3 Key Differences Between Client and Employee Onboarding (and Why They Should Be Treated Differently)

By Harris Clarke
Jul 19, 2021

During employee onboarding, a company wants to implement a new hire within the company system. During customer onboarding, you want to implement your product into the client company’s existing system. But is it that simple? In some ways, yes, but in others, no. 

Some companies use the same methodology for client onboarding and new hire onboarding. If it works for now, that’s great, but it shouldn’t be a long-term solution. We’re going to deep-dive into some key differences and explain why these two onboarding processes need to be treated differently.


Internal vs. External

This might seem obvious from the title, but one onboarding is internal and the other is external. Onboarding new employees is an internal process. They get to know the company, what their new job functions are, how to use different products, etc. Client onboarding is an external process. This is where one company sells a software or service, and then they educate the buyers on how to use and implement it. 

Although client onboarding can be linked to your internal processes, it’s ultimately more of an external process. Client onboarding is a part of your product, your marketing, and your sale.  Employee onboarding is a part of your internal process. 


Who’s Involved?

For employee onboarding, usually a hiring manager or someone in the Human Resources department overlooks the process. Depending on the size of the company, this can expand to multiple people aiding with the new hire onboarding. This process, of course, also involves a new hire.

Client onboarding is a little different. B2B and SaaS companies need to educate their customers on how to implement their recently bought product. To do this, there’s usually an onboarding specialist, or an implementation specialist, as well as a project manager. Depending on the size of the company, there can be entire teams dedicated to this process. 

For those who want to really make sure client onboarding is done right, they involve members of their sales team. They can give the onboarding team a step ahead in terms of what the customer is expecting. An IT person can also be involved, along with any vendors of the customer who could use the software or service. 

employee onboarding is the onboarding of one person client onboarding is the onboarding of multiple people

What’s at Stake? 

Employee Onboarding

For employee onboarding, a good onboarding process can… 

  • Improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. (Glassdoor) 
  • Increase employee engagement. 54% of companies with onboarding programs reported higher employee engagement. (SHRM)
  • Decrease employee turnover and absenteeism. Learn more

If the new hire onboarding process goes poorly…

  • The new hire is more likely to leave the company sooner. 
  • The company loses time and money.
  • The company can get a bad reputation for how they treat their employees.  

Client Onboarding

For client onboarding, a good onboarding process can…

  • Increase customer retention by 5%, and you can boost profits anywhere from 25-95%. (SmallBizGenius)
  • Companies that invest in customer experience initiatives usually see engagement increase by 20%. (McKinsey & Company)
  • Reduce stress for project managers, and allow them to take on more projects at a time. (Example from GUIDEcx). 

If the customer onboarding process goes poorly…

  • The client company is more likely to find a different company to fit their needs (which costs you money).
  • The company is losing time and money.
  • The company providing the product or service can get a bad reputation for how complicated or overall lacking their product is to understand. As well as how the company doesn’t do enough in terms of making sure their clients get the best experience. 


Why Should They Be Treated Differently?

The Onboarding Affects Different People

Remember, client onboarding is a part of your product, your marketing, and your sale.  This affects how your product and business is perceived to the rest of the world. If you have a poor onboarding process and don’t do anything to improve it, the whole world could know. This means you need to quickly and consistently put effort into perfecting and creating a frictionless onboarding experience. 

Because new-hire onboarding only affects one person, it’s possible you could get away with being negligent of improving this process for a while. However, it catches up with you. It reflects poorly on your internal business, but not as much on your product or relationship with clients. You want to make sure your first impression with employees is a good one. Do this, and you’ll be saving money and have a loyal, productive employee. 

Here’s how GUIDEcx’s CEO fosters entrepreneurial employees


Client Onboarding Can Have Bigger Risks

In client onboarding, it’s possible that you not only think about your customers, but you have to think about your customers’ customers as well. Your customers have to know your product so well that they can teach it to their customers. Keep this in mind when you’re structuring your onboarding––make it easy to understand, but don’t leave anything out!

Client onboarding involves more people and involves more people with different jobs. Therefore, client onboarding requires methods and knowledge in these different jobs. Spend time researching how these different jobs function with the others so you can make their experience more frictionless.


Here is some information on what to keep in mind when creating good team-building activities for your employees


Harris Clarke


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