What is Client Onboarding? Process, Steps, and Examples

Brandt Sohn

Senior Writer

How to Make the Client Onboarding Process the Best for You and Your Customers

A great client onboarding process is essential for building a successful business. Your sales team members are working hard to get new clients on the books. Don’t ruin their work with a poor process that doesn’t build a good business relationship with new customers.

Looking for Onboarding Software? Check out SoftwareSuggest’s list of the best Employee Onboarding Software solutions.

If you don’t have your onboarding process worked out, or if you think it could be improved, then this article will help you. We’ll show you why it matters, the elements of an effective onboarding process, and how to build or improve your own.

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of introducing fresh clients to your business, answering their specific concerns, and making sure they understand the services you offer. A client induction program is among the most important parts of any company because it directly affects how the client feels about working with the business, which in turn affects revenue.

Client onboarding could happen organically. If you’re a freelancer or a small business owner, you probably have your own way of welcoming new customers. You send them an email, call them for a chat, and then send them another email with a summary of what you discussed about how to work together. This simple process works well for a small number of clients.

But if you have a larger company or sales reps working through an established sales process, then both you and your clients need a more effective onboarding process. Creating one ensures a positive customer experience for every new client.

Why a Successful Client Onboarding Process Matters

You’re reading this, so you probably already know the onboarding stage is important. But there may be a few things you don’t know. Let’s remind ourselves of three key reasons to build a strong customer onboarding process.

A great client onboarding experience brings new clients into your business

Before a customer signs the contract or buys your service, they consider the future relationship. 63% of customers decide to buy with the onboarding stage in mind. So, set up a clear and friendly onboarding process and communicate it during sales.

client onboarding experience

Source: Pexels

Onboarding is a major part of customer relationship management

Customers who do not enjoy working with you or your business will simply go elsewhere. All of us know this is true. In fact, a poor relationship is one of the top ten reasons customers quit doing business with a company. However, we may not connect this to the onboarding process. During the first few days or weeks, your process can clarify expectations. A client with the right expectations is in the perfect position to have a good experience.

Onboarding processes can contribute to repeat sales

Repeat sales directly affect profits because they are so much more efficient. You don’t have to deploy any advertising or send out your sales team. The clients want to do more business with you because you helped them. 84% of B2B buyers are more likely to buy from a company that shows them they understand their goals. That’s exactly what you do with a good client onboarding process.

Now that we’ve reminded ourselves about why a solid process is important. Let’s look at what it does.

The Key Functions in a Customer Onboarding Process

A great client onboarding process isn’t just about saying “Hello!” and “Welcome!” to a particular client. It is the time to set expectations, get your entire team on the same page, and invite clients into a strong relationship with your business.

Let’s take a quick look at the key functions of a client onboarding process.

Build a strong working relationship with your new client

We could probably underline this one, put it in all caps, and repeat it fifteen times, and it would still not be enough. The main function of a client onboarding process is to establish a great relationship with your new client. Everything else is subordinate to this one thing.


Because the lifetime value of your client trumps every other concern, that’s the big picture. Get the client hooked and establish a great connection with them; they will keep returning. Whatever you and your team need to do to make this happen is worth doing.

Building a strong working relationship with your new client

Source: Unsplash

Informs the client’s expectations about the next steps

Giving the client clear expectations is important. Disappointment, frustration, and dissatisfaction set in when expectations are not met. If the client doesn’t have correct or reasonable expectations, you cannot meet them. The result will be an unhappy customer. Ensure the sales rep manages the client’s experience by setting expectations carefully.

Lays the foundation for solid project management

Whether you’re a freelancer or the owner of a massive corporation, everything eventually comes down to project management. Your client onboarding process will become the foundation of how you and your company manage your client projects.

Here are three key parts of project management you can establish in the onboarding stage:

  1. Communication schedule: Setting the communication cadence will help your customers know when the next update will arrive. If they know, they will feel less anxious about the schedule. You will build trust with the client after you deliver a few timely updates.
  2. Scope creep: One of the major dangers to a successful project is when the goals or objectives get modified little by little until the whole thing is unachievable, super late, or massively over budget. Nailing down the project scope during onboarding helps avoid this issue.
  3. Deliverables: Hopefully, your team has produced actionable insights during the sales process. These deliverables become the work you do for your client. During onboarding, record these deliverables, their deadlines, and the right way to deliver them.

Moving forward with the rest of the project is much easier when you get everyone on the same page with these three things.

Now that we know the onboarding process, its importance, and what it does, let’s get into what happens.

The Client Onboarding Checklist

1. Greet the customer

From the start of the relationship, the client needs to feel welcome. The process of welcoming someone should aim to make them say something like, “Everyone at this company is so nice and friendly. I’m so glad I chose them.”

To do this, you must make this part of the customer experience more unique. This is a great chance to show off, go over the top, and get things off to a great start.

One idea is to create a personalized email template that fits each client’s needs, program, and personality.

Video is another way that companies use to wow their clients during the welcome process. People want to see more videos from brands or businesses they like. Each of your new clients or customers can have a welcome video that is made just for them.

Greeting the customer

Source: Pexels

But making video content can take a lot of time.

Streamlining the process and making one well-thought-out and delivered welcome video can save time and still make your message personal.

This is what the video should show.

  • Excitement
  • Important facts about your business
  • Introducing the team

Excitement can be shown by moving around and smiling throughout the video. Tell them how excited you are to start the engagement!

Tell people what your company stands for and how it works on a daily basis. Show how you communicate in a big way and how dedicated your team is.

When you talk about teams, show them off! Get the client to notice the people who work for the business.

No matter how you talk to your new clients, make sure to welcome them properly. This will get things off to a good start.

2. Collect data

Getting important information from clients is one of the most important parts of a good onboarding process. How can you be ready to be successful if you don’t know this?

After the welcome is sent, collecting data should start right away.

Whether it’s an intake form, giving your clients homework, or giving them access to tools and technology, they need these things to get them ready for the next steps and onboarded.

If you use an intake form, make sure it is useful and collects important, necessary information. This could include background about the company, additional tech setup, and much more, depending on what information you actually need for the engagement.

You can even do this step on social media by talking to your clients where they are. This can be done by connecting with them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or wherever they work. Helping them engage with your company’s social platforms is also super useful.

Collecting data

Source: Unsplash

3. Say what you expect

Your sales team is ready to give you the information you need from the sales process, which is usually less than half of what you need. Services teams will have to dig deeper to learn more information, like:

  • What works and what doesn’t in their current plan?
  • What are the specific goals they want to achieve?
  • Which things can you deliver to help them?

From the start, your client’s goals should be clear and supported by deliverables that can be used to reach those goals.

Clarifying what is expected over the course of the relationship is important and necessary. To know what your client wants in terms of results, you must clarify the middle of the journey requirements with specifics like timelines, deliverables, and comments.

Everyone in the relationship needs to be involved in setting goals for the relationship to work.

Expectations should be reasonable, written, and followed for the entire process.

4. Talk to your own people

Your client onboarding process isn’t just for the client’s success but also for the success of your business.

Ensure your team is up-to-date on everything that has to do with the client. This ensures all the steps are taken and sets the team up to succeed.

Start by teaching your whole team about the new client. Give them an overview of who they are. Make sure that they are ready to do the work. Ensure everyone on the team understands the client’s goals and knows what they are responsible for.

Give your team the needed materials, keep track of notes, and ensure they can access any evaluations, agreements, or other important documents they might need.

Once they’ve done their homework and everyone is on the same page, they can start the kickoff call.

The kickoff call is one of the most important first meetings that happen when a new client comes on board.

This call is important because it lets your client see your team members at their best and sets the stage for the rest of your work together. Not only will you learn more about the client, but the client will also get to know your team and understand how the engagement works.

Use this time to learn more about how you work together, set expectations, review any questions left over from the sales process, and then set goals and plan what success will look like in this new engagement.

Before moving forward, you can now make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Talking to our colleagues


Source: Unsplash

5. Maintain consistent communication

Effective communication is essential for launching projects and keeping them on schedule. How you talk to clients, answer the client’s questions, and manage the relationship affects customer loyalty and satisfaction.

How can you get better at this? Start by making a plan for a good communication process that includes the following:

  • A central place to communicate
  • Timetable for chats and updates
  • Plan for how to leave feedback regularly
  • Tools for communicating with everyone

Make sure the client knows who their main point of contact will be when putting together the right team. Depending on the engagement, this person is often the team leader, project manager, or strategist.

Whoever it is, ensure the client knows about this person immediately and can reach them. Share contact details and information about how to reach them, such as their full name, email address, role, and preferred communication channel.

The team should also know about and be able to talk to the client’s main point of contact to make sure the same rules apply.

Make sure to include client and team availability, time zones, and the frequency of your calls when making a communication schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly).

Another way to ensure good communication and consistent work is to get feedback from the client. When giving feedback to the client, make sure to write down and review everything you do so that you can give them a specific, detailed summary when needed.

You’ll also want to ensure that your team listens to what the clients say. Ask them what they think. Find out what the relationship is like. How can you, as a team, help them more?

Use the information given to improve the client’s overall experience and the business relationship.

6. Describe the tools and technology to be used

It’s important that your client knows about the tools your team will use to manage the project and how things are going with communication.

It’s important to have access to your client’s tools and technology so you can see how they work.

It is also important that the client understands and uses the ones you need in your processes to ensure good communication, keep track of deadlines, have a dedicated resource center, and much more.

Tools and technologies for client onboarding

Source: Unsplash

The “welcome email” should be a list of all the tools and technologies. You should also tell the client how to access the files and get set up.

When outlining what tools and technologies might work for your team and client, consider the engagement parts needing unified visibility.

Tools could include a G-Suite resource center with copies of their agreements, intake forms, project plans, and any other important documents. Video conferencing software is also really helpful for offering better service to your clients.

Tools for managing projects, billing, reporting, and communicating may be used.

For your onboarding program to work well and efficiently, you must ensure that your client knows how to use all of your tools and tech and is set up correctly.

12 Customer Onboarding Process

  1. Welcome email: Send a welcome email with an attachment of your Ignition proposal.
  2. Onboarding questionnaire: Get the client to fill out your client onboarding form.
  3. Compliance and payment: Don’t do anything until the client has paid and signed the contract. 
  4. Assign your team: Choose the best team or person to take on the new client based on the resources you have. 
  5. Get the project ready: Set up the project in the project management software or workflow software you like to use and give it to the team.
  6. Meeting with coworkers: Have a meeting with your coworkers and share any information you have about the client that might be useful.
  7. Introductions: Introduce everyone on your team and send an email with a link to schedule a start briefing.
  8. Launch meeting: Hold the meeting and explain to the client what will happen next. This might be your opportunity to establish expectations and tell people how they should communicate in the future.
  9. Follow-up: Have your team send a “thank you” email. Use a digital welcome package if you have one.
  10. Welcome Gift: If you have a welcome gift, like merch or a letter, send it right away.
  11. Check-in call: After 30 days, have a check-in call with the client and your team. Set up regular checkups in the future to make sure you’re always up to date on how things are going.
  12. Review: Carry out some internal reviews and chats about your onboarding process. Discuss what went well, what to avoid, and how to make things smoother for everyone.

Onboarding process

Source: Unsplash

Choosing Software for Client Onboarding: Specialized vs. Unified Solutions

You could go in one of two directions in your search for software to help you manage the client onboarding tasks:

  1. Use specialized tools for each part of the process. Specific tools exist for proposals, contracts, payments, communication, task/project management, and more.
  2. Use a unified tool that does everything in a single platform.

The advantage of using specialized tools is how good they are. While a project management tool could include a billing module, it is almost certainly not as good as a full accounting tool such as Xero or Quickbooks.

The disadvantage of specialized tools is that they may not communicate with each other. Moving information between different software tools introduces more possibilities for human error and the loss of valuable information.

Unified tools are simpler to use regarding team communication, but they may not be as good at specific tasks, especially accounting and financial matters. However, many have integrations with the leading tools to improve their functionality.

Project management tools for businesses

You may already have a project management plan if you run a small or medium-sized business. If you are looking for an upgrade, you have a few options:

These are all great project tools you can use to streamline your customer onboarding. They will help you establish a client onboarding checklist, get your team on board, and move forward with confidence.

Onboarding for freelancers

Freelancers have a little different set of needs for onboarding. Here are a few key differences:

  • They often work with multiple clients at once.
  • They do all the work for each client.
  • Their budget for software tools could be limited.

Software designed for freelancers will help with all these points. Indy is a digital toolkit designed to help freelancers make their lives simpler. It includes tools for onboarding, CRM, project management, and invoicing. It’s also simple to use and super affordable.


Only some clients will have a perfect experience when they sign up. But if you keep tweaking and improving your current process, it will only get better, your clients will be happier and more successful, and your company’s relationships will be in better shape overall.

A good onboarding process creates a strong relationship between you and the client, which helps to build loyalty and keep clients.

This guide is not meant to be followed word for word. Instead, we hope the tips in this article have offered you some insights and intriguing bits of info to try in your work. Remember that the main goal is to make life easier for you and your clients. If you have your own ideas for how to do this, try them with your next client.

Frequently Asked Questions

Client onboarding is when a service provider sends a questionnaire to a client or customer, so that they can learn more about their needs.

As a business owner or freelancer, you need a steady stream of clients to keep the money flowing in. A solid client onboarding process helps you generate new leads and gather the information you need to deliver great services to new customers.

While the questions you ask will largely depend on what industry you work in, here are some essential questions to include in a strong client onboarding process:

  1. What are your company’s goals?
  2. Who are your ideal customers?
  3. How would you describe your products or services?
  4. What are your core values?
  5. Who are your top three competitors?
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