5 Scary Customer Onboarding Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make


Customer onboarding can be a complicated process if it’s not executed properly.  

We get it because we’ve been there. We know the pains of poor onboarding and the detrimental effects that it can have on the process and the bottom line. With over 300,000 onboarding projects completed, we’ve learned a few things along the way and know what it takes to create a smooth implementation.

And we’ve also identified some big mistakes that you don’t want to make!

Here are the five scary customer onboarding mistakes that you can’t afford to make.

1. If Your Process is Set in Stone, It’s Your Tombstone

This is one of our favorite quotes at GUIDEcx and all the credit goes to Mark Mitchell, the director of Customer Experience. The simplicity of it is what makes it so powerful.

“If you’re not adapting to the market, to your ever-changing product or the elements of your team and the requirements or expectations of your customers and not looking for ways to do things better, then you’re going to fail,” said Mitchell.

You CAN NOT set your onboarding process in stone, lock it away and never look at it! This is the worst mistake you can make. You have to constantly have visibility into your project and remain flexible to change when needed.

Walk Through the Process Yourself

One way to make sure your process does not become set in stone is to routinely walk through it yourself. When you are going through your process, look at each step and constantly ask yourself the following questions?

  • Is this step necessary?
  • Did I thoroughly explain it?
  • Is there appropriate support information if needed?
  • Does the logic flow make sense?
  • Are there any gaps in the process?
  • What is working?
  • How was the overall experience?

Continually Make Improvements to the Onboarding Process

You always want to be in the mindset of change as this will allow you to adjust the process as needed. 

After you have gone through your onboarding process take the time to review your notes and look for areas of improvement. Once you have identified your changes, set aside time to make the updates. 

“Don’t be afraid of changing the process because if you don’t, you’re going to fail,” added Mitchell.

Ask for Feedback from Customers and Teammates

When you have your check-in meetings with customers, ask them how the process is going and if they are experiencing any issues. This is invaluable information because it is coming directly from the user. Also, don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from your teammates. Ask them to go through the process and look for gaps or areas of improvement. The more you are open to adjusting the onboarding process as needed, the better overall experience you will create for your customers.

2. Poor Communication

A man and a woman dressed in business suits, holding a telephone cord between their ears.

Onboarding is an extremely crucial part of the customer journey and can lead to an increase in churn if not executed properly so your communication must be as direct and thorough as possible. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make with your clients is promising something and then not following through with it. Not only does this compromise your timeline, but it also erodes away the level of trust between you and your customer.

Put on Your Teacher’s Hat

Onboarding is a learning process in a lot of different aspects. Your customer is learning a new software and in some cases, they are learning a new work process and this takes time to adapt. 

Take your project manager’s hat off and start thinking like a teacher with the goal of educating the customer about the process. This slight shift from a management perspective to a teaching perspective will frame your communication in a way that isn’t just driving deadlines but also helping people understand how the process works and what they need to do to complete tasks. 

Once you have your teacher’s hat on, go through your process and make sure the material is broken down into steps that are easy to understand for people with average technical knowledge. Going back to our point above about your process potentially being your tombstone, you always want to evaluate the framing of your onboarding process and look for ways to improve it. 

If you come across a step that requires more advanced knowledge, make sure there is support information available for customers with limited or no technical knowledge.  The goal here is to eliminate any potential roadblocks during the process by supplying your customers with the resources they need to navigate each step.

Schedule Recurring Status Meetings

Onboarding is not a set it and forget it process; it is an evolution of learning.  

Schedule regular meetings with your customers so you can check in with them on their progress and help them out with any issues they may be dealing with. Taking a proactive approach to communication will give you a better understanding of how the customer is doing and keep the lines of communication open.

GUIDEcx Empowers Our Customers To Realize:


Reduction in Onboarding Time


Increase in Project Manager Capacity


Fewer Onboarding Meetings


On-time Delivery Rate when 5+ Users are Invited

Distribute Reporting Consistently

If your customers are constantly reaching out to you to ask how the project is going, when will this task be completed, who is working on what, etc… then your communication needs improvement.

Your customers should never have to ask about the status of a project because the onboarding process should give them that answer. 

The last thing you want is to put your customers in the dark about their projects. You can avoid this by instituting regular reporting that highlights areas such as projects on track, projects off track, time tracking and time to value.

Automate, Automate & Automate

If there was ever a magical solution to poor communication, it would be automation.  Automating the onboarding process helps to eliminate any potential communication gaps on the human side and keeps the process moving. 

One of the best tools for automating your onboarding process is templates. Building templates is great for repeatable processes and allows you to scale onboarding efforts and ensure a consistent experience. 

Automated dependency logic ensures that tasks and milestones begin at the correct time, due dates shift with delays and automated emails are sent at the right moment during onboarding.     Dynamic forecasting is a life-saver for poor communication since it automatically forecasts a projected end date based on dependencies, due dates and durations. 

Graphic that promotes a blog, "8 Ways Customer Onboarding Strategies Are the Keys to Efficiency."

 3. Not Understanding How Your Customer Defines Value

This is a very common mistake to make that can be very costly. When we talk about value, it is very easy to immediately focus on our own definition of value and assume that the customers are in alignment. The problem here is, most times the customer’s definition of value is different then how you define value. 

“There’s a difference between your value proposition and your customer’s value expectation and what they hope to get out of your software,” said Harris Clarke, COO at GUIDEcx. 

A man sitting on one end of an orange couch speaking with a lady at the other end.

This creates a dangerous situation because you measure the success of a project based on your perceived definition of value and become blindsided to what the customer’s version of value is. The last thing you want to do is get a few months into an onboarding project that is structured based on your definition of value, only to find out that the customer is on a completely different page. This is a waste of time, resources and money and will have a negative impact on the overall experience and retention.

Understanding How the Customer Defines Value

Before you kick off the onboarding process, take a few minutes to talk with your customers so you understand why they bought your product, why they are engaging with you and what they hope to accomplish during this process. Once you have that baseline, ask them to define what value means to them. 

This is an extremely important conversation to have with your customers so you can both align on the definition of value. By having this conversation you are also building trust with your client because it shows that you care and are attentive to their needs.

Track Progress Related to the Customer’s Value Points

Once you know how the customer defines value, you can define KPIs and then track metrics that tie directly to those points. This will help you monitor the success of a project and keep your team focused on what the customer values.

We recommended holding semi-annual or annual reviews of values as priorities are constantly changing.

Report Back to Your Customers on the Value Points

After you have aligned on value points and created KPIs, make sure you are reporting back to your customers about their progress on a regular basis. It’s one thing to have metrics that you both align on, but you’re not helping the onboarding process if you’re not sharing and analyzing that data.

5 Best Steps To Master Value-Driving Success Plans For Customers

4. Not Meeting Customers Where They Are

The fourth scariest mistake you can make during customer onboarding is lumping all of your customers into one box and not taking into consideration their unique needs. Customer onboarding is not a one-size-fits-all solution. You must always be aware of your customer’s situation and listen to their needs.

Non-Traditional Business Hours

For example, we completed a study across 250,000 projects run through GUIDEcx and found that 83% of GUIDEcx customer tasks are completed after normal business hours.

This finding stresses the importance of creating clear task descriptions and directions so that your customers can understand the task and complete it without any additional human support. Not to say that additional support won’t be required, but you can anticipate these questions and address them in the form of self-service help articles and video tutorials.

Persona-Based Views

You will have a variety of different roles within the group of key stakeholders who are involved in the onboarding process. This ranges from executives to managers to individual contributors. Each role will experience the onboarding process differently so you must tailor the experience to the different personas as much as possible.

For example, an executive sponsor is focused on higher-level data such as overall project status and time to value. Make sure your onboarding process includes a project view that shows executives exactly what they need to see. 

Individual contributors need to see what tasks are assigned to them, what needs to be completed and when the assignment is due. 

Understanding the Customer’s Level of Technical Knowledge

This is a really important point to remember because not everyone you work with has the same level of technical knowledge. So, before you jump right into the onboarding process with an assumption of their knowledge base, take a few minutes to ask them how comfortable they are with technology. This is especially critical when you are working with clients who are not in the SaaS space but are implementing new software. 

Also, learn a little bit about their company so you can understand if you’re working with a company with an advanced tech stack or one that is just getting started. Taking these few extra minutes to learn more about the technical knowledge of the company and clients whom you are working with will allow you to tailor the onboarding experience to meet your clients where they are.  

This same approach not only applies to the beginning phase of onboarding but also while you are in the process. Pay close attention to how customers are progressing through the onboarding and if they are asking for help or showing any signs that they need help. If you see a customer who needs extra help, take the time to understand their situation and where they need extra assistance so you can help provide a better experience for them and keep the project moving.

Mobile App

Your customers are not always in front of their computers, but they always want to stay connected with the project. Having a mobile app allows your customers to track the progress of the onboarding process in real time, wherever they are. Push notifications keep them updated on the status of projects and allow customers to respond immediately to any urgent issues so projects can stay on schedule.  

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Benefits of GUIDEcx and Customer Onboarding Software

  • Unlimited InvitesPriced for collaboration – You only pay for administrator and project manager licenses. Everyone else, both internal and external contributors, is free. NO HIDDEN FEES.
  • Easy Project AccessUsers can access their GUIDEcx projects however and wherever they prefer – through a web portal, email, or mobile app – no login required!
  • Project and Task AutomationWork faster by automating communication and other manual repetitive actions like project updates, tasks, and reminders.
  • Absolute Client Visibilityreduce anxiety and increase project participation with full transparency into project status, next steps, and go-live date.
  • Group Task TrackingAssign a single task to multiple  people, including your customers or vendor teams, and track when each person has completed their part for increased accountability
  • Onboarding Community – Users can access/join our community, the ONBOARDING NETWORK, to learn tips for our platform and general onboarding practices.  

5. Overcomplicating the Process

Complexity breeds confusion while simplicity is ripe for success. Implementing new software is a complex process to begin with and the last thing you want to do is add another layer to that in the form of a complicated onboarding process. Your goal as the onboarding manager or project manager should be to make the onboarding process as simple as possible. This will help eliminate any unnecessary friction and create a better experience for all stakeholders.

Mount Spreadsheet

The first step is to look at how you are currently managing your onboarding process. Are you still using numerous spreadsheets to manage your project? This is a cumbersome and antiquated tactic that is sucking your time and productivity. Instead of tabbing through multiple spreadsheets to figure out the status of each project, you need a solution where all that information is in one place.

Break Everything Down into an Easy Step-by-Step Process

We’ve all heard the old adage: What’s the best way to eat an elephant?

A bite at a time.

Your next step is to break the project down into small pieces that are easy to digest. 

Your onboarding project might feel like a big elephant at times, but don’t let that overwhelm you. When you take a step back and break down the process into easy-to-follow steps, you make it easier for your customers to complete their tasks. Not only does this help customers complete tasks quicker, but it also builds their confidence and trust in you as a provider and project manager.

Onboarding is Change Management

Change is tough for most people, especially when you introduce a change to their workflow. While it may seem like a simple change on paper, don’t forget about the human implications of change and how people process that. The more you are cognisant of that and proactively set up your onboarding process to reduce the anxiety that comes along with change, the better the experience will be for your customers. You can help ease the change by breaking down the project into easy steps.   

Shari Srebnnick, a principal analyst at Forrester Research summed it up best in a webinar with GUIDEcx founder and CEO, Peter Ord.

“In order for customers to be successful, they have to change the way they work. Onboarding is a lot of education, but it’s also helping customers through change; they’re doing things differently than they did before. So you want to build on that momentum and get them started quickly because – like all of us – your customers are going to get distracted by other tasks and problems. ”

Let GUIDEcx Help You Improve Your Onboarding Process

Onboarding doesn’t have to be a scary process if you know what mistakes to avoid and how to structure a smooth experience that reduces friction. Always remember that behind every piece of software and every project is a human. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the person who will be completing the task or overseeing the project. Make sure you are setting them up for success by supplying them with a process that is clear and easy to understand.

If you need help managing your onboarding process, let us be your Guide!

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.