The Difference Between Client Onboarding and User Onboarding

By Garrett O'Brien
Jun 14, 2020

Many people use the terms “client onboarding” and “user onboarding” interchangeably, but there are some key differences between these two things. Understanding the differences can help you choose the right onboarding software to meet your needs as you bring in new customers.


User Onboarding

User onboarding consists of a set number of steps that get a person set up to engage with your product. That often includes things like setting up a username and password and sending some basic instructions or short videos on how to start using your software program. It may also include helping people set up things like preferences or permissions within your system. In general, it’s a pretty quick process to get them up and running. For many companies, it doesn’t require an entire project management software, just some simple automated communications.


Client Onboarding

Client onboarding, on the other hand, is often a longer and more in-depth process than user onboarding. It’s usually going to take several weeks (perhaps even months, depending on the complexity of your product or service), and it’s a time when your onboarding team establishes and builds a relationship with a new client.

Your client onboarding process may include one or more steps to help with user onboarding. For example, if clients are preparing to use your accounting software program, one of the steps in your overall client onboarding process might be to set up all the usernames, passwords, preferences, and permissions within the system for the individual users. However, your full client onboarding process goes far beyond just giving out usernames and passwords.

In order to build this relationship, it’s essential that your team can communicate with the new clients throughout the process, complete all your tasks on time, and provide a five-star experience so the new clients are ready to succeed.



One of the key features that differentiates user onboarding from client onboarding is the concept of time-to-value (TTV). For more complex products or services, part of your onboarding goal should be to help the client see the value or ROI potential as quickly as possible. The sooner you can get clients to their TTV point, the more likely they will be to stay with you for the long term. Every company should know the point where clients achieve that TTV, but if you don’t, take a step back from your onboarding to figure it out using data from past clients who stayed or left, or by reviewing the key benefits and differentiating features of your product.

Successful client onboarding often includes user onboarding, but it’s more about building a relationship than just setting up a user in your system.

GuideCX improves your client onboarding process with a project management software that facilitates effective communication for internal and external teams, automates certain parts of the process for speedier time-to-value, and provides transparency to improve team member accountability. Find out more by contacting us for a demo today.

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