Defining the Four Phases of the Client Onboarding Process


Onboarding is an essential component of customer service. It’s your chance to make a great first impression and give new customers the tools, information, training, and support they need to get up and running with your products. Once that happens, your clients see the full value of their investment in your company. 

How do you create an excellent onboarding experience for your customers? Start by thoroughly understanding every aspect of the process and where it fits in the timeline. In this blog, we’ll cover the four main phases of onboarding and what they entail. We’ve also got some advice on improving your onboarding process for everyone involved.

What Is Client Onboarding?

Also known as implementation, onboarding guides new customers through installation, training, and orientation until your products are fully integrated into their workflows. 

Onboarding typically involves multiple team members from your organization and your customer’s company. Depending on the size of your company,  you might have a dedicated onboarding team or ask your customer success team to handle onboarding.

Why is Client Onboarding Important?

A smooth, efficient onboarding process starts everything well and encourages customer retention. In fact, 86% of customers say they’re more likely to be loyal to a business with a good onboarding experience.

On the other hand, a disorganized, inefficient onboarding process can have the opposite effect: frustrating your customers and making implementation take longer. Without a clear client onboarding process and good communication, delays and missteps are inevitable. A poor onboarding experience is a significant cause of churn. And it can even impact your future sales — 63% of customers say that onboarding factors into their buying decisions.

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Why GUIDEcx Client Onboarding Software?

  • Reduce Anxiety, Increase Participation
  • Complete Control over Visibility Settings
  • No Login Required for Participants
  • Complete Tasks via Portal, Email, or Mobile App
  • Automate Project Updates, Tasks, and Reminders

The Four Phases of the Client Onboarding Process

The exact details of the customer onboarding process will look different for each company. But the overarching process is similar. Separating the entire process into different phases makes it easier to understand. It also helps you and your team figure out exactly what you need to do during each phase to make the process easy and efficient for your customer.

How long the phases last and the exact tasks they incorporate will differ depending on your industry, the size of your company, and the products or services you provide. But once you understand the basics of each phase, it’s easier to organize your process and ensure all the steps you need to incorporate are there.

Phase 1: Initial Welcome

In most cases, the welcome phase starts after the contract is signed. Your sales team begins the hand-off to your onboarding team, and the timer starts. How long will it take to smoothly transition your customer from a new user to a fully integrated partner? The more training, communication, and direction you can provide, the less time it will take to get to the final wrap-up.

You should tell your customers what to expect during the initial welcome phase. It’s important to send out a welcome email as soon as possible. Here at GUIDEcx, we ensure the initial welcome communication goes out within an hour of the contract being signed.

A woman and a man sitting at a desk looking at a computer screen. The woman is pointing at the monitor.

Welcome packet

What should you include in this welcome packet?

  • A welcome letter and/or video walk-through of your product
  • Contact details for your onboarding team, including instructions on the best way to communicate (e.g., directly within your project management or onboarding platform)
  • An overview of the entire onboarding process
  • Screenshots or detailed examples of key parts of the onboarding process (e.g., how to log in, what a task notification looks like, and how to send a direct message), 
  • A list of your customer’s tasks (e.g., providing you with contact information for their team members who will be involved in onboarding)

Once you’ve sent the welcome packet, you can start setting up the onboarding project for your team. That means creating the project in your software, importing the customer’s company details, and setting up an approximate timeline for each phase and the project as a whole. 

Next, identify everyone in your organization who will be involved in onboarding and clarify their roles and responsibilities. Invite all those people to the project, and then invite the members of your customer’s team as soon as they provide you with that information. Finally, schedule the kickoff meeting.

Looking for more advice on creating an outstanding welcome packet? We’ve got a comprehensive guide filled with detailed information and practical tips. Get your copy of our Best Practices for a Customer Onboarding Welcome Packet eBook.

Phase 2: Kickoff

During the kickoff meeting, you can get more details from the customer about their level of knowledge of your products. Once you have that information, you can modify the rest of the onboarding project as needed.

Information gathering

If the customer is familiar with your products, you might be able to save some time on training. On the other hand, if the customer is completely new to your industry and/or products, you might need to extend the onboarding process to incorporate more training or a longer implementation time.

Take some time to walk through your client’s existing workflow. This is a crucial step — everyone in both organizations needs to understand how things are working now, so they know the best way to incorporate your products for maximum results.

It’s also important to consider the size of your client’s organization. If they have a team that’s completely dedicated to getting your products up and running in their workflow, onboarding might be fairly quick. 

However, most small companies don’t have a dedicated onboarding team. You might be working with new users who also wear several other hats within their organization. In that case, you might need to allow more time for training and/or incorporate more videos and self-serve resources that they can access outside of your team’s normal working hours. According to our own internal data based on a study across 250,000 projects run through GUIDEcx, 83% of GUIDEcx customer tasks are completed after normal business hours. 

During the kickoff meeting, your team should answer any questions your client has about the onboarding process. That’s why you provide them with the overview in the welcome packet — so they have time to formulate any questions and ask them at kickoff.

Image promoting a blog, "9 Ways Customer Onboarding Solutions Help You Do More with Less."

Timeline creation

Finally, share your onboarding timeline with the customer. It’s better to do this now than earlier when you created it for your internal team. The information you learned during the kickoff meeting about the customer, their team, and their processes may require you to modify your initial timeline. 

Do so, and then share this approximate schedule with your customer. It should include clear milestones as well as estimated completion times for each phase and the project itself.

Phase 3: Integration and Training

This is usually the longest phase of onboarding. It’s when you add new customers to your service and/or help them integrate your products into their workflow. You’ll probably need to provide training for these new users, and IT support may also be required. 

How can you make integration quick and easy for your customers? Start by standardizing the process internally so everyone on your team knows their roles and what to expect. Make any adjustments based on the client’s needs, and then push forward.

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Project management

It’s helpful to use a comprehensive task management system that includes dependency logic. That way, it’s easy to assign tasks to individuals from your organization and your customer’s company and clarify how their tasks fit into the overall project. Transparency is vital — allowing everyone to see how each person fits into the whole process tends to increase motivation and reduce delays.


Maintain strong communication throughout this phase. Use surveys or other feedback tools to gauge your client’s satisfaction and their level of engagement. The last thing you want is to assume that everything’s going well for your client only to get to the end of the project and realize that they’re not really ready for full integration.

Phase 4: Wrap-up and Handoff

Once the customer’s team is trained, you’ve provided all your deliverables, and your products are fully operational within their systems, you can start to wrap up onboarding. Once everyone signs off on implementation, your onboarding team will transfer the client to your customer success team for ongoing support.

As important as it is to make onboarding time-efficient, don’t rush this process. You need to make sure your client feels comfortable with your products and ready to use them fully on their own. If you end onboarding before they have all the tools they need to get full value from your product, you invite them to churn. So make sure everyone agrees that onboarding is complete before marking off that final milestone.

GUIDEcx: A Client Onboarding Solution for Better Outcomes

Every phase of onboarding is a chance to serve your clients well and provide them with value — even before they experience all the benefits of your products and services. But that can only happen when you have a well-designed and thoroughly documented onboarding process. 

Each phase (welcome, kickoff, implementation, and wrap-up) must include the right tasks and people. Everyone should understand their responsibilities and have a transparent view of the whole process, so they know where their role fits. And each phase should be clearly marked with a measurable milestone so everyone understands the objectives and when they’re met.

GUIDEcx is a dedicated onboarding platform that simplifies the entire process and increases efficiency. In addition to this blog, our Ultimate Guide to Customer Onboarding is packed with practical advice to streamline the process and applicable tips to give your customers an outstanding experience. 

Our customizable project templates make it easy to create a new onboarding project that’s tailored to the product and the customer. Automated task management features eliminate tedious manual work and keep everyone updated with notifications and communications. Plus, our platform automatically updates forecasted end dates based on status changes anywhere in the process, so everyone knows when things are moving fast or falling behind.


Talk With a Guide Today

Discover how GUIDEcx can help you improve efficiency by reducing your customer onboarding timeline and increasing the capacity of your project managers. Our unparalleled professional resources and unwavering commitment to excellence support our industry-leading customer onboarding solution.