What to include in a client onboarding form (+free template)

The Dock Team
April 8, 2024

Your clients shouldn’t have to repeat themselves as they get passed off from one part of your company to another—but it’s super common on cross-functional revenue teams with lots of handoffs.

Customers first have to answer discovery questions in the sales demo, then do an onboarding questionnaire with an account manager, and then in every interaction with your team going forward.

The same crucial details get lost in the shuffle again and again.

What a waste of time for both your clients and your team, right? It’s a lose-lose situation that, if not addressed, will lead to higher churn rates.

You need a strong client onboarding process to save people from this frustrating loop—one that collects key details from clients upfront and makes information accessible for all teams involved. 

Client onboarding forms are a key part of this. They record your clients’ needs at the start of the customer journey and get everyone on the same page right from the start.

What is a client onboarding form?

A client onboarding form is a set of questions shared with new customers to collect contact information, requirements, expectations, and other relevant details. 

The questionnaire guides customers through each step of submitting their data, providing you with a full picture of their goals and needs once it’s completed.

In the SaaS industry, new clients typically receive an onboarding form once the deal is sealed—as a part of the handoff process from Sales to Customer Success or Implementation team, marking the formal start of the working relationship. 

Agencies often send onboarding forms to potential clients before the deal is closed—to make sure that the services provided are a perfect fit for their needs.

Regardless of the business model, form responses should be shared with both the client and all your customer-facing teams to act as a single source of truth throughout their entire customer journey

You can rely on this information:

  • Throughout the customer lifecycle to ensure that your service or product aligns with the agreed-upon requirements.
  • During handoffs within your team or in the event of stakeholder changes on the client’s end.
  • When preparing for quarterly business reviews (QBRs) or renewal conversations.

What should you include in your client onboarding form?

During the onboarding stage, your clients will be excited to start using your product. 

Although they don’t have any hands-on experience with it yet, they already have preconceived expectations for how it should work and what they want to accomplish with it.

If you fail to meet these expectations, you may disappoint them and ultimately cause clients to churn because they can’t move past this trough of disillusionment.

Source: Gartner.com

The image above shows the stages of Gartner's Hype Cycle, in which the trough of disillusionment is the point where businesses need to improve their products or risk losing people who have recently adopted their brand.

That’s why your client questionnaire needs to be comprehensive—it’s how you fully understand and align with client expectations.

By addressing any major discrepancies early on, you’ll avoid surprises later when it's time to discuss renewals or send the final bill for your work.

In our recent episode of Grow & Tell, Gillian Heltai delves deeper into the role onboarding plays in navigating the hype cycle.

Your exact list of questions will depend on your industry as well as your company’s product or service. That said, there are five sections that you should feature in any new client onboarding form. Let's review each section and the information that you should gather from each one.

Be sure to only pick items relevant to your organization, so your form doesn't turn into a lengthy novel. The ideal range usually falls between 15 to 20 questions, allowing customers to provide data promptly without feeling burdened.

1. Contact & billing information 

Start by confirming your main points of contact, including:

  • The primary point of contact and a backup contact for emergencies, their emails and phone numbers, along with other relevant contact details
  • Stakeholders and department managers who should be involved, along with their contact details
  • The client’s preferred communication channel and office working hours
  • Billing address, accountant email address for invoices, and a point of contact for billing issues

Depending on your location and cultural norms, you may also request stakeholders’ preferred names and pronouns for efficient and respectful communication.

2. Business goals & requirements

Next, it’s crucial to gather information about your clients’ needs, objectives, and what they hope to achieve with your product or service. This section should be tailored to your business, covering elements, such as:

  • Your client’s current pain points
  • Their goals and desired outcomes
  • What success looks like for them
  • The KPIs they’ll be monitoring
  • Expected timeline and specific deliverables
  • Budget allocated for the project

Even if you've previously discussed deliverables and budget, documenting these details is important. You can refer back to them if clients attempt to change the terms later on.

For agencies, this section can also serve as a project brief. Capturing and storing all of the initial requirements in one place will prove invaluable during revision cycles. Plus, it can protect you from potential disputes once the work is completed.

For SaaS, specific questions may include:

  • What challenges or pain points are you experiencing in your current workflow or operations?
  • What metrics are you looking to influence with our solution?
  • Do you have any specific customization needs or preferences?
  • Provide an overview of your current technology stack and tools that our product will replace.
  • Will you need assistance migrating data from your previous system? If so, what is your budget for technical assistance?
  • Are there integrations with other tools or systems that are essential for your business?
  • Are there any specific industry regulations, compliance or security requirements that our solution needs to meet?

For an agency, the list may ask: 

  • What is the desired outcome or results expected from our agency's services?
  • What is your unique selling proposition and competitive advantages?
  • Who is your target audience and the key demographics?
  • Do you have any existing brand guidelines or specific design preferences that should be considered in our work?
  • What KPIs are important for measuring the success of our collaboration?
  • Are there specific marketing channels that have been particularly successful for your business in the past?
  • Provide three examples of competitors in your industry with marketing strategies you admire.

3. Related documents

Customer onboarding forms are great for requesting documents required for ramping up new clients. This automates the process for your team and saves time for everyone throughout the customer journey. 

The types of documents that you’ll need will depend on the nature of your business and your relationship with your clients.  

For SaaS client onboarding, you should ask for:

  • A signed NDA or contract (if digital signatures are not accepted in your location)
  • A spreadsheet with a list of team members to set up access
  • Files for data import when your client is migrating from another tool

For agency client onboarding:

  • Brand guidelines and design briefs
  • Visual or copy references
  • Brand assets such as logos or product snapshots

4. Additional information

Always leave an extra space for additional feedback or requirements. Your new client may want to receive invoices on a specific day or have a unique working schedule that you need to be aware of.

For example, a client might have a 4-day work week. Being aware of this upfront can help avoid unnecessary nudges when you’re not getting timely responses on Fridays.

Some clients might even have feedback or suggestions regarding your onboarding process itself. So, keep a little space just in case—for any additional details that weren't covered in the standard form.

5. Data processing consent

For most businesses obtaining explicit consent from your clients is required to legally process or store their onboarding form responses. Unless you have secured consent to process personal data before the onboarding stage, you should include this disclaimer in your onboarding form. This will allow clients to review and agree to your data processing terms when submitting their information.

If your onboarding form permits it, you can add a note next to the ‘Submit’ button, saying something like: “By submitting your information, you agree to our terms and conditions [link your terms].”

This will protect you from legal consequences by ensuring that your clients are aware of and consent to the terms before sharing their data.

Client onboarding form template

While every account is unique and you may have to adjust your forms based on each customer's specific needs, the good news is you don't have to start from scratch every time.

Onboarding form templates give you a head start to begin from. With all the crucial questions included by default, they serve as an ideal starting point for gathering information

To give you an example of what this template could look like, let's walk through a hypothetical form for a trendy web design agency. 

We’ll be using Dock to create this form

1. Include a welcome message.

An ideal customer onboarding template should have a clear title and description outlining its purpose. It should also provide the approximate time that it will take to complete. This is an excellent opportunity to express to your client your excitement about having them on board!

You should also propose a deadline to avoid delays in the onboarding process that could hinder the time to value for your client.

2. Collect contact details. 

This section may not require an adjustment for every new client. However, if you already know who your key point of contact will be and have a strong relationship with them, you might consider removing this question to avoid redundancy.

3. Clarify the project requirements.

As a web design agency, we need to confirm the project scope, allocated budget, timeline, and project goals.

Next, it’s important to learn more about our clients to better understand their use cases and create the most suitable design for their needs.

We’ll also request references to better understand what new clients like and dislike and make sure that their style aligns with what we can deliver.

Lastly, we’ll want to confirm a few admin details to complete this section.

Note that the answer field type should match the question. For example, questions about requirements and expectations should come with a “Long answer text” type to provide enough space for detailed answers.

4. Ask for relevant documents.

Next up, we’ll want to collect any documents like a logo or brand guidelines that will help us navigate the design work successfully.

It's important to make fields optional if you suspect clients may not have any documents to upload. For example, smaller companies may not have brand guidelines yet, so we're making this field optional.

5. Collect any additional information.

Last but not least, leave space for any specific requests and feedback. This field should be optional in case your clients are busy and may not have any additional requests or time to provide extra feedback. 

Onboarding form best practices

Here are a few best practices for creating onboarding forms. They will help you kick things off on the right foot and make your first client interactions enjoyable and effective.

Questions shouldn’t feel repetitive

When you design your onboarding form, consider what the client has already gone through before reaching this stage. They shouldn't have to repeat information they've already shared with your Sales team.

To provide an optimal customer experience, you’ll need a strong handoff process from Sales to Customer Success so teams can collaborate effectively instead of working in silos.

Your sales team should communicate the client’s KPIs and goals  as well as the stakeholders list. Keep in mind that the decision-makers who were present during the sales process may not always be the same individuals that your implementation teams will work with.

Personalization is key

You should adjust your questions so that they’re personalized for each new account. Consider customizing the form with their branding to make new clients feel valued right from the beginning.

For example, you can add your client logo to the header. Or, if you work with a local client and their office is next door, you probably don’t need to confirm your stakeholder's time zone.

Share form responses back with clients to keep alignment

Sharing form responses back with clients helps maintain alignment throughout the relationship and ensures that everyone is on the same page in terms of project goals and requirements.

Ideally, you should embed the onboarding form into your client’s onboarding workspace and add responses to the same workspace once you have them. This approach increases transparency, providing a shared single source of truth that Sales, Implementation, Customer Success teams, and the customer can refer to. It also promotes alignment at different stages of the customer journey.

Conduct reviews regularly

As your company evolves, processes may change. You may require additional information from your clients while some questions may not be necessary anymore.

Schedule regular time to review your onboarding form template, so it remains current and up-to-date. This helps avoid unnecessary back-and-forth with clients due to outdated questionnaires and prevents customer frustration at the start of your relationship.

4 onboarding form tools

Now that you know what to include in the form and what it should look like, you’ll need some tools to set everything up properly. 

Client onboarding form tools automate the process of collecting customer information. They also save time spent on sending and searching through endless email threads.

You can use form tools, like Google Forms or Typeform, or you can opt for a tool that’s specifically designed for client onboarding-–like Dock.

1. Dock

Dock forms go beyond a regular form tool by providing a shared workspace that’s accessible to both your teams and clients. Dock is specifically built to manage client relationships, enhance transparency, and break down silos between teams.

To make navigation easier, onboarding forms can be embedded into a Dock onboarding workspace. The answers provided by clients are saved in the same centralized hub, allowing both you and the client to refer back to them as you collaborate.

Here's a quick walkthrough on how to create a customer onboarding form in Dock.

Dock Forms & Surveys

2. Typeform

Typeform is a popular tool that allows you to create forms with smart flows, logic, and even quizzes. While all of these features may not be essential for client onboarding forms, they can certainly be engineered to serve this purpose if you have the interest in doing so. .

Typeform allows you to sort, filter, tag, and even export form responses. Keep in mind that you’d have to create a new form if you need to adjust questions for a specific client.

3. Airtable

Originally a competitor to Excel and Google Sheets, Airtable offers attractive forms that are connected to a smart spreadsheet for easy storage and management of form submissions. 

If you handle numerous clients and don’t require form customizations for each of them, Airtable can be your go-to option. 

4. Google Forms

Google Forms are free which is one of its most attractive features. It may have limited customization options, but it is familiar to many people who have used G-Suite products. With Google Forms, you can send responses to a Google Sheet and automatically follow up with a copy of the answers that your clients can keep for their records.

These are just a few examples of form apps and survey tools for client onboarding. Dock is specifically designed for this purpose, allowing you to create native forms or surveys that are seamlessly embedded within your client's onboarding workspace. This allows customers to submit their information quickly and conveniently without having to navigate away from other onboarding resources. 

Other popular survey tools, including the ones mentioned above, can be directly embedded into your Dock workspace too.

Create a seamless onboarding experience with Dock

The main purpose of any onboarding form isn't to burden customers with a never-ending list of questions—it's to ensure your mutual success and speed up any processes that can be done asynchronously. Plus, it's a great opportunity to gather important details about your clients that might not come up naturally in a live conversation.

With Dock's user-friendly, no-code form builder, you can swiftly create customized onboarding forms for new clients to streamline the process of gathering essential information and enhance the customer onboarding experience.

Click here to get started and create your first 5 workspaces for free.

The Dock Team