Customer Onboarding vs. User Onboarding: What's the difference?

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Onboarding is a catch-all term that describes a company's processes to get new customers and users acclimated to their products. Many businesses offer tailored onboarding experiences to deliver better first impressions.

If you want to do the same, it's essential to understand the difference between customer onboarding and user onboarding. We explain below.

The Difference Between Customer Onboarding and User Onboarding

The main difference between customer and user onboarding is that customers already pay you for your product, while users don’t. This seemingly small distinction has an outsized impact on the onboarding process.

For example, customer onboarding aims to teach a new paying customer how to use your product so they find value in it and decide to remain a paying customer. This type of onboarding may also aim to upsell or cross-sell to increase the client's value.

User onboarding is another process for teaching someone how to use your product. But a user isn’t a customer because they haven’t paid you anything yet. So, this onboarding process aims to drive the initial conversion.

Real World Examples

Let’s explore a couple of real-world onboarding examples to understand better how these processes differ in practice.

Consider DuoLingo — a language-learning app used by millions of people across the planet. It’s an app anyone can download and use for free, so it focuses on new user onboarding instead of customer onboarding.

Because of that, DuoLingo’s onboarding process is fast, straightforward, and exceedingly simple. It prioritizes speed so users can start seeing the app's value as soon as possible. The idea is to make sure new users experience DuoLingo instead of losing interest because of a lengthy onboarding process.

We can compare that to a customer relationship management (CRM) service like HubSpot, which has a very in-depth customer onboarding process to ensure new business clients can extract maximum value from the product. This depth level works because the customer has already paid for HubSpot and is unlikely to lose interest in the same they might if trying a free language-learning app for the first time.

When To Use Customer and User Onboarding

Some companies use both types of onboarding, while others only focus on one. The best option for your business will depend on its products.

For example, suppose you offer a free trial or free version of your software. In that case, you’ll want to develop a streamlined user onboarding experience for potential customers who want to see what you offer. But if you only make your product available to paying customers, you should focus on creating a more in-depth, personalized customer onboarding experience.

How To Get Started With Customer and User Onboarding

No matter where you’re at with your current onboarding processes, investing in an onboarding tool can help you take the next step forward. Onboarding software like OnRamp comes with a variety of tools and features that help companies bring their ideal processes to life while generating data for iterative improvements.

Want to learn more? Sign up for a free OnRamp demo today to experience how it can transform your company’s onboarding processes.

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