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Poor client onboarding experiences: how to avoid them [free templates]

A poor onboarding experience impacts both client relationships and revenue. Learn how to avoid mistakes and create the best onboarding experience for your clients.

poor client onboarding experience

You offer quality service, are great at email marketing, and even have good conversion rates—but something is off. You aren’t getting great feedback, or your referrals aren’t yielding like you expected. Is your revenue suffering? Your client onboarding process might be the issue. 

A bad client onboarding experience is the leading cause of attrition and is responsible for 23% of client churn. Even if you have successfully converted the leads into clients, they may still turn away from your business, or decline to refer your services if your onboarding support is poor. 

But how can you determine if your onboarding process is good, bad, or above average? Here we discuss how you can assess your client onboarding process by understanding client expectations, determining your goals, and learning through successful companies onboarding process examples.

While you can easily find instances of great onboarding experiences, there are a few poor ones you can learn from.

Table of Contents

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What is client onboarding?

Client onboarding is how you integrate new clients into your business.

Client onboarding can be tedious while clients figure out how they are supposed to work with you. An effective client onboarding process helps set expectations about project goals, timelines, and communication. 

The onboarding experience your client has sets the tone for the service delivery and project closeout, and can ultimately determine if your client hires you again or refers you. 

Person starting a client onboarding workflow on their phone

What is a bad client onboarding experience?

A bad client onboarding experience is one that doesn’t meet the set onboarding goals. It may fail to guide clients on the services, provide inadequate resources, or dismiss client concerns.

Overall, a bad onboarding experience impacts client satisfaction, deterring them from being loyal clients for your business. There are several reasons why clients consider an onboarding experience to be bad:

  • You’re often unresponsive
  • Your resources are non-existent or inadequate
  • They have difficulty understanding your value
  • Lack of follow-up

While these issues are usually not intentional, they negatively impact your client relationships. However, you can solve these issues by addressing many of the common challenges businesses face while onboarding clients. 

Common challenges faced during client onboarding

The goal of client onboarding is for you to get information from the client on what they’re seeking from your services and for clients to gain a full understanding of what you offer and set expectations for your services. If you are struggling with client onboarding, then you need to address these onboarding challenges.

Understanding key issues

One of the common client onboarding challenges is addressing a client’s key issues. Understanding client issues requires high visibility into their decision to choose your services and being able to assess the value you’ve brought to them once you’ve delivered your service.

Otherwise, your onboarding process may address hundreds of topics while sidelining the crucial ones.

For example, if you are sending an email about the value your service will bring to a client, but they can’t find a clear way to book the onboarding call with you, that yields a poor client experience.

By extension, how will you meet their needs if they can’t communicate the problem they need to solve to you? Be sure your client’s needs are at the top of your priority list.

Setting onboarding expectations

This goes together with understanding key issues. What do your clients expect from onboarding? And are you providing them with the right resources? 

Generally, clients expect clear guidance, simple solutions, and regular follow-up emails. But depending on the service, they may also expect a detailed breakdown of your services and a timeline, which may or may not be covered in all onboarding processes.

Discussing these factors beforehand and setting clear onboarding expectations is crucial to avoid post-onboarding dissatisfaction. 

Creating efficient processes

Clients are happier when they experience a seamless clientflow right from discovery to onboarding and through project completion. However, every project has unique requirements and a one-size-fits-all approach to processes isn’t feasible.

Streamlining these processes for every client helps you meet client expectations while maintaining efficiency within your business.

Three people meeting to discuss client onboarding

The importance of positive client onboarding experiences

Positive client onboarding experiences result in high client satisfaction with the business as well as the service. Clients feel supported post sales, which has the following benefits:

Earning client loyalty

If clients have a positive experience during the initial post-conversion period, they are likely to continue doing business with you. 63% of clients say onboarding experience plays a huge role in deciding whether they want to continue using a service or not. 

Apart from the initial service, they will also consider your business as the first choice for other service requirements.

Higher lifetime value

With higher retention, you spend less on client acquisition for scaling. Instead, the revenue gap is filled by loyal clients who continue buying or subscribing to your services for a longer time. 

Clients with a high lifetime value give better returns than continuously acquiring new leads. They are also willing to spend more or try out new services from the same brand in exchange for a great onboarding experience. 


A positive onboarding process promotes word-of-mouth marketing at no additional cost to the business. 

Clients who had a good experience with a company recommend the services to others, earning the company some new clients. They also leave online reviews and generate a positive brand image which boosts your revenue. 

Good onboarding gives great results in terms of sales, revenue, and marketing. But even a single mistake in the client experience onboarding process can result in their dissatisfaction. 

Want to know the most common errors in the client onboarding process? Here are a few examples and how to avoid them.

Examples of bad client onboarding experiences and how to avoid them

Several companies have previously suffered the consequences of onboarding mistakes. To avoid repeating the same errors, go through these bad client experience examples and learn how to avoid them.

  1. Lack of a simple reaching out process

Your client onboarding process enable clients to get in touch with you as quickly as possible. A lengthy contact process can delay this, making it frustrating for both the clients and the business.

Moreover, before reaching the onboarding point, many leads spend days talking to your team about their project. Asking for the same details at different stages of onboarding is repetitive and alienating for the client. 

Keep your contact form process quick and simple. A few details, such as a name, email, and message can be sufficient. You can further simplify the contact process by

  • Automatically sending welcome packets with further onboarding steps directly to their email accounts.
  • Keeping track of client information throughout the onboarding process to avoid repeating the same questions.
  1. Fixed Packages

Every client has different requirements for purchasing services. Some clients may outsource the service completely, while others may want to involve their internal team. They might also look towards experimenting initially before committing to a package for the long term.

If you offer only rigid pricing and fixed services, it may not accommodate the requirements of all your clients. They may be forced to choose a package that they don’t really want or may skip working with you entirely.

Design inclusive packages that offer services for all types of clients. You can accommodate all requirements by

  • Creating a custom package option in addition to fixed packages.
  • Allowing clients to input their budget and calculate the price on their own based on your information.
  • Understand client requirements in detail through calls or email and later send them a quote.
  1. Time-consuming process management

The client onboarding process should simplify information for clients and not leave them confused. This applies to the resources, interactions, and platforms used throughout the onboarding and service process.

Delivering inefficient resources or using poorly managed platforms creates additional work for the client. It can also distract clients from the actual workflow, if the process management requires additional attention.

Use time-tested, verified, and easy-to-use platforms to manage processes. You can also streamline task management by

  • Using an all-in-one clientflow solution like HoneyBook so you don’t need to use multiple external platforms for communication, invoicing, and payment.

Minimize the number of additional platforms utilized while managing client projects.

  1. Lack of post-onboarding steps

For clients, post-onboarding is a crucial stage where a client gets to know, engage with, and understand your work firsthand.

Without proper post-onboarding processes, clients can feel confused, abandoned, and doubt their decision to work with your business.

Always keep the clients engaged even if there are no tasks to review or approve. Understanding previous case studies, selecting themes, or reviewing daily progress – keep the clients involved throughout the process.

You can further optimize their post-onboarding process by:

  • Using emails and other channels to display new updates, videos, or case studies.
  • Helping clients understand more about your services through optimized blog posts
  • Maintaining clear communication about work progress, deadlines, and so on so the client always knows what to expect.

Understand clients’ needs to avoid bad experiences

Bad client experiences are usually the result of tiny mistakes that disrupt the entire onboarding process. These mistakes can be prevented by developing a better understanding of client expectations and perspectives.

The above examples are generally overseen by businesses but have a negative impact on the overall client experience. If you want to avoid them, you can learn from the examples and build a better, highly intuitive onboarding process. 

Want to create more positive client experiences? Check out our resources on business best practices.

Keep clients happy

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