Review our comprehensive checklist for onboarding new clients into your software tools or services.
October 19, 2021
Every SaaS business needs a repeatable, scalable onboarding process that keeps new customers engaged and making progress. But it’s especially important if you have a high-touch onboarding workflow that depends on consistent client interaction, as opposed to a low-touch or no-touch onboarding program.
The process that clients go through to learn your SaaS solution and get to that “Aha!” moment is a complex one that naturally involves many steps. The steeper the learning curve, the more opportunities there are for your new clients to slip through the cracks.
At Arrows, we believe that high-touch onboarding doesn’t have to mean “hard to manage” or “hard to complete.” With a quality onboarding checklist (and the right onboarding platform), you can create a streamlined onboarding experience — one that consistently delivers results and scales with you.
In this blog, we’ll give you a five-step new client onboarding checklist you can adapt to fit your needs and break down why each step matters.
A well-built client onboarding checklist helps your team deliver a superior customer experience. Checklists are a great starting point because, while the specifics of your clients’ journeys will vary, their core needs are usually consistent.
Here’s a quick summary of the Arrows approach to a client onboarding checklist. We’ll dive into each section in greater detail later on.
We’ve worked with hundreds of SaaS companies with similar types of customer onboarding needs. Through that work, we’ve distilled our ideal new client onboarding checklist down to just five key steps.
First, start with an appreciative welcome email. Your ultimate goal is client retention and high lifetime value, but first you need to make a solid first impression and set the stage for what’s to come.
Welcome emails should also include an invitation to explore onboarding materials, educational content, tutorials, and anything else that makes sense for your product and business.
Want to see some examples of welcome emails with measurable success? Check out these 7 great customer onboarding email templates and tips to optimize your current emails.
Your client onboarding plans don’t need to be a secret. In fact, keeping your clients in the dark hardly ever helps. Instead, send clients a transparent overview of how you’ll be onboarding them and what to expect from them. This is where this checklist pulls double-duty — you can use it internally and externally.
To see why this matters, put yourself in your customer’s shoes, starting from a place of zero knowledge about your product or service. You wouldn’t just want to be shown how to succeed. You’d also want to know how the company planned to get you there.
Another crucial aspect of setting client expectations is the sales to customer success handoff. When an account moves from sales to customer success, the sales agent must properly introduce the customer success professional to the client in a way that makes them feel supported and on track toward their goals.
Upfront expectation-setting also includes setting up an initial intake call. This call can help with goal-building and strengthening the relationship between the client and customer success manager or account manager.
To get the most out of your product, clients will need to do some work on their end too. These early contact points are when you should assign them “homework.”
Client homework might include gathering data on their existing systems, configuring tools to prepare for integration with your solution, signing up for other necessary third-party tools or platforms, and more.
Assigning client homework could be a part of the initial intake call. You might even create and send a separate client onboarding questionnaire that gathers additional data about how a client plans to use your services.
Another part of the welcome process should be collecting the vital customer information you’ll need to properly interact with each team member. This includes names, titles, email addresses, phone numbers, as well as clarification on who your point of contact is (if you don’t already know).
The first step in your onboarding checklist is a crucial one, but you don’t want to stay there any longer than necessary. You want to get new clients fully set up and exploring your product or service as fast as you can.
Time to value can be a struggle for high-touch SaaS onboarding programs. In many cases, it genuinely takes longer for customers to reach initial value because of the complexity of the tool. The longer it takes, the higher your customer churn may be. So, even if the customer isn’t ready to use your solution at top speed, get them taking baby steps ASAP.
Get your client their login access, passwords, initial tool configurations, and so on. If clients will need to set up software integrations to effectively use your service, make sure they’re making progress on that (or even help them do so).
Depending on your service or product type, you may have legal agreements to square away with your clients. If so, make sure all necessary documents are understood and signed.
Also, depending on your model, customers may not have actually paid yet. Check that you have a valid payment method approved and finalized for the new client.
It’s hard to overstate the value of getting in front of clients for a face-to-face meeting (whether in person or virtual). Here’s what to to focus on:
Get your first intake call or meeting on the calendar. This first kickoff call is a great opportunity to learn more about your client’s needs and personalize the services that you’re going to be providing.
You’ll also want to dive into the client’s goals and what role your solution will play. You should already know their pain points, but what specific and measurable outcomes or deliverables are they hoping to achieve? You need to know this so you don’t inadvertently “solve” a pain point in a way that doesn’t actually achieve client goals.
Also at this point, set up a schedule for future talks or meetings to continue the onboarding and training process (and strengthen the customer relationship).
By this point, you should have sent your clients a general onboarding guide or plan, but that may have been days or even weeks ago now. As you wrap up your kickoff meeting or initial round of communications, remind everyone of next steps. For example:
Check out our B2B SaaS customer onboarding guide for tips on how to keep customers motivated and on task as they work through your program.
Once you’ve gotten the preliminary onboarding steps out of the way, you can turn your attention to getting organized in the project management tools or onboarding platforms you’ll use for ongoing training and communication.
Many high-touch onboarding initiatives rely on widely used project management or workflow tools like Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and so on. If you’re using these tools with clients, now is the time to create a project for them, add in need-to-know account details, and assign them to the relevant people or teams (if you haven’t already).
There are so many moving parts in a high-touch onboarding program. Manual spreadsheets and tracking systems quickly become unworkable, especially if you’re scaling.
We believe using an onboarding platform like Arrows is a better way forward. There’s tremendous value and power in utilizing an onboarding platform to keep everything and everyone organized, streamlined, and accountable. To see how dramatically Arrows can transform and simplify your high-touch onboarding experience, schedule a demo with us.
When you’re ready, assign tasks and initial to-do’s within the platform to get your client learning and making progress toward their top-of-mind goals.
Lastly, it’s time to invite your customer’s team to any shared folders or workflow tools (e.g., a shared workspace in Google Drive or their project in Arrows). Doing so will help your clients better understand what’s being worked on, what they need to accomplish, and when their teams can expect to see deliverables. Remember to confirm that they have access so there aren’t any roadblocks.
Having the right client onboarding template is a significant step toward reining in a chaotic or confusing onboarding process. But it’s only the first step. To get the most out of a client onboarding process template, you need the right set of shared tools that keep you — and your clients — organized and on task.
Arrows is the onboarding platform built specifically for high-touch SaaS onboarding models. We provide the tools, visibility, and accountability that you and your clients need to ensure your clients learn the necessary information and get started on the right foot.
Ready to see what Arrows can do? Schedule a demo with us now.
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