We’re not mincing our words when we say onboarding new customers is no walk in the park. Getting a customer onboarding process just right is a constant struggle for Customer Success Managers (CSM) and CS leaders the world over. 

An onboarding checklist is your dream ticket to ensuring a consistent, smooth, and standardized process that doesn’t miss a beat.

A smart, vetted onboarding checklist can often be the difference between an engaged customer who has adopted your product and a disengaged user who’s close to churning.

Whether you’re new to customer success entirely or are a seasoned leader looking for a helping hand for your team, this article will go through the 11 secrets to crafting a water-tight onboarding checklist.

This article covers the importance of:

1. Send a welcome email

No customer onboarding process can truly begin without a thoughtful welcome email. This simple communication sets the tone for the entire experience to come. It's the warm invitation that sparks engagement and anticipation in your new customer's mind.

But a welcome email goes way beyond mere pleasantries. An effective welcome email does a few key things right off the bat:

  • It expresses gratitude for the customer's business and builds rapport
  • It briefs the customer on what to expect from the onboarding process
  • It shares any prerequisites or next steps the customer should take
  • It provides contacts and ways for the customer to get assistance

In a way, the welcome email is the first checkbox on your onboarding checklist itself. By kicking things off with a personal, informative welcome, you signal to customers that you value their success. You set the stage for an onboarding experience hyper-focused on their individual needs and goals right from the start.

3 free welcome email templates
According to Salesforce’s benchmark study, welcome emails (42%) are the third most popular type of email sent by businesses, trailing only to newsletters (66%) and promotional content (54%). And, of those who send them, three quarters rated them as highly effective.

2. Understand customer needs and goals

Customer onboarding is an intimate process. It’s your customer's first meaningful interaction with your company and product post-sale. Get this interaction wrong and you increase your chances of churn exponentially. 

Just because you’re setting out to produce a standardized onboarding checklist doesn’t mean your actual onboarding experience should be homogenized. A well-crafted onboarding process is both an exercise in consistency and standardization, as it is an opportunity to provide a bespoke experience based on the customer’s needs and goals.

If you have any hope in your customer onboarding checklist standing the test of time, a checklist that can be adopted at scale across your entire team, then you need to first establish one clear factor: What are my new customer’s needs and goals?

Without ascertaining this critical information, the eventual onboarding process you craft for this customer will likely be irrelevant and unhelpful for them. To understand how your customer onboarding process will play out, you first need to determine the pain points and ambitions of your new customer. 

You can do this by conducting a survey to see if they’re a low-touch/high-tech individual customer or by interviewing them to check if they’re a high-value, high-touch customer with a dedicated CSM. 

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3. Map out the customer journey 

Just as your onboarding process needs to be rooted in the customer’s needs, pain points, and goals, before onboarding them, you need to have a clear idea of the road ahead. 

Knowing what the customer journey looks like to a customer in your organization is paramount. Outline the key stages of the customer journey from the initial sign-up to eventually becoming a loyal advocate. Once you’ve established this, you can identify crucial touchpoints where your customer success team can provide bespoke guidance and support to help them realize value and, hopefully, solidify them as an advocate for your brand.

4. Define onboarding objectives

Just as you need to know what the customer wants to get out of your product, you need to set clear objectives as to what your company’s onboarding process aims to achieve.

Are you struggling to retain clients and looking to dramatically reduce churn rates? Or perhaps your focus is on increasing user engagement

These objectives should be aligned with your overall business goals to ensure your onboarding efforts align with your high-level priorities. With explicit objectives defined upfront, you can then construct your onboarding checklist and experiences in a focused way to meet those targets.

5. List key onboarding tasks

Alright, we’re cooking with gas! Now we’ve established the core strategic foundations of an onboarding process in place, it’s time to actually build out your customer onboarding checklist!

To ensure that every customer is onboarded consistently and in a way that reflects your brand values, don’t skimp on the small stuff. By this, we mean including the minutiae of every seemingly mundane task, including essential steps like account set-up, completing product walkthroughs, scheduling training sessions, and setting up check-in touch points. 

It’d be wildly remiss to concentrate on the customer-facing actions solely. While they’re highly important too, a good onboarding checklist adopts every detail – from internal tasks your team needs to systematically prepare for onboarding new customers.

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6. Create detailed task descriptions

One of the most important determining factors of a successful onboarding checklist is its ability to be implemented across your team and your numerous customers. If your checklist isn’t intuitive or easy to follow, it frankly doesn’t stand a chance of being effective.

When creating your own checklist, ensure every single task has bullet-proof, detailed step-by-step descriptions and instructions that any CSM can follow, regardless of experience. Providing this clarity upfront allows the checklist to be disseminated seamlessly without ambiguity or confusion.

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7. Develop supporting materials

An effective onboarding process is only as good as the content underpinning it. Not every customer has the time to hop on a call to go over a problem they’re having, nor will they be able to spend time trudging through your website to find them. 

While walkthroughs are great for initial hand-holding, customers will also need access to training assets they can reference ongoing. (Remember: Customer education goes beyond onboarding. )

When creating your onboarding checklist, make sure you drum up the importance of accumulating these materials. 

8. Assign responsibilities

Who exactly is responsible for completing each onboarding task? Clearly delineate responsibilities between both the customer's team and your internal personnel.

Establish processes for following up on overdue tasks and accountability measures. Even the most thorough checklist is useless without clear task ownership.

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9. Implement a communication plan

A comprehensive communication plan ensures customers remain consistently informed and engaged at every step of the onboarding journey.

Lean on the multiple channels your business offers, like email, in-app messaging, phone calls, webinars, and more, to share updates, answer questions, and prevent customers from getting lost. Great communication is key for strengthening relationships and driving adoption.

10. Conduct product walkthrough

Getting hands-on with your product is vital for new users. No amount of documentation can replace an interactive product tour that illustrates the solution in action. 

Make it a priority to offer detailed product walkthroughs and tours very early in the onboarding process. Highlight the key features and functionalities that deliver the most value. 

But go beyond just showing – have users try core actions themselves with your guidance. The more interactive and contextualized the walkthrough, the faster they'll grasp how to realize your product's full potential.

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11. Provide training and resources

No customer onboarding process is complete without providing comprehensive training and resources to ensure customers can fully utilize your product. Start by offering live training sessions conducted by product experts on your team. These interactive sessions allow customers to ask questions and get hands-on experience using the product with guidance.

In addition to live training, develop a robust library of on-demand resources like video tutorials, webinars, documentation, and knowledge-based articles. Cover both high-level overview topics as well as advanced use cases. These resources should be easily accessible within your product or customer portal.

Every onboarding process should be constantly tweaked as products are updated and to reflect customer feedback. Continuously update and add to your training materials as you release new product features and updates. As a Customer Success Manager, you and your team should recommend relevant resources to customers based on their specific needs and challenges.

Effective training empowers customers to become self-sufficient product experts. The more knowledgeable they are, the more value they can derive from your solution long-term.

Your complete customer onboarding checklist

Phew! There are a lot of components to creating a fool-proof onboarding checklist, it's certainly no mean feat. It requires careful planning and exceptional attention to detail. 

This article should provide you with the know-how and confidence to start implementing a consistent onboarding experience for your customers, and creating your own checklist is just the place to start. 

By understanding customer needs, defining objectives, mapping the journey, and providing world-class training, you set customers up for success from the very start.

Ultimately, a well-designed onboarding checklist helps increase product adoption, reduce churn, and foster enduring customer relationships built on value and trust. Invest the time to perfect your checklist, and you'll reap the rewards of loyal, satisfied customers for years to come.

Exceptional customer experiences start from day one 📚

Don't let new users slip through the cracks – transform them into loyal, engaged customers with a stellar onboarding process.

Our Customer Onboarding Certified course provides the strategies and insights you need to craft an onboarding experience that delights users and drives results.

Learn to segment and personalize, continually optimize based on feedback, identify key metrics, and map the customer journey.

We'll give you the tools to understand your customers, engage them fully, and set their experience up for long-term success.

In today's tech market, the subscription model means first impressions matter more than ever. Keep customers coming back by getting onboarding right from the start.

Invest in your customers, invest in your business.

Enroll in Customer Onboarding Certified today and transform new users into passionate brand advocates.