Common Client Onboarding Problems and How to Fix Them

By Harris Clarke
Feb 24, 2021

Let’s say you’ve always wanted to go to Disneyland to ride Space Mountain. You go to a travel agent and they plan the perfect trip. Except when you get to Disneyland, Space Mountain is closed for repairs. Your perfect trip has suddenly become a bit of a bummer, no matter how many other things went right. You didn’t tell your travel agent that you wanted to ride Space Mountain. They didn’t ask. And that didn’t set anyone up for success. The same thing happens with client onboarding. Here are the most common client onboarding problems and what you can do to fix them.

Not understanding what success looks like can ruin a dream vacation, and it can also undermine new client onboarding for your product or service. Perfectly executed processes mean nothing if you get to the end of onboarding and your client doesn’t have what they wanted.

The most important thing for project teams to understand is this: the entire success of your onboarding process hinges on understanding what your customer wants. What excites them about the project? What work are they trying to accomplish?

Crack that code and you can tailor the onboarding and implementation process to deliver it. Your clients will feel happy and stay with you for a long time.

Are you struggling to understand what success looks like and deliver the right client experience? Here are five steps you can take to figure it out.


1.      Lay Out the Process from Beginning to End

Every customer starts a new onboarding experience with some questions and fears.

  • Did I make a mistake when I purchased this product or service?
  • Am I going to get what I need out of it?
  • Will the value I get be worth the effort and expense?

Giving them a full view of the process will help customers feel confident and understand what your team will be doing. With a transparent process, you can address your customers’ fears and make it clear the value your product or service will deliver.

If customers know all the steps you plan to complete and what they need to deliver, it will also be easier for them to articulate anything that might be missing. That sets you up to provide even more value and create a stronger working relationship.


2.      Don’t Assume You Know What Your Customers Want

Not everyone who goes to Disneyland is there to ride Space Mountain. Some people might be there for the churros. You have favorite features of your product or service, but your customers might be most excited about something completely different. Your job is to find out what it is.

For example, you might love the analytics features of your product. Knowing how people find a website, what they are looking at on the site, and how long they stay on the site might excite you most. But maybe your customer’s goal is to reduce time-to-value by 30%. If you don’t take the time to figure out their interest, you could spend your entire onboarding processes focused on the wrong thing.

And then what happens? You get to the end of the process thinking everything went great, but your customer walked away without the thing they wanted most. Working with your customer to define what success looks like for them helps you deliver the value they expect. This is one of the most common onboarding problems we see.


3.      Treat People as Individuals

You aren’t just helping a company meet their organizational goals. You are also trying to make things run more smoothly for individual people, like your customer’s implementation manager. Specific people have their own ideas about what success looks like. An executive might want to see that the implementation is on track, while a project manager may need deeper details. Understanding and meeting individual visions of success is part of your job, too.

Leaving people out of the project who could be beneficial could lengthen the onboarding process and create onboarding problems down the road. It’s best to make sure all the right people are participating and that they are being treated as a human instead of an email address.


4.       Coordinate with the Sales Team

The sales team can give you extra insight into how the customer got to you and what initially excited them about your product or service. Understanding the sales process can help you set the tone of the project and have more meaningful conversations with your customers.

Remember: Many customers may not know how to articulate their idea of success right away. That’s OK. It could take multiple conversations to get there. That’s OK, too. Starting the customer onboarding process with some understanding of what everyone is hoping for will help you solidify the right definition of success faster.


5.      Check In Regularly

As customers use your product or service, check in regularly and see how things are going. Ask yourself:

  • What things are working?
  • What has surprised them?
  • What isn’t going the way they expected?
  • What can you do to fix it?

Staying in touch helps create strong, long-term relationships, but it also puts you in a position to respond quickly as definitions of success change.



If keeping up with the little tasks is the biggest onboarding problem, we highly recommend finding a client onboarding solution. Here’s G2’s list of client onboarding solutions. Automated communication keeps everyone on schedule. A smooth, repeatable process frees up time to nurture client relationships and everyone gets what they want in the end.

If you want to learn more about how to set up a great client onboarding process, click here!




Harris Clarke


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