Client onboarding process meaning

Key Takeaways
Onboarding the client is an essential part of the process as an agency and you want your process to be as simple and effective as possible.
Client Onboarding process
When you get a new client or sign that deal, you need to engage them in a client onboarding process to retain them for the long term.

Wow, look at you go! You’re signing amazing clients left and right. That big business deal? Yours!

Time to pop the champagne and go Lamborghini shopping.

Eh, not so fast.

While getting quick wins and signing a major business deal are justifiable reasons to celebrate, you don’t want to toast to your agency success too soon.

Nothing hurts more when a big client decides to dip a month or so after signing.

So, what can you do to up your chances of retaining new clients, and turning friends with business benefits into LTRs?

With a client onboarding process.

But not just any client onboarding process. You want one that adds the most value to both sides of the equation.

Companies need to have a standard operating procedure for onboarding new clients as a sort of insurance policy against client churn. Meaning, you’re giving your company the best chance of generating revenue year-round from long-term clients.

Statistics show the long-term revenue that businesses generate comes from a percentage of its current clients. So, if you take the time to invest in having the right client onboarding process, you don’t really have to worry so much about the future of your business or organization.

But what exactly do we mean by client onboarding process? And why is it important for businesses?

Let’s jump in.

What is the Client Onboarding Process?

Client Onboarding process
Client onboarding process is simply the process of receiving and familiarizing your new clients into your business.

When you go out on a date for the first time, you want to leave a lasting impression. A good one. Not one that ends up on Reddit AITA.

And if it goes well and you like the other person, then you won’t want it to end with that first date.

Basically, the client onboarding process presents a similar scenario — but in the context of a business set up, not a romantic date.

The importance of starting off on the right foot

The client onboarding process is where the customer service team and sales team meet at the intersection of facilitating and building a long-term relationship between your business and the customer.

At the heart of it, it’s the process of welcoming new clients to your business and reassuring them that yes, their mother was right. They are a super-duper smarty pants who knows how to make savvy business investments.

In this case, that investment would be working with y0ur brand.

Often, after signing that deal, most clients sit back and ask themselves if they made the right decision. It’s pretty standard for a lot of clients to get cold feet when they first start working (and paying) a new company. A client onboarding process will help assuage these fears and sooth doubts.

If you’re dealing with new customers, a customer onboarding process is setting up the right environment where their first interaction with your brand leaves them so impressed they want to interact with you again.

A successful customer onboarding process will leave you with satisfied customers. It’s also a major determining factor is whether they will keep using your products or they will leave immediately and never return.

If onboarding clients is such an integral procedure for businesses, what are the other reasons why you should have one?

Importance of Client Onboarding Process

Client onboarding is important because of the following reasons:

Reduced Client Churn

Statistics show that within a 90-day period, clients are most likely to leave if they aren’t satisfied. To ensure client retention and client satisfaction, having a good client onboarding process will go a long way toward reducing client churn. Also, retaining more clients builds your referral network.

Client Contentment

A successful onboarding process will dispel your clients’ fears and doubts. This is important for both of you. A satisfied client means business for your company. Client and customer satisfaction means your business will grow and scale to greater heights.

Aids with Compliance

Having a standardized operating procedure will incorporate everything in the sales process, ensuring legal compliance. It also saves on time since employees won’t be scrambling to fix overlooked compliance snafus.


Satisfied clients and customers will refer other potential clients and customers to your company, product or service. Referrals play a big part of marketing strategy in the business world. It will either make your business or bring it down.

Customer Relationships

A customer onboarding process sets the pace for building lasting customer relationships and encouraging repeat purchases.

Set Expectations

Client onboarding is an opportunity for you to inform your client what you will do for them, when you will do it, and how. Setting expectations from the very beginning helps build trust, protect everyone’s boundaries, and builds a strong working relationship.

Having clear expectations gives clients all the information they need to start working with you, and helps them settle in. You’ll also get to understand more of what their goals and future plans are. And in case of unforeseen circumstances, clients will be more forgiving.

How it Works

Client Onboarding process
After the client has signed on that dotted line, your onboarding process will determine whether they have a satisfying experience or not.

Before understanding how client onboarding process works, it’s crucial to have a checklist.


Because a checklist will let you know if you’re meeting everyone’s needs. It will also help you give your customers an amazing client onboarding experience. Checklists also prevent you from having to rely on memory, reducing human error, and giving your sales team a to-do list to work with.

Include the following best practices in your onboarding checklist:

Welcome Email

Once new clients sign on the dotted line or a customer sign up to interact with your product or service, send them a welcome email. ASAP. Before you even think about popping the champagne!

Welcome emails go a long way toward setting expectations. Plus, you can use the welcome email as a sort of help center or product tour, helping customers familiarize themselves with your product or services.

Client Onboarding Questionnaire

Your team must be empowered to make good decisions and deliver results the client wants. But they need the right information to do that.

So, have your sales rep send a client onboarding questionnaire to uncover the client’s their goal, their expectations, how they want the relationship to run, and any other information that will help in their client’s journey.


Compliance is a signifiant aspect of client onboarding best practices. Ensure that the entire process is legally compliant and the new client has paid before getting to work. This will save you from potential legal headaches.

Team Members

Pick the best team to walk with your new client on their journey.

Project Management

Project management is an essential part of best practices for onboarding new clients. Assign your new clients their own uniquely and personalized designed folders, workspaces and software that will ensure they have a wonderful experience that they will want to do business with you again and again.

Internal Meeting

Once you have everything set up, plan and schedule that first internal meeting and exchange information.

Kick off Meeting

Once you have introduced your team members and have set expectations, schedule a kickoff meeting to communicate the steps you are going to take next with the client.

Follow up

Keep track of the progress with your clients with follow up emails. And if there’s a milestone, make sure that it’s celebrated.

Once you have checked off every item on your checklist, then you can move to the next step of how the onboarding process works. The following are crucial steps of how this process works:

Prior to Onboarding

Before embarking on the process itself, your sales rep should have a strategy in place with the future and long-term picture in mind. This is by understanding the problems of potential clients and customers and how your company, product or services will help them resolve it.

Knowing Your Clients

Once clients have decided to work with you, find out more information about them through a questionnaire and face to face meetings. Have clearly set expectations and have a mutual agreed realistic deliverable.

Meeting Your Clients

Once you’ve welcomed your clients, have set clear expectations and have agreed on the deliverables, you can schedule a meeting to get to know your clients even further. In this meeting, you can find out other relevant information from the client that wasn’t adequately covered in the questionnaire.


Once the deal has been signed and you have had that kick off meeting, then you need to follow up with your clients. At this point, you document what you’ve agreed on and expound on the client’s metrics.

After defining the metrics, you follow up and measure progress made. From this point moving forward, your goal isn’t only sticking to what has been agreed on but on nurturing the relationship.

Set the communication cadence.

There’s nothing as embarrassing as leaving your clients and customers when they will receive the next update. Also, keep on asking for their feedback and incorporate it in ensuring they have a good experience with your company, product and service.

Creating a Standardized Operating Procedure

Client Onboarding process
For future potential clients, your team needs to have in place a standardized procedure for client onboarding process to ensure quality return.

When creating a good onboarding process from scratch, it can be a daunting task. To consume a lot of time every time you deal with a new client, it’s important to have a standardized operating procedure.

Additionally, this procedure will give you consistency of performance for all your clients as it will be automated.

Standardize on the following key areas:

  • Timelines. This ensures that all your clients onboard within the same time frame. The approximate onboarding time is 1 or 2 weeks, but this can change depending on the nature of product or service
  • First experience. The first impression for your clients should be the same.
  • Information. The way you collect, share and exchange information should apply equally for all clients.
  • Communication. Set the rhythm for all your clients for how and when you communicate.
  • Progress metrics. How you measure the milestones and progress made by clients’ needs to standardize for all clients.

As a company, having a standardized operating procedure for client onboarding process gives your business predictability and helps you control how things are run. You can do this by having a standardized template for onboarding process.

This template should include:


Having an automated checklist makes the work easy for your team for future clients and customers.

Welcome package

This template will contain everything you need from the moment the client signs up with you, to the welcoming email, introductions, kick off meetings and other relevant information you gather from your initial interaction.

Training and Information

In this template, you include all the training resources and additional information that will be of help. Also, you can include videos giving product tours.

Software and Tools

Today, there’s an availability of software and tools to help ensure a good client onboarding experience. Examples of these tools include content snare, Wave, Doodle, Adobe Sign, Trello, Slack, Stripe, Google Forms, Google Drive, and so on.

Elements in a Successful Client Onboarding Process

For a good client onboarding process, it should contain three major elements. These are:

  1. The Reception

Welcoming new clients should be treated with the weight it deserves. It’s not only a matter of courtesy but is an opportunity for you to show your clients why doing business with you is going to be a worthwhile investment.

  1. The Management

This is where your team members determine what information they need from the client, how they will get it and how it will be shared. The administration team also decides and sets the communication pace.

  1. The Inauguration

This is the stage where the signed contract is launched and marks the start of your service or deal. Give your clients and customers the much-needed support as they settle in. Also, give them ample time as they familiarize themselves with your company, products and services.

Evaluate the progress made regularly for improvement and also get feedback from the clients.

How to Streamline the Process

Client Onboarding process
To have an efficient onboarding process, you may need to streamline the process

To simplify the onboarding process for your company or business:

  • Review the present process and check for areas that need improvement
  • Devise the perfect onboarding process
  • Determine the right tools for each stage of the process
  • Design the appropriate action plan
  • Test and improve on your process

Remember, business is people.

Up next, let’s dive into how to connect with your clients as people for greater success for everyone involved.

Connect with Your Client with These Five Tips

Client Onboarding process
To retain and keep your clients satisfied, look for ways to make the onboarding process better.

As you navigate your shiny new relationship with your customer, keep these in mind:

1. Practice a people-focused approach

One size never fits all. And the same is true when it comes to client service. So, customize the service or product you’re offering to give your onboarding processes a necessary people-focused approach.

Practicing a people-focused approach (that is, being attentive to each client’s specific needs and goals) is the bottom line of good business practice.

Why? Because people do business with people.

2. Prove your value quickly

Consider the onboarding stage as less a stage and more a process. Once the foundation has been established and your client’s goals are made clear, you need to prove your value quickly.

For example, if your client wants to see results in the form of metrics, present those numbers at the next check-in (and make sure the data you’ve collected is accurate). If your client needs a product installation, get it done in the time frame you’ve promised.

Maybe reaching the client’s goals right away isn’t possible — but that’s a given. So, set little benchmarks along the way and make sure you’ve set reasonable expectations with the customer.

3. Create check-in schedules

Scheduling communication check-ins will ensure that you and your client are always on the same page. Plus, it’s just good business practice and keeps the project running along more smoothly.

So, start with asking how often they’d like to hear from you. Consider too if your firm is more service-based or product-based.

For service-based firms, you’ll like need to front-load your communication early and slowly taper off from there. Product-based offerings typically benefit from a solid, set schedule from the get-go.

Consider what timezone they’re in, and if they’d prefer weekly, biweekly, or a monthly check-in. Also find out if they’d like to be included in your newsletter and receive company updates.

4. Think about the tech

Whatever your CMS is, creating a plan to integrate analytics and their data and technologies will increase your client engagement.

There are many affordable and user-friendly onboarding tools that exist to automate the customer’s path through the onboarding process. Most of them contain pre-formatted checklists and forms to help your business expedite the onboarding’s tech component.

That said, don’t forget to customize your CMS. It’s easy to rely on these out-of-the-box tools to the point that you’re performing the same onboarding process for everyone. It shouldn’t be that way.

Remember what we said before. Your own onboarding process can’t be one-size-fits-all.

5. Exchange feedback

And do it often. But not just your own. Be sure to listen to client feedback.

When the time is right, ask your customers for their opinions:

  • Is this communication schedule working for you?
  • Is there something that you feel like you’re missing?
  • Does this goal schedule make sense in conjunction with your expectations?

Feedback will help you improve the customer experience for current and future clients.

Best Practices for the Best Experience

Customer onboarding best practices will help you create a solid onboarding experience. The following tips will require information from every point of contact with your customers.

1. Understand your customer

Get to know your buyer persona in and out. This will naturally translate to knowing your customer as an individual, allowing you to offer them a stellar experience working with your brand.

So, make an effort to understand that each client is facing unique challenges that keep them up at night. And so, their ideal solutions and outcomes will also be unique to them.

Understanding your customer as an individual will help you tailor your service to their personal goals.

2. Set a clear outlook

Before purchasing your product, your customer should know what to expect. So make sure the sales process communicates that. This setting of expectations should be included in the onboarding process as you reaffirm the value of your product.

3. Show value

Before your new customer can get excited about your product, you need to reemphasize the value that your service will provide for their unique case.

For example, giving them specific scenarios of how your service will address their problems. Include a personalized point, such as a specialized training or a documentation.

4. Stay in constant communication

After your initial welcome message, continue using communication tools throughout the onboarding process to complement any in-app tutorials and guides.

Here, email or tech communication tools are probably your customer’s most-used mediums. And once the product becomes a hit, you can expect them to sign in on their own to view in-app notifications.

5. Create customer-centric goals

Every customer has unique goals and metrics that make the most sense for their situation. So, allow your customer to define what success means to them. Help them create milestones with their chosen benchmarks.

6. Seek to impress

Your goal with every interaction is to create the same positive experience that made your customers sign up for your product in the first place.

Aim to deliver a stellar performance that your customers will rave about and share with others.

7. Measure success

Onboarding benefits both you and your customer. Gather feedback and track key metrics so you know what’s working and where to improve for client and business success.

Useful Customer Onboarding Tips

In addition to best practices, there are a few things that will make your onboarding practice a positive experience for your customers.

Keep these in mind:

  • Make it a personalized experience — Each customer has a unique concerns. So, the more you tailor your solution to their needs, the easier it will be to achieve wins and encourage repeat purchases.
  • Break everything down — Disseminate information slowly and selectively. Only ask a new user to accomplish one task at a time and provide clear instructions on how to do it.
  • Be with your customers every step of the way — Be available to them if they get stuck or have trouble. If you can, dedicate several customer services or success representatives to new customers. It will make their onboarding experience better and allow you to see where your process falls short.
  • Celebrate small wins — Acknowledge every achieved goal along the path.


A successful client onboarding process is crucial for the growth and long-term success of any company. Investing in this process will ensure win after win for both you and your customers.

If done correctly, client onboarding establish lifetime value for your company. But incorrectly? It can break your business.

And we don’t want that!

So, take these next action steps and include the following in your client onboarding process:

  • The welcoming package. This includes the welcome email and tangible demonstrations of your value.
  • Information. Having the right information from clients helps you understand them better. To collect information, make use of a client onboarding form, schedule kick-off and face-to-face meetings calls, send tutorial links and videos, and ask for feedback.
  • Communication. Determine your top communication channels upfront.
  • A check-in schedule. Design the means of follow-ups and measuring progress.

There’s no universal way of doing the client onboarding process. It all depends on the needs of your clients and customers and the nature of your business.

At ScaleTime, we design a working and effective onboarding process that will take your business to greater heights.

Grab your chance to take your client onboarding process from drab to nab those increased profits. Get our FREE copy of the client onboarding checklist here.

Business operations consultant Juliana Marulanda
Juliana Marulanda - ScaleTime Founder
Juliana Marulanda is a business operations expert, speaker, and the founder of ScaleTime. With over 20 years of experience across Wall Street, the non-profit sector, technology startups, and family-owned businesses, she now helps service-based businesses.
About ScaleTime