12 Client Onboarding Best Practices to Increase User Activation

12 Client Onboarding Best Practices to Increase User Activation cover

There’s a science to successful customer onboarding, and following the client onboarding best practices in this article will set you on the right path.

Read on as we explore client onboarding and how to combine creativity, thoughtfulness, and the right onboarding software to help customers ‘get’ your product.


  • Client onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients and familiarizing them with your product to ensure customer success.
  • A good client onboarding experience is informative, contextual, intuitive, and engaging.

3 benefits of a successful customer onboarding process:

  1. Smoother product adoption
  2. Increased customer satisfaction
  3. Less churn

12 customer onboarding best practices to adopt:

  1. Have a clear client onboarding strategy: Keep your audience and product nuances in mind when designing your strategy.
  2. Dig deep into customer needs: Create user personas with detailed information and use them as guides to building engaging flows for new customers.
  3. Set your goals and milestones: Goals keep you on your feet and provide a way to measure your customer onboarding success.
  4. Personalize the onboarding experience: Collect customer data and use it to segment your audience for more personalized experiences.
  5. Polish your in-app communication: Use UI elements like tooltips, modals, etc., for quick and contextual communication.
  6. Deliver value early: Don’t stop at the initial Aha! Moment. Go on to provide continuous value and get new users hooked.
  7. Keep it light with gamification: This enables you to keep the user onboarding process interesting and engaging.
  8. Invest in the right tool: Not everything can be done manually. Use automation to save time.
  9. Help clients help themselves: Do this by building self-serve help centers—preferably in-app.
  10. Follow-up after the onboarding: Post-onboarding follow-up is a great way to maintain an ongoing relationship with customers. Don’t sleep on it.
  11. Improve upon feedback: You won’t get everything right on your first try, but that’s expected. Regularly gather feedback to assess and adjust your customer onboarding experience.
  12. Don’t forget about secondary onboarding: It doesn’t stop with the primary onboarding of new customers. Create continuous onboarding and engagement loops to keep users hooked as they move through the customer lifecycle.

What is client onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients and familiarizing them with your product. The ideal onboarding process is designed to be simple, answer customer questions and concerns, and prove to them that you’re the only solution they need.

Proper customer onboarding helps new users to experience value quickly, leads to increased activation rates, and consequently, higher customer retention.


Why should you care about the onboarding process?

So much time and effort go into creating onboarding frameworks that clients enjoy. But why is customer onboarding important? Before making this investment, it’s essential to know what you stand to gain from it.

Sneak peek: Effective customer onboarding is one of the best decisions you’ll make for your company. The benefits are just too good to ignore:

Smoother product adoption

Do you wonder why some companies experience low product adoption rates? It doesn’t seem logical at face value—the customer decided to sign up because they like what the software can help them do, so why delay in using the product, or even worse, switch to a competitor?

The answer is simple: That initial fascination for the product isn’t the only thing customers need to continue with the tool. You must use your onboarding to show them, in practice, that your software is worth it. Client onboarding increases adoption rates because it helps users get familiar with the product, learn to use it right, and gives them hope that it can help them succeed.

Increased customer satisfaction

Leaving users to figure out the product on their own leads to frustration as they’d struggle to know what each feature represents. But onboarding shows them how to combine features to achieve their objectives fast. This speed helps users enjoy the product more and results in increased customer satisfaction because you’re making life easier for them.

Less churn

Client onboarding can quickly make or break a user’s experience with a product.

Your clients are more likely to churn when there’s no proper onboarding strategy in place. And this isn’t mere theory; the stats say so. The following report by Zonka Feedback shows poor onboarding is the leading cause of churn.


Proper onboarding reduces churn because customers are equipped with all the knowledge they need to succeed. So, rather than churning, they’ll continue with the product and even stay for longer if they keep gaining value.

What makes a good client onboarding experience?

Client onboarding experiences vary depending on the product and audience. However, successful customer onboarding processes have some key elements in common.

First, they’re informative. The right onboarding flow should give customers all the knowledge and tricks they need to thrive—and these should be delivered contextually as the user progresses through the product. In addition, the onboarding process should be intuitive and engaging, so the new client doesn’t lose interest along the way.

12 client onboarding best practices to adopt

This section will show you customer onboarding best practices that will enable you to create onboarding flows that drive results. Let’s jump right in!

1. Have a clear client onboarding strategy

You need a well-defined customer onboarding strategy and roadmap to stay consistent and guide users successfully. But not every customer onboarding process will be the same, so consider your product’s and audience’s unique traits to develop a suitable strategy.

If you’re wondering, an onboarding strategy is simply the approach(es) you take to meet new client needs and ensure they get comfortable with your product.

2. Dig deep into customer needs

Understanding what customers need and expect from your product will arm you to build the onboarding process that will take them there.

How do you figure out this vital information?

Reverse engineer your customer attraction process. To attract the right customers, companies first create a user persona that details the customer’s pain points, challenges, aspirations, etc. They use this information in ads, blog content, and other marketing material to speak directly to customers.

The same principle applies to onboarding. Create a detailed customer persona that captures essential customer data. Use that to create onboarding flows that empathize with user needs.

Create your user personas with this free template.

3. Set your goals and milestones

Goals keep you on your feet and provide a way to measure onboarding success. Have realistic goals, set clear deadlines, and develop a tracking system to keep you accountable. Also, be specific about what you want to achieve and how.

For instance, your goal might be to increase the onboarding completion rate, reduce time to completion, minimize support tickets related to the onboarding stage, etc. Outline a clear strategy for how each objective will be accomplished.

Regularly track your goals to identify adjustment areas. In case you haven’t noticed, what we outlined above is the SMART goal-setting framework:


4. Personalize the onboarding experience

Segment your audience according to the data you have on them. Consider each segment’s specific needs, technical background, behavioral patterns, preferred channels, etc., to give them a more personalized approach.

It’s understandable if you don’t have much data on the new users. In situations like that, you could use a welcome screen to ask them a few targeted questions and tailor their experiences based on the response received.

Audience segmentation with Userpilot.

5. Polish your in-app communication

Customer communication shouldn’t be limited to the app since there are many communication channels your customers will love. However, it makes sense to double down on in-app messages at this phase in the user journey since most of the onboarding happens in-app.

Use contextual help and messages triggered by actions to deliver the right info at the right time. This approach will certainly make your onboarding smoother and increase user satisfaction.

6. Deliver value early on

Value delivery is one of those client onboarding best practices that continue through the user journey.

Drive the initial Aha! Moment early in the onboarding process to motivate users, but don’t stop there. Repeat the process, consistently stacking value and showing that your product is ideal for solving their problems.

The image below illustrates it perfectly:


7. Keep it light with gamification

One of the most common mistakes in the onboarding process is keeping it boring, and this makes users lose interest quickly.

Always remember that users consider the onboarding experience as a foretaste of what your platform will be like. Try to make it as engaging as possible, so they won’t assume your product will be a chore.

Implement gamification elements to add excitement. Also, choose interactive walkthroughs over bland product tours because the former is more engaging and helps users to learn by doing.

An example of gamifying the onboarding with a checklist.

8. Invest in the right tool

Not everything can be done manually; even if it can, sometimes the time and effort it takes are not worth it. Invest in onboarding software to automate some processes, save time, and enhance customer experience.

Userpilot is one onboarding tool that provides all you need for effective client onboarding—more details at the end of the article.

9. Help clients help themselves

Your clients will inevitably have more questions than what’s provided in the onboarding flow. And the average user prefers to address issues independently, only escalating it to the support or customer success team when it’s too difficult.

Solve these problems by providing self-service options. (Many self-service channels exist, so use what works best for you).

It’s best to host your self-service solution in-app. That way, customers don’t have to leave your platform and get distracted with other stuff.

Userpilot’s Resource Center.

10. Follow up after the onboarding

Follow-ups after the onboarding are relationship-building opportunities you don’t want to sleep on. Send automated messages to users that completed the customer onboarding process. Your message should thank them again for choosing you and encourage them to get in touch if they have any questions or need extra guidance.

This is preferably sent via email, but you can also do it in-app if you want. Feel free to add extra resources you think the user will need at that point in their lifecycle.

11. Improve upon feedback

You won’t get everything right on your first try, but that’s expected. Regularly gather feedback to assess and adjust your onboarding experience. Don’t forget to keep a record so you’ll have easy access to your improvement history.

Your feedback surveys can be sent via in-app prompts, social media, email, etc., whichever works for you. Ideally, this feedback survey should be simple and easy to respond to. The best way around it is asking for a quick quantitative survey, followed by an optional qualitative question where customers can give detailed feedback.

HubSpot onboarding experience survey.

12. Don’t forget about secondary onboarding

It doesn’t stop with the primary onboarding of new customers. That’s just the first step. Provide continuous onboarding and create engagement loops that hook users to your product. Doing this makes it easier to retain customers and turn many of them into loyal fans.

Secondary onboarding familiarizes activated users with advanced features and helps them gain more value from your product.


Building your client onboarding with Userpilot

Userpilot has multiple tools to help you create a successful client onboarding journey.

Here’s a rundown on how our software can help:

  • UI elements for contextual tips and hints. These elements will take your in-app communication to the next level. Our checklists, modals, tooltips, slideouts, and other elements are fully customizable. This means you can adjust them to your brand style for smooth integration with your product.
Various UI patterns for your onboarding flows.
  • Create self-service portals to provide additional support to customers that might need it.
  • Set goals and track their completion. For instance, you could track the adoption of a specific feature that’s critical to your user’s success in the app.
  • Get analytics and data into user behavior to optimize your customer onboarding flow.
Goal tracking on Userpilot.


Keep two things in mind as you go on to build your client onboarding process:

  • Your product and audience are unique
  • You won’t get everything right the first time

So, approach the process with thoughtfulness. Begin by researching your audience’s needs, desires, and motivations. Then use that information to draft a suitable flow. Keep collecting user feedback on the onboarding experience to make improvements.

Want to begin implementing the client onboarding best practices discussed in this article? Book a demo to see how Userpilot can help!

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