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Customer onboarding guide: 11 templates + best practices

Customer onboarding teaches new customers the value of your product or service. Use our customer onboarding templates to set customers up for success.

Par Court Bishop, Contributing Writer

Dernière mise à jour April 29, 2024

What is customer onboarding?

Customer onboarding teaches new customers the value of your product or service. Onboarding occurs between the time when customers sign up for your product and when they successfully use it.

Most companies strive to position their product or service as the solution to customers’ problems. But the work doesn’t end once a consumer decides to do business with you—the post-purchase period is a critical transition time for buyers.

Consumers often need information and guidance on how to get the most value out of your products or services, so you must be ready to provide customer onboarding materials. A proper onboarding process ensures your customer base knows how to use your product or service effectively and helps with customer engagement and retention.

Customer onboarding is something you need to get right every single time. In this guide, we’ll explain how to build your onboarding strategy so you can consistently make strong first impressions on new buyers. We’ll also share customer onboarding best practices and examples from businesses doing it right.

More in this guide:

Why is customer onboarding important?

Simply put, onboarding sets customers up for success.

Customer onboarding is important for educating your customers on how to successfully use your product. Effective onboarding strategies familiarize your customers with your brand and the quality and value they can expect from your company.

Building a customer-centric onboarding process increases your buyers’ chances of engaging with your product. A robust process also strengthens customers’ trust in your business.

During onboarding, your team can demonstrate the value of your product or service. By showing this value early and often, you can increase your conversion rate.

Benefits of effective customer onboarding

Customer onboarding is part of your company’s overall customer experience strategy. And much like other aspects of the customer journey, customer onboarding should be planned and optimized.

Onboarding lets your team personalize each buyer’s experience based on their unique needs, goals, and expectations. When you’re guiding your customers through each step, you can ensure they’re not jumping ahead or missing any pertinent information. By offering thorough instruction and helping new users accomplish a single task at a time, you build their confidence in your product or service.

The onboarding process also provides customer data that could bring in future revenue. Collect information from your customers pre- and post-sale, and use your findings to adjust your engagement and sales strategies.

Customer onboarding process: Steps, tips, and examples

To start building your customer onboarding process, consider these six steps and see examples of companies doing it right.

1. Make the sign-up process effortless

The sign-up stage is the first part of the onboarding experience. Here are a few tips to streamline this step:

  • Keep your sign-up process short and sweet. You want to set your customers up for success by making it easy for them to use your product or service. A name, email address, and password should be enough.
  • Lump your information requests. Spread out requests for user information over a set period. Although every company is different, if you notice a higher-than-average drop-off rate during the sign-up process, you may be asking for too much information upfront. Keep forms to less than a page at the beginning. If you ask for additional information, include a progress bar for users to follow.
  • Allow customers to sign up via a service they already use. Platforms like Google, Facebook, and Slack are often integrated so customers can sign up with a single click.
Example: makes sign-ups easy.

When creating a account, users simply need to fill out one form field, streamlining the account creation process.

A screenshot of the login screen displays a one-click sign-up via Google

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Customers can also use their Google account, which already has all their information, to sign up for an account. This one-click sign-up is great for people who don’t want to fill out lengthy forms, preventing them from leaving.

2. Say hello with a welcome email

Send a welcome email immediately after a customer signs up for your product or service. This email should contain a high-level overview of the product or service and the next steps for using it. Here are some tips for crafting your welcome note:

  • Show gratitude (it goes a long way): Say thank you. These users took time to sign up for your product, so let them know you value their business.
  • Send helpful resources. Include links to onboarding materials like product tours, demo videos, knowledge base articles, and FAQs. Just be mindful of how much content you’re sending—you don’t want to overwhelm the customer this early.
  • Encourage customers to use your product. Supplemental resources are helpful, but the main goal of this email is to get your new user to click through and log in to use the product. Only then can they begin to experience its benefits. Including a call to action (CTA) in the email can give them the push they need to get started.
Example: Grammarly greets new customers with expertise.

Grammarly’s welcome email includes a list of action items intended to help users become proficient with the service.

A screenshot of a Grammarly welcome email displays actionable tips.

Image source

This email initiates the customer onboarding process by highlighting key takeaways that help users learn about the product and its possibilities.

3. Be ready for the first impression

While a user may have already watched a demo or taken a tour, their initial login is their first real impression of your product or service. You can streamline this step in a few ways:

  • Tell your customers exactly what to do. Don’t make them guess—provide helpful information or tools (like a setup wizard) as soon as they log in.
  • Provide an easy win. It’ll take time for users to experience the full value of your product, so give them a quick win to boost their confidence. This could be something as simple as “leveling up” in the onboarding process or receiving a badge for completing a specific action.
  • Offer a “getting started” checklist. Create an outline or checklist of what new users need to do and what they can expect during onboarding. It’s always a good idea to manage expectations.
Example: A friendly face at Threads eases you in.

When users first log in to Threads, they’re greeted by a stylized version of the company’s CEO, Rousseau Kazi. This is enough to grab users’ attention without overwhelming them.

A screenshot of the first login screen for Threads displays a welcoming message.

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The mini CEO avatar initially offers visitors a tour, but customers can return to it later when convenient. Once they’re ready to learn more about the product, they can easily find the information they need.

4. Learn to play well with others

For business-to-business (B2B) brands, the customer onboarding process may be more complex than simply teaching a consumer how to use your product. Adding a product to a user’s tech stack likely involves integrating it with other existing tools, often consisting of importing data from different sources and inviting other team members to join the workspace. To make the experience as easy as possible, you can:

  • Automate where you can. Setting up and integrating a new product into your customer’s existing tech stack can be challenging. Automate as much of this process as possible to remove bottlenecks that may cause issues for your buyer.
  • Provide options. Your customer may not necessarily need to set up integrations, import data, or invite other users to join their team. Make sure this stage is an optional part of your onboarding process.
  • Deliver top-notch support. Even the savviest users still need help with integration. If your company doesn’t have a dedicated team for customer onboarding, ensure you have ample support staff available for customers who may need help during this phase.
Example: With Zendesk, integrations are a click away.

The Zendesk Marketplace puts software integrations at your fingertips without the need for code or extensive processes.

A screenshot of Zendesk Marketplace displays easy-to-implement integrations.

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Users can filter apps by category and search for a product or feature. Zendesk organizes platform options simply, so integration is intuitive—even for a novice user.

5. Provide a learning experience

A walkthrough or tutorial involves guiding customers through each step they need to take to get set up with your product. The goal is to ensure users are confident enough to complete key tasks within the product. Most people learn best by doing, so during this stage of the onboarding process, support teams typically hand the reins over to the user. Here are a few ways to provide a positive learning experience:

  • Allow customers to skip parts of the process. Some users may already be familiar with your product or service. Let them skip some or all of the tutorials to reduce barriers.
  • Make it possible to pause. Busy professionals usually don’t have large chunks of time they can set aside to learn something new in its entirety. Some don’t want to sit through a full onboarding tutorial. You must give your customers the option to pause and return to your product walkthrough as needed.
  • Provide additional support for those who need it. For some users, the product walkthrough or tutorial will not be enough to make them feel completely comfortable using your product. Ensure it’s easy for all customers to reach support agents who can provide supplemental assistance. You can even offer a live chat support feature.
Example: Evernote guides the way in less than a minute.

Evernote immediately tells users that it will take less than a minute for them to learn how to use the product. In a world where time is our most valuable commodity, giving this information as soon as possible is essential.

A screenshot displays the Evernote app’s onboarding process.

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By gathering information on how a customer intends to use the product, Evernote can tailor its tutorial to their unique needs. The company’s walkthrough features step-by-step instructions and GIFs covering the tool’s formatting options. The simple, effective design makes it easy for users to follow along and quickly learn the product’s capabilities.

6. Don’t forget to follow up

Sending periodic emails with tips and best practices can help keep customer engagement alive. Consider these tips for your follow-up:

  • Be helpful, not salesy. Instead of pushing an upgrade or another product, focus on the relationship you’ve created with your customer through this product. Share resources—like help center article links and videos on specific features—that can help users get the most out of your company’s products or services.
  • Keep it (relatively) brief. Constant Contact analyzed over 2.1 million emails and found that those with the highest click-through rates contained approximately 20 lines of text. This translates to around 200 words. Keep your communication focused on one topic or usage scenario so you don’t overwhelm readers.
  • Share social proof. By peppering customer testimonials and reviews into your follow-up emails, you’re reminding your users of the value of your product.
Example: Duolingo motivates with a side of data.

Duolingo sends weekly emails that show customers how much they’ve practiced and prompt them to keep going (or start up again) without being pushy. Organizations can achieve the same level of personalized mass-scale communication by utilizing email management software to keep their process organized and automated.

A screenshot of Duolingo’s congratulations screen is accompanied by a view of learning metrics.

Image source

These follow-up emails allow users to celebrate wins and view their progress compared to previous weeks. Plus, a personalized analytics report helps to motivate users.

7 best practices for onboarding new customers

To create a positive customer onboarding experience, keep the process organized. Follow these steps to create a streamlined strategy that makes your customers feel valued from the beginning.

1. Decide who will own the onboarding process

There are many components to a complete onboarding process. Responsibilities might include:

  • Designing and writing content

  • Organizing and running training sessions

  • Managing customer relationships

In smaller organizations or companies with simple products, a single person may be able to handle all the onboarding tasks. However, in enterprise organizations or companies where products require training, large teams devoted to customer success are the norm.

At Zendesk, our customer success team handles customer onboarding. Success professionals are part support, part account management, and part sales.

“Success members accompany the customer on their journey and stick around for the entire life cycle,” explains Delores Cooper, senior manager of scaled customer success at Zendesk. “We’re here to provide recommendations for how Zendesk products can best align with our customers’ short-term needs and long-term goals.”

2. Identify your program’s goals

Once you’ve identified who’s responsible for onboarding, work with those team members to determine your goals for the program. Setting objectives will help you clarify where you should direct your efforts.

Program goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They must alleviate the pain points of your ideal customers and enable them to achieve aha moments.

Here are a few examples of possible onboarding goals:

  • The customer reports that your software freed up an hour each day after only one week of use.

  • The customer upgrades to a paid service after a two-week free trial.

  • The customer sees a 40-percent increase in website traffic within two months of using the product.

By creating onboarding goals, your team has a clear direction in building the process.

3. Determine how customer onboarding will take place

There are three main onboarding models. Choose one based on your company’s ideal customer and the complexity of your product or service.

  • Self-service model: The self-service model allows customers to onboard themselves at leisure and takes the least time to complete. This model is best for simple business-to-consumer (B2C) products with many users and a high user experience rating. Self-service is a popular choice for products like mobile apps and handheld electronics.
  • High-touch model: The high-touch model is the white-glove service of customer onboarding. It often includes personalized onboarding strategies and dedicated customer success representatives. This model is the most tailored to individual customers’ needs and requires the most resources.
  • Low-touch model: The low-touch model falls somewhere between self-service and high-touch. It usually involves chat support and automated email campaigns, but not assigned reps.

As you learn more about your users, you’ll develop a stronger sense of what type of onboarding they need.

4. Create a review system to improve onboarding continually

Keep an open line of communication with your customers and your internal team. Regularly review your onboarding program to ensure it’s meeting customer needs and expectations, and make changes as necessary.

“Implementing a cycle of communicating processes, receiving consistent feedback on them, documenting both successes and failures, and establishing a review cadence of your [standard operating procedures] will set you up for success,” explains Cooper.

5. Be prepared for change

Don’t expect your onboarding process to stay the same over the long term. Let your changing customers and evolving business inform how you adjust it.

“When working with ever-evolving human beings, expect that your processes will also evolve,” says Cooper.

6. Directly address customer support

As your new customers onboard and start using your products, expect they’ll need support beyond the help of your customer success team. Ensure that one of your customer support objectives is to offer customers multiple support options, such as AI chatbots and help desk systems.

7. Build a knowledge base

Prepare for customer onboarding by ensuring you have an accessible online knowledge base. Support materials and resources should contain a wide range of content to help customers solve potential issues independently.

In addition to providing getting-started documentation for new customers, your knowledge base should also offer advanced practices and troubleshooting options for veterans.

Customer onboarding templates

If you need assistance with customer onboarding for your business, these 11 customer onboarding templates can help you plan and implement a more customer-centric process. Our detailed templates include customer onboarding checklists, emails, training resources, and project communication plans.

Customer onboarding welcome email template

This customer onboarding template includes a welcome email you can use when reaching out to new customers. Your welcome email is your company’s first impression and helps build an ongoing relationship. Download this template and learn how to welcome your customer, schedule an initial kick-off meeting, and create a lasting relationship.

A screenshot displays a page from a customer onboarding welcome email template.

Download template

Process-specific customer onboarding templates

We have the ultimate bundle of process-specific customer onboarding templates available to download. This collection can help your organization prepare for new customers, assemble needed resources, and seamlessly communicate internally and externally.

Onboarding templates include:

  • Customer onboarding welcome email template

  • Training resources checklist template

  • Onboarding timeline template

  • Tech stack checklist template

  • Customer intake form template

  • 30-day check-in template

  • Kickoff meeting agenda template

  • Handoff email template

  • Project communication plan template

  • Primary customer template

  • Product feature reference template

Get 11 customer onboarding templates

With these 11 downloadable customer onboarding templates, your company can prepare to take on new business, gather necessary resource materials, and efficiently conduct internal and external communications.

Frequently asked questions

Create a good customer onboarding strategy to build stronger customer relationships

Onboarding is your customers’ first hands-on experience with your products or services, so it’s important to make the process a positive one. And it all starts with creating a strong customer onboarding strategy—use our templates to take out the guesswork.

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