboarding. 

Having an airtight client onboarding process in place can help you:

  1. Establish a great working relationship with the client and improve customer experience and customer retention.
  2. Ensure you agree on the scope of work early on.
  3. Improve your rate of conversions, upsells, and cross-sells.
  4. Protect yourself from compliance issues.
  5. Ensure everyone in your team knows their responsibilities.
  6. Lighten the burden on your customer service team.

So, how do you ensure everything is in order and every client onboarding plays out as desired?

You document your client onboarding process. And a significant portion of this documentation is an exhaustive client onboarding checklist template.

A customer onboarding checklist is an excellent tool if you want to bring consistency into your onboarding process and want to get your new projects up and running sooner.

We’ve put together one you can use as-is or as a base to build your customer onboarding template. 

The ultimate client onboarding checklist

We’ve organized this 10-step checklist under two broad categories based on the nature of the activities involved: administration and project execution activities.

Part 1: The 3-step administration phase

Every onboarding starts with administration. Below are the three most crucial administrative tasks to consider when onboarding:

1. Welcoming the client

The first step towards making a seamless transition from sales to service is to make the client feel welcome. With a good onboarding process, the client won’t feel like there has been an internal handover at your end at all.

For the best client experience, we recommend adding the following action items to your checklist:

  1. Send a welcome email with onboarding documents to introduce your company, team, and processes, as well as answer any common questions.
  1. Attach a client intake form or an onboarding questionnaire to the welcome email to gather information about the client. In the onboarding questionnaire, you can ask about their business information, contact methods, project expectations and concerns, history of similar services, etc.
  1. Schedule an onboarding call to build rapport and trust between the client and your team. Use this meeting for introductions, discussing goals, establishing best practices, and answering any remaining questions. This is important for establishing a positive client relationship.

2. Legal processes

You should take a few necessary actions to protect yourself from any legal or compliance issues in the future, such as:

  1. Presenting a contract or NDA for the client to sign.
  2. Carefully reviewing and signing any contract or NDA the client might require from you.
  3. Saving copies of the NDAs and contracts and keeping them accessible to stakeholders concerned.

3. Financial admin

Add the following items to your checklist to ensure that all your financial administration is in order and you’re set up to receive payments:

  1. Add the client to your accounting software. If necessary, familiarize yourself with the client’s accounting software.
  2. Set up your billable rates in the relevant apps.
  3. Send invoices for upfront payments or deposits.
  4. Share the required tax documents with your client.

Note: It can be easy for important documents and messages to get lost in a sea of email threads and decentralized communication. That’s why it’s so helpful to have a dedicated app that keeps everything together during onboarding — like Rocketlane!

Part 2: The 7-step project execution phase

Once you’ve concluded the admin stage, it’s time to start the project. Below are seven vital aspects of project execution to consider for your onboarding checklist:

1. Scope, requirements, resources

The secret to setting yourself up for success when onboarding your clients is getting everyone on the same page. Here is a list of items you need to check off to that end:

  1. Ensure that key stakeholders have understood and formally agreed on project goals.
  2. Align on and freeze the project scope and requirements.
  3. Communicate with the client on whether the solution and technical architecture align with their goals and internal practices.
  4. Acquire compliance clearance and signoffs from the customer’s infosec and IT teams.
  5. Get the client's formal written commitment on resource availability as per the scoping timelines.

2. Project management

Project management helps you stay on top of all your onboarding tasks, keep everything organized, and assure your client that you’re making progress. 

Consider adding the following action items to your checklist:

  1. Set the client up in your time tracking and project management software. If necessary, familiarize yourself with the client’s tools.
  2. Outline workflows and roles for project execution and feedback.
  3. Establish any known due dates.
  4. Decide on a file-sharing sharing system.

3. Stakeholder engagement and management

A crucial aspect of any project is solid and clear communication. Client onboarding projects are no different. Ensuring you and the client have agreed on cadences and communication channels will make the entire process friction-free.

  1. Define the path and schedule for communication with each key stakeholder.
  2. Identify communication channels for each stakeholder type and group.
  3. Establish a protocol for conversations, clarifications, status updates, troubleshooting, and escalations.
  4. Create built-in feedback mechanisms throughout your communication and engagement strategy to ensure accountability from both ends.
  5. Set clear expectations around response times and business hours.
  6. Create a schedule for regular meetings to discuss progress and feedback.

4. Value realization

The best way to keep clients hooked and reassure them that you can deliver what you promised in the sales process is to demonstrate value or ROI (Return on Investment) during the onboarding phase. 

Here are three items you should add to your checklist that can serve as guardrails in your onboarding project:

  1. Map project goals to ROI.
  2. Create a framework to capture and showcase ROI at different onboarding stages.
  3. Establish a baseline scenario for all the above.

5. Preparing your team

Consistency is vital to client onboarding. So, you must get your team up to speed to ace it every time. Outline your methodology to your team and equip them with items in the checklist to help them adhere to the process. 

Here are some items to consider for this section:

  1. Define a process for project execution that is mindful of timelines and milestones, and share it with your team.
  2. Consider and prepare for tool migrations, integrations, configurations, customizations, and setups.
  3. Ensure your team is trained and familiar with the tools and requirements for the project.
  4. Put your SaaS offering through any testing such as User Acceptance Testing required for the use case.
  5. Establish and share the systems and tools needed to assign tasks, track progress, communicate, and follow up.
  6. Develop and share training and user education materials for different roles.
  7. Formulate a roll-out and adoption plan.

6. Documentation and project tracking

Documentation is your best friend when it comes to project tracking and staying on top of things.

1. Ensure you have all your essential documents, such as the ones listed here, saved and centrally available:

  1. Statement of work (SOW)
  2. Scope and requirements
  3. Project plan
  4. Project charter
  5. Kickoff deck
  6. Goal outline
  7. Test plan
  8. Customer FAQs

2. Ensure these documents are all the latest versions and are visible and accessible to all stakeholders.

3. Finalize how you will provide visibility into task progress, risks, lags, deviations, and blockers.

7. Reviewing and improving the process

Once you’ve put together a powerful onboarding checklist, keep in mind that there’s always room for improvement. Each client onboarding process is an opportunity to evolve your onboarding template and better prepare for the next client.

Consider adding these steps to your client onboarding template:

  1. Observing and making note of changes in the client’s usage of your product or service.
  2. Scheduling a check-in call with the client after 30 days to receive and share feedback.
  3. Having an internal meeting to review the onboarding template and feedback received. Use this time to plan adjustments for the next client.

With these ten steps, you should have a client onboarding checklist template you can use and adapt to create a fantastic onboarding experience for every new client.

Next, let’s look at some common queries about the onboarding experience.

3 FAQs about onboarding checklists

We’ve got the answers to all your burning questions about client onboarding:

1. How regularly should you update your new client onboarding checklist?

Your onboarding team should consider updating your onboarding checklist template after  onboarding every new customer, but only if you spot an opportunity for improvement. In other words: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

You should also update it whenever your company’s procedures, products, services, or client base change.

2. What are the most common client onboarding mistakes?

Here are three common onboarding mistakes and how to avoid them to improve client satisfaction:

  1. Confusing handoffs: You’re headed for disaster if you and the client haven’t aligned on expectations, goals, commitments, etc. Having a customer onboarding template and walking through it with the client should help with this.
  1. Not involving stakeholders: Set up a steering committee to plan and communicate when stakeholders are needed for each onboarding stage to keep all parties clued in.
  1. Communication breakdowns: Inefficient information exchanges can derail the whole project and damage the client relationship. That’s why it’s so important to agree on channels and cadences of communication and stick to them. 

3. How can you make client onboarding easier for your clients and staff?

Consider using dedicated onboarding software if you want to nail communication, collaboration, and project management during the client onboarding process.

The right onboarding tool can help you communicate more effectively, organize information, share updates, gain project visibility, and more.

Wondering where you’ll find such a tool?

We’ve got the perfect solution for you!

A tool to revolutionize client onboarding: Rocketlane

Rocketlane is the leading client onboarding software, allowing you to carry out all your onboarding tasks in one convenient space.

The tool helps you build a workflow with all your onboarding documents and project plans for a collaborative onboarding experience.

Here are some things you can do with Rocketlane to make life better for your clients and your team:

  1. Create custom project plans and reuse them for similar projects.
  2. Control how much information your staff and clients can access using settings.
  3. Provide clients with a dedicated portal (carrying your branding) for their projects.
  4. Get a 360° overview of your projects in terms of task completion progress, timeline adherence, in-depth client satisfaction data, and more.
  5. Set up goals for your projects, visible to all stakeholders.
  6. Share status updates via real-time labeling and commenting.
  7. Utilize project management tools like kanban boards, lists, and Gantt charts.
  8. Automated reminders for upcoming task deadlines, thereby eliminating gruntwork for your team.
  9. Log time spent on projects via user-friendly timesheets.
  10. Create and deliver powerful presentations.

Sounds great, but does it really make a difference?

It sure does! And we can prove it.

Let’s take a look at what Rocketlane was able to do for two of our amazing clients:

1. Trovata

Trovata, a US-based cash management platform, wanted to create an efficient, consistent onboarding process that would allow them to better plan their resources and scale.

They had the following pain points:

  1. Difficulty keeping track of at-risk projects
  2. No way to monitor customer satisfaction or feedback
  3. Lack of effective resource management or means of tracking capacity

With Rocketlane, Trovata’s onboarding team can see the health of their projects and keep an eye out for bottlenecks. In addition, they use Rocketlane’s automation features to save time on project setup.

Ultimately, Rocketlane helps Trovata save 50+ hours a month on their new client onboarding!

Trovata’s VP of Customer Success, Tracy Knight, said, “With Rocketlane, we’re more organized and have a better sense of how to approach onboarding projects.”

2. Infinx

Infinx is an AI-driven tool that helps healthcare providers manage their payment lifecycles.

They wanted to solve the following problems in the onboarding stage:

  1. Important data was scattered across multiple tools.
  2. They faced limitations on customer collaboration.
  3. They needed more visibility into their projects.

Thanks to Rocketlane’s innovative dashboards, project templates, and collaborative workflow, Infinx saw:

  1. A 20% increase in productivity
  2. A 15% improvement in Net Promoter Score (a measure of customer success)

Numbers don’t lie!

Get a handle on onboarding with ease

A frictionless onboarding experience is necessary to establish a longstanding working relationship with every new client.

But it shouldn’t be overwhelming for you or your customers — in fact, cognitive overload is a significant factor that negatively impacts client retention during onboarding

Nailing the onboarding stage can be as easy as following the best practices in this 10-step customer onboarding checklist and implementing one tool to keep the whole process tight.

Give Rocketlane a try if you want to approach onboarding with consistency, efficiency, and professionalism every time.

Sign up for a free trial of Rocketlane today and transform your customer onboarding process — your clients and onboarding team will thank you!

Further Reading

  1. From handoffs to go lives, explore the six crucial steps of customer onboarding 
  2. Want to onboard clients the right way? Check out our 2023 guide to client onboarding
  3. Keep these 7 best practices in mind the next time you onboard a new client
  4. Discover 10 customer onboarding stats to understand where the industry is headed

Industry insights you won’t delete. Delivered to your inbox weekly.

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

All things content at Rocketlane. I run on coffee and cat videos. Follow me on Twitter @kirthikasrajan

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