Complete Guide to Client Offboarding


What is Offboarding?

Offboarding refers to the process of transitioning clients or staff members out of a business relationship when it ends. It is the opposite of onboarding new clients or employees, instead covering the end of the working relationship between a company and external clients or internal team members. 

Some key things to know about offboarding clients and staff: 

  • It involves taking proactive steps to cleanly end the business relationship and formalise the separation. 
  • The offboarding process will differ for outgoing clients versus outgoing staff members. 
  • It is just as important as the onboarding phase. Failing to offboard properly can damage your brand, company culture, security, retention, and more. 

Offboarding should not be an afterthought – formal procedures need to be built for when clients stop doing business with you or when employees submit resignations.

Constructive offboarding paves the way for future alumni connections, star employees boomeranging back, and positive word-of-mouth even from departed clients. 

Let’s explore deeper why client and staff offboarding matters, what should be included, and how processes can be created to make separations respectful for all sides. 

Why Client Offboard Properly?

When it comes to outgoing clients, properly offboarding them preserves crucial aspects like: 

Your Brand Reputation 

No matter the reason for their departure, you want to uphold a positive view of your business. This network of alumni clients also holds referral potential down the line. 

Avoiding any feelings of abandonment or lack of support during an offboarding retains goodwill towards your company. 

Legal Protection 

Certain industries, like technology or pharmaceuticals, need to take extra care when offboarding clients to avoid potential legal issues. 

Confidentiality clauses around intellectual property, for example, must be followed. Data leaks could open you up to lawsuits. 

Having structured offboarding ensures contractual obligations are fulfilled. 

Service Improvements 

The offboarding stage grants you one final opportunity to pick the brains of departing customers and learn from their perspective. Exit interviews and surveys with specific questions elicit constructive feedback for better retention in future. 


Client Offboarding Checklist

When a client relationship is ending, either through a contract expiring or early cancellation, a systematic checklist of tasks should be followed by your team: 

  • Set Expectations - Tell the client what to expect in terms of timeline, next steps, and access changes. Be transparent about the offboarding process. 
  • Knowledge Transfer - Make sure any critical institutional knowledge the client holds is transferred to relevant team members who will take over residual matters. 
  • Account Transition - Notify all staff who interact with this client that the relationship is ending. Coordinate handovers. 
  • Data Archiving - Back up any stored customer data, records, or files and prepare them to be transferred as legally required. 
  • Asset Return - If any company assets need retrieving from an onsite client, schedule this pickup. Example: equipment rentals, temporarily assigned devices, loaned materials. 
  • Final Payment - Square away any outstanding payments still owed and coordinate for the customer to make the last invoice settlement. 

Final Client Offboarding Steps

As you complete the formal business separation, the last human touches matter when it comes to preserving brand perception held by the departing client: 

  • Part Respectfully - Have leadership like the CEO or Client Service Managers take them out for coffee, send a considerate letter, or make a closing call. Small gestures go a long way. 
  • Get Feedback - Arrange an exit interview to cap things off, where unfiltered constructive feedback can be provided anonymously to improve service. 
  • Future Opportunities - Keep them updated on company newsletters, access to tools, or even special alumni events to continue some level of relationship where mutually beneficial. 

The client should ultimately walk away feeling supported, listened to, and still a fan of your brand. 

Why Staff Offboarding Matters

When employees resign, treating their transition away from the company respectfully through offboarding has significant upsides: 

Reduced Security Risks 

HR along with IT must swiftly invalidate access badges, recover devices, reset system credentials, and sign exit declarations to avoid disgruntled staff causing data leaks or other internal security issues. 

Strengthened Alumni Network 

Parting ways amiably keeps future boomerang potential open for star employees to possibly rejoin. They may also refer new talent. Alumni often give more honest reviews as well on employer rating sites. 

Insights from Exit Interviews 

Learning why high performers are leaving and where your people processes could improve stems directly from their offboarding experience. Exit interviews allow surveying resigning staff. 

Now let’s get into the step-by-step checklist managers should utilise when an employee resignation occurs: 

Manager’s Offboarding Checklist 

  • Confirm Departure - Have employee formally submit resignation letter/email to state last day and reason for leaving. 
  • Create Transition Plan - Outline handovers of ongoing work. Decide if contractors needed temporarily. 
  • Team Communication - Notify team of employee’s impending departure date and transition plan. Assure continuity. 
  • IP Protection - Remind staff of confidentiality clauses and IP rights pertaining to their role. Caution data access. 

Final Staff Offboarding Steps

As the last day approaches, managers should ensure: 

  • Work Transfers - All critical tasks, files, access credentials shifted to handling employees per transition plan. 
  • Equipment Returns - Employee submits back items like laptops, mobile phones, access cards to HR/IT. Sign return agreement forms. 
  • References - Providing positive references later acts as closure. Agree what can be referenced if employee was high performing. 
  • Exit Interview - HR conducts insightful offboarding interview on last day to provide feedback, takeaway learnings, well wishes. 
  • Farewell - Consider farewell lunch, card, gift based on tenure. Wish the departing employee goodwill publicly or privately as suits work culture. 
  • Alumni Network - Add departed staff to company alumni network if they desire to stay tangentially connected for possible boomerang return. 

With the foundations of client and staff offboarding’s importance covered, along with best practices for both groups’ transitions, let’s contrast some considerations involved between the two.

Offboarding Clients Versus Staff

While both clients and staff require dedicated offboarding efforts, some aspects differ: 


Recognising these contrasts allows you to tailor offboarding procedures appropriately. What unifies both situations is the necessity of doing it right. 

Creating Offboarding Processes

To institutionalise smooth client and staff transitions once relationships end, formal offboarding processes should be created: 

Mapping the Offboarding Journey 

Analyse each phase of offboarding and create a template journey map reflecting ideal workflows for both client and employee exits, like: 

  1. Resignation/Cancellation - Formal notice begins offboarding 
  2. Transition Planning - Accountability reassignment 
  3. Offboarding Initialisation - Checklist commencement 
  4. Knowledge Transfer - Document handovers 
  5. Asset Returns - Retrieve company property 
  6. Data Security - Revoke access, encrypt devices 
  7. Final Settlement - Financial reconciliation 
  8. Exit Interview - Feedback, learnings 
  9. Farewell - Part ways respectfully 
  10. Future Contacts - Alumni network, references 

Offboarding Checklist Templates

With the journey mapped, build procedural checklists covering all offboarding scenario particulars: 

  • Ensure thorough long-form templates customised to your workflows 
  • Format as easy to follow to-do task lists 
  • Make sections relevant to specific people: 
  • Client account managers 
  • Line managers of resigning staff 
  • Executives 
  • HR 
  • IT/Security 
  • Finance  

Securing Confidential Information

As offboarding proceeds for both outgoing clients and staff, securing any sensitive information they had access to should become an immediate priority: 

  • Data Access Revocation - Revoke login credentials to company databases, servers, intranet sites. Disable all professional accounts. 
  • Device Wipes - For company-issued mobiles, laptops and other gadgets being returned, securely wipe data or reset to factory settings. 
  • Information Transfer - Confidentially transfer any critical documents, data or IP they possess to assigned successors. 
  • Password Changes - Beyond their access, also reset group/team passwords that are now known due to collaboration. 

Offboarding Tech Considerations

IT leaders overseeing offboardee systems termination should evaluate: 

  • Identity lifecycle management solutions to efficiently disable all access with few clicks. 
  • Extra encryption, remote wipe capacities for departing employee devices. 
  • Updating CRM records to reflect concluded customer contracts after removal from databases. 

Getting Closure with Exit Interviews

Exit interviews mark the end of client and employee lifecycles, offering insights: 

Exit Interview Best Practices:

  • Sufficient Time - Don’t rush. Allow at least an hour for thoughtful, agenda-less dialogue where they share authentic constructive feedback. 
  • Custom Questions - What you want to learn differs for a large enterprise customer versus individual contributor resigning, tailor things accordingly. 
  • Active Listening - Make it a meaningful two-way conversation, not just a perfunctory survey form. 
  • Considerate Farewell - End by expressing thanks for the time together, well wishes for the future and openness to connect. 

The doors closing on business relationships or coveted team members leave room for growth, progression and new beginnings to follow, if handled with compassion. 

With structured offboarding protocols designed thoughtfully as above and applied consistently, your organisation can uphold security, knowledge continuity, professionalism in separations while enabling amicable alumni networks to boot.