Customer Onboarding Specialist: What to Know & How to Hire a Great One

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Alana Chinn
Alana Chinn


A customer onboarding specialist is like the instruction manual for your brand new piece of IKEA furniture. I know, just hear me out.

Let’s say you’ve been walking through the winding aisles of IKEA for hours. You finally set your sights on the perfect couch. The couch is sturdy and comfortable. Plus, it’s the ideal color: orange. Well, for HubSpot, anyway.

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In true IKEA fashion, your couch leaves with you the same day. You get home, eager to set it up, and … there’s no instruction booklet. Plus, one of the legs is missing.

You may start to feel frustrated and confused. Or, you may decide to abandon the project altogether.

Many customers have similar feelings after buying a product. Especially, when they don’t have the tools or guidance to complete their first task.

Enter: the customer onboarding specialist.

Customer Onboarding Specialist Responsibilities

After a customer signs up with your company, they’re likely asking themselves: OK, what’s next?

Customer onboarding specialists help customers navigate past the point of sale and accomplish their first goal.

Responsibilities include:

  • Providing detailed direction on how to get started with product implementation
  • Consulting with customers to resolve product issues during the introductory phase
  • Facilitating a smooth transition from onboarding to customer success management

Onboarding Specialist vs. Customer Success

Customer onboarding specialists are part of your customer success team. Think of them as the first line of defense.

The onboarding specialist steps in early to educate customers on how to use the product. They also make sure customers complete their first task with minimal friction.

At that point, the onboarding process ends. Now, the customer is handed off to a customer success manager for continued support.

Customer success managers:

  • Cultivate relationships with customers (and help keep them happy)
  • Bridge the gap between customers and your support team
  • Communicate common customer behaviors to sales, marketing, and product teams
  • Advise customers on future buying decisions with your company

Why is it important to have a customer onboarding specialist?

Remember that IKEA couch we bought? Well, we need onboarding specialists for the same reasons we need that instruction booklet (and that extra leg).

Set Customers Up for Success

According to Wyzowl, 55% of people say they've returned a product because they didn't understand how to use it.

Customer onboarding specialists help solve this problem. They make sure people feel comfortable using your product. Onboarding specialists also give customers the confidence to complete tasks from the start.

Plus, good onboarding doesn’t only benefit the customer. It makes things easier for your customer success and support teams, too.

Reduce Customer Churn

Gaining a new customer is great. But, keeping that customer is even better. In fact, Invesp found that acquiring new customers is between five and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones.

Without the guidance of an onboarding specialist, customers are more likely to churn.

Common Reasons Customers Churn

  • They haven’t had a lot of engagement with your product.
  • There are too many product issues or “bugs” (read: bad user experience).
  • There’s a lack of proactive customer support.

Customer onboarding specialists step in immediately after the sale. They give customers the tools —and motivation — to stick around.

Support Company Growth

“If growth or scale is on your company roadmap, you must have customer onboarding specialists.” Caleb King, inbound consultant at HubSpot

When it comes to future growth, a good onboarding program is essential. As sales increase, your onboarding capacity should do the same.


King says it best: “Without proper onboarding, sales won’t make the same impact because churn will increase, too.”

Which skills do customer onboarding specialists need to be successful?

Listening Comprehension

It may seem simple, but it’s important for onboarding specialists to listen to their customers.

They should be able to:

  • Recognize customer needs
  • Understand their pain points
  • Draw smart conclusions from their conversations

Give your customers the opportunity to tell you exactly how to make (and keep) them happy.


Effective communication is key. New customers are getting to know your product. So, customer onboarding specialists need to share accurate information about your features. They should be able to provide clear and concise answers to frequently asked questions.

Good onboarding specialists communicate with empathy and patience, too.

Learning something new — like building a couch for the first time — can be frustrating. Put yourself in their shoes. Show your customers you care.

Project Management

Customer onboarding specialists should be project management gurus. Good organization and time management skills are non-negotiable.

Onboarding specialists are typically working with more than one customer at a time. They need to be comfortable jumping across projects based on customer needs.

Product Knowledge and Business Acumen

New customers are going to have questions during onboarding. Your team needs to be well-versed in your business and how your products work.

They don’t need to know everything. But, onboarding specialists should have a solid foundation of knowledge to pull from. And, when they don’t know the answer, they should be able to point customers to someone who does.

What does a day-in-the-life of a customer onboarding specialist look like?

To answer this question, we reached out to HubSpot Customer Onboarding Specialist Katie Cort. Here’s a glimpse into her typical day.

“I try to block off an hour at the beginning of the day to respond to emails. I spend the rest of the day on customer consulting calls. Logging notes and follow-up action items for myself during calls is important. Especially if I can't get to something right after the call.”

Cort also gave us insight into HubSpot’s customer onboarding process:

  1. It usually starts with a discovery call to understand the customer's goals and challenges. This helps us figure out where the customer is today vs. where they want to be.
  2. Then, we like to get an idea of what technology stack the customer has. Do they need to do any software migrations? What resources do they need?
  3. From there, we set up regular check-ins with the customer. In the background, we’re assigning tasks and sharing resources with the customer to make sure they’re on the right track.
  4. Finally, we conclude onboarding and make sure the customer is tracking their key performance indicators or KPIs. We also help them identify their next areas for growth.

Here are a few more new customer onboarding best practices to keep in mind.

How do I hire a great customer onboarding specialist?

Great onboarding is crucial when it comes to customer success. If you’re interested in hiring a customer onboarding specialist, make sure you’re:

  • Offering competitive pay
  • Clear about your expectations for the role
  • Screening for the right qualifications

Customer Onboarding Specialist Salary

According to Glassdoor, the median customer onboarding specialist salary in the United States is $57,749. The full range is from $22,000 to $183,000.

Specialists on the higher end of the salary range typically have more years of education or experience in the field. The average pay also varies by job location.

Customer Onboarding Specialist Job Description

A good customer onboarding specialist job description provides clear and accurate details about the role, and tells applicants what their regular duties will be.

Check out the example below.

As a customer onboarding specialist, you are the first ingredient in our recipe for customer success. You will be responsible for:

  • Educating new customers about our business and their product suite
  • Helping new customers with account setup and implementation
  • Conducting new customer check-in calls on a daily, weekly, or biweekly basis
  • Resolving technical problems to create a customer experience with minimal friction
  • Responding to new customer requests and inquiries via chat, email, and phone
  • Maintaining new customer relationships from product set-up to implementation

Sample Customer Onboarding Specialist Interview Questions

Choose a set of interview questions that screen for critical skills and traits — like communication and coachability.

For example:

  • What does customer delight look like to you?
  • How do you balance competing priorities from multiple customers?
  • Provide an example of how you’ve handled a customer complaint or unhappy customer.
  • How do you define empathy?
  • Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond for a customer.
  • Describe a time when you couldn't solve the customer's problem. What was the outcome?

Good news. We found the instruction booklet for the brand new couch on the IKEA website. And, the missing leg wasn’t missing after all. It was just hidden under one of the cushions.

Looks like we’re all set to build this couch. Awesome. Next up: a coffee table.

In other words, your customer has the tools they need to successfully use your product. They’re excited to get started — and they can’t wait to continue working with you.

Kudos to your customer onboarding specialist for the support.

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