The complete customer onboarding checklist (free template)

The Dock Team
April 8, 2024
June 11, 2024

There’s no debating the power of a personalized, high-touch onboarding process. 

Great onboarding is like dropping your customers off at their first day of school with a nutritious lunch, a stack of fresh notebooks, and a cheat sheet for their first exam. 

It’s one of the best ways to put customers on track to reaching their goals. That lays the groundwork for strong, long-lasting customer relationships that reduce churn and lead to sustainable growth. 

The only problem? It’s a lot of work. 

It takes tons of coordination, organization, moving parts, and important details to create a stellar onboarding experience. Customer success teams need to stay on top of where their clients are at, when they’re hitting (or not hitting) important milestones, and what they need individualized help with. 

At every step of the process, you need to shift and adapt your onboarding so it centers your customers' unique needs, use case, and goals. 

That’s a lot for anyone to handle. If, like many CS teams, you’re using a basic spreadsheet or project management tool, things can get messy quickly. That means missed tasks, deadlines, and touchpoints, or assistance that feels vague and generalized, not hyper-specific and actionable. These unacceptable slip-ups that corrode your onboarding experience, and harm long-term business outcomes like retention and churn.

That’s why today, we’re sharing a free customer onboarding checklist for you to download. We recommend using this as a starting template that you can adapt to your product, then tailor further to each individual client.

👉 Download the customer onboarding checklist, then stay tuned as we break it down in detail. Getting organized is the first step towards making clients feel comfortable, supported, and prepared through every single touchpoint.

Why use a checklist for customer onboarding? 

Creating a thoughtful, personalized, high-touch onboarding experience is no cakewalk. It takes planning and organization to deliver great onboarding at scale—the kind that gets results.

But you can make onboarding easier for both you and your client by starting from a detailed customer onboarding checklist. 

Embedding your checklist in a collaborative workspace like Dock takes your client onboarding to the next level. Unlike general project management tools (or even worse—spreadsheets) Dock is a space for clients, Customer Success, and Sales to work together. 

You’ll be able to add your onboarding checklist items into Dock, then upgrade them with a plethora of features designed specifically for client onboarding—and great client communication in general.

In Dock, you’ll be able to:

  • Make some onboarding tasks internal-only, and not visible to your client
  • Set external, collaborative tasks your client can see
  • Communicate and collaborate directly from the list with rich-text comments and tagging
  • Embed files, like training resources, into checklist items
  • Show clients what to expect from onboarding—in an environment that’s way more professional-looking than a spreadsheet

Download our complete Customer Onboarding Checklist here. Next, we’ll break down all the steps and phases that make for strong customer onboarding.

Phase 0: Internal admin

Customer onboarding begins well before your kickoff call, and before your welcome email. In fact, it begins before you even reach out to the customer.         

     ☐ Assign customer success manager to new client 

     ☐ Add client to your admin tools (Slack, PM platform, time tracker)  

     ☐ Handoff meeting between Sales and Customer Success

     ☐ Send onboarding questionnaire to client

The first step in a great customer onboarding strategy is getting organized internally. Whether you’re a SaaS company or an agency, our goal is to make sure every person on your team has what they need to make the client’s life easier and create a great customer experience.

Everything you’ve learned throughout your customer relationship, from their goals to past challenges to basic contact information, should be available to anyone who will work with them.

Traditionally, this phase would center around a handoff meeting from Sales to Customer Success, once the deal closes and the prospect becomes a customer. But the B2B customer journey isn’t that simple anymore. You might be onboarding a client to a free trial plan or proof of concept project before they pay a single invoice, or welcoming someone who’s already a paying customer to an upgraded plan. 

Whatever stage of the journey the handoff happens at, consolidate all customer data in a centralized, virtual space. 

Dock workspaces are an ideal solution because they’re designed for both the internal and client-facing stages of the customer journey, including the sales process.

At this stage, you’ll also want to add the client to all the internal admin tools you rely on. That could mean making client profiles in your invoicing system, time tracker, or project management system.

Phase 1: Client kickoff

Next, make sure your client is well-prepared for active, hands-on learning. That includes sharing educational resources and taking care of legal, administrative, and financial housekeeping. 

Welcome communication

     ☐ Send welcome email

     ☐ Share link to client workspace/portal

     ☐ Schedule kickoff call and launch date 

     ☐ Confirm client stakeholders and contact information

     ☐ Share your team’s contact information with the client

     ☐ Confirm the best communications channels with the client

     ☐ Share package of training content and resources 

     ☐ Outline onboarding process and product success plan

     ☐ Client’s key goals, outcomes, and KPIs

     ☐ Onboarding steps

     ☐ Schedule follow-up emails to check in on progress/satisfaction 

Welcome emails are a familiar part of the customer onboarding process. But rather than sending an overwhelming welcome email, it’s better to send a comprehensive ‘welcome package’—a chance to show the client you’re serious about making good on your promises and helping them reach their goals. 

Be specific, not generic. Recap the client’s goals, and explain how you’ll make sure they achieve them throughout your working relationship.

Use your welcome email as a way to open the lines of communication and make a good first impression. Reconfirm the client’s contact information, then share how they can best contact you. 

For example, you might have regular office hours over Slack, as well as a phone contact for urgent needs. This is also the time to book your kickoff call, schedule follow-ups to discuss key milestones, and set a date to start actively onboarding their team. 

While you should of course start with a welcome email, share most of your onboarding material in a collaborative workspace, rather than dumping all your resources into one email. 

This is your best chance to educate your client, whether they’re a new customer or an existing one. Share a complete overview of what to expect from onboarding. Provide the client with some initial resources, like a training deck, introductory walkthrough video, or knowledge base.

Using a collaborative workspace will help you keep that welcome email short so you don’t overwhelm your customer, and it will be much easier for them to find the materials they need later, without digging back through their inbox. 

Client-facing admin, legal, and finance 

Get these crucial steps out of the way early in the process. You may choose to prompt for these within the welcome email package or get them out of the way first. 

     ☐ Share and sign non-disclosure agreement 

     ☐ Finalize client contract

     ☐ Share W-9

     ☐ Confirm payment details and set up payments 

     ☐ Send first invoice 

     ☐ Get connected to any client tools you’ll need to use, and send any invitations to your own

     ☐ This could include Slack, a project management tool, invoicing or accounting portal, or logins Google Analytics, or Search Console

     ☐ Invite client to shared workspace

Making sure all the legal, financial, and administrative tasks are checked off your list will free you up to use the client’s face time for hands-on, action-oriented training. In a collaborative workspace like Dock, it’s easy to share, save, and even sign these kinds of important documents. 

Complement this stage of onboarding with content like:  

  • Product walkthrough videos
  • Product intro deck 
  • Tutorials/ebooks specific to the client’s use-case 
  • Knowledge base or resource library

Phase 2: Admin and manager onboarding and implementation

Within your client’s organization, there will be a few points of contact who need to know your product better than anyone. They’ll be the closest to its implementation. 

Put time and energy into getting those people onboarded and fully comfortable with the product first. It will have a waterfall effect across the entire organization. This sets you up for customer satisfaction and streamlines the entire process.

     ☐ Hold kickoff call 

     ☐ Set deadlines for action items

     ☐ Conduct live training session(s) for admins and managers

     ☐ Install/launch the tool with managers

     ☐ Hold technical meetings to help with setup and hands-on product education 

     ☐ Help client set up workflows and customize the system/get value from the product 

     ☐ Conduct user testing to ensure admin or manager processes are running smoothly

     ☐ Guide them through inviting and onboarding users 

Put the resources you shared into action with this next phase of effective onboarding. 

Use your scheduled kickoff call as a chance to walk through the training package. Which areas of your product does the client seem most unsure about? Do any processes still need clarification? 

Make sure you’ve completed as many of Phase 1’s logistical steps, like signing contracts, as possible before the call, so you’re making good use of the client’s time.

Remember, these administrative users will help train and onboard their own team members, too. In addition to understanding their own workflows, they’ll need a big-picture understanding of the different roles and tasks it will take to get the most value from the product.

While they don’t need to know everyone’s duties inside and out, they should understand how they’ll all work together to realize ROI. Give them access to everyone’s training materials, so they can go through them at their discretion. 

Make launch day, or the first day you’ll provide services, part of your onboarding process. Ensure both you and the client have an active role in launch. Rather than just giving them access, you should be by their side making sure their first experience is setting them up for success. 

Complement this stage of onboarding with content like:  

  • Product training decks
  • Interactive guided walkthrough 
  • Sample recurring workflow, if delivering services

Phase 3: End-user onboarding

Once key users are familiar with your product, it’s time to roll it out across their entire organization. If you’ve laid a strong foundation with plenty of education and admin or manager onboarding, this phase should feel natural and painless. 

     ☐ Hold training on key workflows their team will use to complete crucial tasks

     ☐ Perform user testing or pilot projects

     ☐ Share training videos and tutorials for different roles

     ☐ Share knowledge base or resource library 

Depending on the nature of your client’s organization, administrators or managers might be playing a more active role in onboarding individual users, supported by the training materials you’ve provided. Or, you might need to move through a shorter onboarding process for each of these new users. 

User onboarding might look like a hands-on, collaborative guided walkthrough or tutorial. Or, it could be more self-guided, such as by sharing video tutorials for key workflows and giving users access to a knowledge base.

Either way, make sure users know help is available and where they can find it, whether their manager or your own customer success team should be their first point of contact. That’s how you turn newbies into loyal customers.

Phase 4: Client retention 

Completing your onboarding shouldn’t mean you lose touch with your clients. Keep the lines of communication open as your relationship evolves! 

     ☐ Agree on an ongoing communication plan and cadence

     ☐ Schedule and hold regular check-ins

     ☐ Conduct quarterly reviews

     ☐ Track outcomes, celebrate wins, and suggest ways to improve results 

     ☐ Check in on goals/objectives — have they changed? 

     ☐ Send monthly surveys to assess client success/satisfaction (e.g. NPS)

     ☐ Monitor payments and invoicing

     ☐ Discuss cross and upsell opportunities with Sales

     ☐ Schedule renewal conversation(s)

Use tools like Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys and detailed review sessions to stay aware of their experience with your product or service. Are their needs being met? What wins can you celebrate? Where can you do better?

Establish clear, set processes for this continued communication so that it doesn’t get pushed to the back burner. Agree on the best channels to contact each other, and which kinds of inquiries are best suited to each. Schedule regular check-ins, and in-depth quarterly or annual reviews.

You want to make sure clients are getting the results they want and reaching their goals. But you should also revisit their goals themselves, and how they change over time. As the client’s business model and needs evolve, your offering needs to change along with it.

Streamline your onboarding with Dock

Dock brings your customer onboarding into a single, collaborative workspace — one they’ll keep relying on throughout their entire relationship with your company.

You can customize our onboarding template with your own steps and phases, attach important training content, meeting notes, and key workflows, and track your customers’ progress. 

You can even set some steps to be visible only internally so that Dock can become a single source of truth not just for customers, but for your own sales, marketing, and customer service teams. 

Onboarding is all about giving your customers what they need to succeed. Dock lets you do that in a seamless, accessible, and easy-to-use environment.

The Dock Team