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Updated: Nov 29, 2023

The distinction between implementation vs onboarding, and vice versa, is often a crucial factor in determining the success of a product or service adoption. While both stages are integral components of the customer journey, they serve distinct purposes. Onboarding primarily focuses on orienting customers to the product or service, ensuring they grasp its fundamental features and functionalities. On the other hand, implementation dives deeper, involving the integration and customization of the offering within the customer's specific workflow or environment.

Understanding the nuances between these stages is crucial for businesses striving to create a holistic and efficient customer experience. This article will delve into the key differences, best practices, and strategies for harmonizing these critical phases, shedding light on how businesses can optimize both customer onboarding and implementation processes.


​​Customer onboarding involves a series of steps that guide customers from the moment of their first interaction with the company, all the way to becoming fully engaged and self-sufficient users. This process typically includes activities such as product demonstrations, welcome emails, educational resources, and personalized support, all tailored to help customers understand the value proposition and capabilities of the offering. Effective customer onboarding is crucial for building trust, reducing churn, and establishing a foundation for long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The customer onboarding process

The customer onboarding process typically consists of five key steps:

1. Introduction and Welcome: This initial step sets the tone for the customer's relationship with the company. It involves a warm welcome, introduction to the product or service, and an overview of what the customer can expect. This phase may include a welcome email, a personalized message, or a brief orientation session.

2. Product Familiarization: In this step, customers are introduced to the core features and functionalities of the product or service. This can involve guided tours, video tutorials, or interactive demonstrations. The aim is to help customers gain a basic understanding of how to use the offering effectively.

3. Personalization and Customization: This phase involves tailoring the product or service to meet the specific needs and preferences of the customer. It may include setting up user profiles, configuring preferences, or customizing settings. Providing clear guidance on how to personalize their experience is crucial for ensuring customers get the most value from the offering.

4. Education and Training: Ongoing education is essential for empowering customers to make the most of the product. This step includes providing access to resources like user manuals, knowledge bases, webinars, and workshops. It also involves addressing any questions or concerns that arise during the learning proces

5. Feedback and Support: Continuous support is vital for a successful onboarding process. This step involves establishing clear channels for customer feedback and inquiries, as well as providing access to customer support resources. Addressing concerns promptly and effectively is crucial for building trust and confidence in the product or service.

Throughout the onboarding process, it's important to maintain clear communication with the customer, ensuring they feel valued and supported. Tailoring the onboarding experience to the customer's specific needs and preferences is key to a successful transition from new user to fully engaged customer. Additionally, gathering feedback at various stages allows for continuous improvement of the onboarding process and the product itself. A seamless onboarding experience not only leads to higher customer satisfaction but also lays the foundation for long-term customer loyalty and advocacy.


Implementation is a big part part of the customer onboarding process. This not only facilitates a smooth transition into usage but also lays the foundation for a successful and long-lasting customer relationship. Unlike the onboarding process, which is focused on introducing and familiarizing customers with a product or service, implementation involves the actual integration and application of the offering within the customer's workflow or environment. This phase is often ongoing, as it entails fine-tuning and optimizing the use of the product to meet the customer's specific needs and goals. It may involve tasks such as configuring settings, integrating with existing systems, and providing advanced training for more specialized features. Successful implementation ensures that the customer derives maximum value from the product, making it an integral part of their operations or processes.


Customer onboarding and implementation are distinct phases in the customer journey, each with its own set of goals, focus, and activities.

Customer onboarding primarily aims to familiarize customers with a product or service and ensure they have a positive initial experience. The goal is to guide them from the point of first interaction with the company to becoming self-sufficient users. Onboarding focuses on establishing a strong foundation for the customer's relationship with the company, building trust, and reducing churn. It involves activities like product demonstrations, welcome messages, and educational resources to help customers understand the value and capabilities of the offering.

Implementation, on the other hand, occurs after the onboarding process and is centered around integrating the product into the customer's workflow or environment. The goal here is to ensure that the product is effectively applied to meet the customer's specific needs and goals. Unlike onboarding, which concentrates on the customer's experience, implementation's primary focus is on the product itself. This phase involves activities such as configuring settings, customizing features, and integrating with existing systems. It's an ongoing process that aims to optimize the use of the product for the customer's benefit.


Onboarding is a crucial process in guiding customers through the initial steps of adopting a product or service. However, the level of hand-holding required should be tailored to meet the specific expectations of each customer. Different segments or industries may have varying demands for guidance, largely influenced by the complexity of their problem domain. For instance, in simpler domains, onboarding can be low-touch, allowing customers to quickly get up and running. On the other hand, in more complex segments or industries, there is often a greater need for comprehensive guidance and change management.

The maturity of a product also plays a significant role in shaping the onboarding and implementation process. A mature product tends to be more user-friendly, often requiring less intensive support for customers to effectively utilize it. Such products are typically characterized by a "plug and play" nature, allowing users to seamlessly integrate them into their existing workflows. Conversely, earlier-stage products may necessitate a more structured implementation process, as they might have more intricate setup requirements and functionalities.

In a maturity model, implementation can be seen as a crutch for product maturity. This implies that a less mature product may heavily rely on implementation services to bridge the gap between its capabilities and the customer's needs. This dependency gradually diminishes as the product matures, allowing customers to leverage its features with greater ease.

This dynamic also extends to the organizational structure of teams responsible for onboarding and implementation. Initially, onboarding often falls within the domain of Customer Success (CS), where the emphasis is on getting customers acquainted with the product. Implementation, on the other hand, may evolve from Support or Professional Services teams, focusing on the technical setup and integration aspects. These services may differ in how they are charged, ranging from free offerings to fixed fees or time and materials (T&M) models.


Ideally, these processes should be aligned under the bounds of a dedicated leader, such as a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), who can oversee the entire customer journey. In some instances, especially in smaller organizations or for products with straightforward setups, the same individual may handle both onboarding and implementation. This convergence can be highly beneficial as it ensures a consistent and unified approach. It allows for a deeper understanding of the customer's needs and facilitates a smoother transition from the initial stages of onboarding to the more technical aspects of implementation.

However, as the complexity of the product or service increases, it may be advantageous to have specialized teams or individuals responsible for each phase. The onboarding team, typically led by a Customer Success Manager, focuses on guiding customers through the initial stages of adopting the product. They ensure that users are comfortable with the basics, understand the value proposition, and are set up for success.

On the other hand, the implementation team, led by a Technical Implementation Specialist or similar role, takes charge of the more technical aspects. This includes configuring the product to align with the customer's specific needs, integrating it with existing systems, and ensuring a seamless transition.

The close collaboration between these teams is crucial to prevent any gaps or overlaps in the customer journey. Regular communication and knowledge sharing are essential to ensure that the handoff from onboarding to implementation is smooth and well-coordinated.

Ultimately, the goal is to have a unified customer experience, where onboarding and implementation work in tandem to empower customers to effectively utilize the product or service. This unified approach, often overseen by a CCO in modern organizations, ensures that every touchpoint in the customer journey is optimized for success. This not only enhances customer satisfaction but also lays the foundation for long-term relationships and continued business growth.


To ensure a seamless transition from customer onboarding to implementation, it's essential to harmonize these processes effectively. This section will provide four key tips to ensure that customer onboarding and implementation work in tandem, complementing each other rather than conflicting, ultimately leading to a more successful customer experience.

Understand the customer needs

Understanding the customer's needs is paramount for seamless collaboration between onboarding and implementation teams. It forms the bedrock upon which the entire process is built. By working together to gather this crucial information, both teams can ensure they have the key insights required to perform their roles effectively. Knowing the customer's pain points, goals, and specific requirements allows for a targeted and focused approach. This insight enables teams to address potential challenges, offer tailored solutions, and provide a more personalized experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction and successful adoption of the product or service.

Furthermore, when teams from both onboarding and implementation collaborate to create a unique plan that aligns with the customer's needs, it establishes a cohesive and consistent approach. This joint effort ensures that the transition from onboarding to implementation is seamless, with a clear understanding of the customer's expectations and the steps required to meet them. It also fosters a sense of partnership and trust between the customer and the company, demonstrating a commitment to their success and satisfaction. Ultimately, this collaborative approach leads to a more efficient and effective process, resulting in a more successful customer experience overall. For more information on keeping your customers happy, take a look at our guide on service delivery in 2023.

Share roadmaps and plans between both teams

Sharing an onboarding plan between both teams is crucial for a seamless and efficient customer experience. It ensures that there is a unified understanding of the customer's journey, aligning the efforts of onboarding and implementation teams. This shared plan serves as a roadmap, outlining the specific steps and milestones involved in transitioning the customer from onboarding to full implementation. It helps in setting clear expectations for both teams and the customer regarding what comes next and how the process will unfold.

Kanban Board in Precursive
Kanban Board in Precursive

Flexibility is a key factor in this shared plan. It allows for adaptation to evolving circumstances or unforeseen challenges. Each team should have the ability to communicate their needs for the roadmap, ensuring that they can provide the necessary support and resources at each stage. Additionally, clearly defining responsibilities at each stage of the process eliminates confusion and prevents any delays. This clarity ensures that tasks are executed smoothly, and there is no waiting around for one team to pass the baton to the other, ultimately leading to a more efficient and satisfying customer experience.

Regular and transparent communication with the customer

Regular and transparent communication with the customer is a cornerstone of ensuring that customer onboarding and implementation work together seamlessly. It serves as the linchpin that holds the entire process together. Transparent communication is essential in managing the customer's expectations, giving them a clear understanding of what to anticipate at each stage of the journey. This transparency not only fosters trust but also helps in building a strong foundation for a long-lasting customer relationship. If you're looking for ways to boost customer collaboration in your own business, our guide will answer some of those questions.

Each team involved in the process should take responsibility for keeping the client well-informed about their progress. This includes providing updates on milestones achieved, addressing any concerns or questions the client may have, and ensuring they feel supported throughout the transition. This proactive approach demonstrates a high level of commitment to the customer's success and satisfaction. Moreover, open lines of communication allow for quick problem-solving and adaptation to any unforeseen challenges, ultimately leading to a smoother and more successful onboarding and implementation process.

Use the right KPIs and goals

Setting and tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and goals is instrumental in ensuring the collaboration between customer onboarding and implementation teams is effective and productive. Shared KPIs and goals provide a unified focus for both teams, aligning their efforts towards a common objective. This alignment ensures that everyone is working towards the same end result, which is crucial for a seamless transition from onboarding to implementation. It creates a sense of shared ownership and accountability, driving a more cohesive approach to achieving success for the customer.

Moreover, utilizing the right KPIs and goals helps in identifying areas where the processes may fall short or need improvement. By regularly measuring and evaluating performance against these metrics, teams can pinpoint specific areas that require attention or refinement. This data-driven approach allows for continuous optimization of the onboarding and implementation processes, leading to a more efficient and effective customer experience overall. It also provides a foundation for ongoing performance reviews and helps in making data-backed decisions to enhance the customer journey. Looking for the customer onboarding metrics that matter? Read our guide on that here.


In summary, this article provides a comprehensive understanding of the distinctions between customer onboarding and implementation, emphasizing their collaborative role in ensuring a successful customer experience. While onboarding focuses on introducing customers to a product, implementation involves customizing and integrating it into their specific environment. To achieve a seamless transition, it's important to understand customer needs, share roadmaps between teams, maintain regular communication, and use appropriate KPIs. By aligning these processes effectively, businesses can optimize customer satisfaction and drive long-term success. For an advanced solution in managing customer onboarding and implementation, consider exploring Precursive’s PSA Software, a tool designed to enhance revenue and profitability through streamlined processes and strategic insights.

Revenue and Costs in Precursive
Revenue and Costs in Precursive

Additionally, for businesses seeking to elevate their customer onboarding and implementation processes, consider exploring Precursive’s PSA Software. This advanced tool is meticulously designed to streamline operations, enhance team collaboration, and provide invaluable insights for optimized project management. By leveraging Precursive’s software, companies can experience a substantial boost in revenues and profitability, making it an indispensable asset for achieving long-term success in customer onboarding and implementation. To learn more about how Precursive can revolutionize your operations, visit their website today.

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