IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Customer Onboarding Success Secrets

If you start a relationship off correctly, with a defined process and SOPs, it’s much more likely to be fruitful. By Jessica Meek
Reader ROI: 
THE FIRST 90 DAYS of a new customer relationship set the tone for the long-term health and profitability of that account.
BEST PRACTICES FOR AN ONBOARDING process include SOPs and documentation, as well as setting service-level expectations.
GET TO KNOW EVERYONE at the customer organization, from the mail room to the C-suite.
INVOLVE THE CUSTOMER in the onboarding process by offering them a checklist with a clear process to follow.

YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE to make a first impression, which is why the first 90 days of an MSP’s relationship with a new client can set the tone for the long-term health and profitability of that account.

Yet some MSPs are better at customer onboarding than others. One set, for example, rushes through the process as quickly as possible, or sees onboarding as a drain on what are often already-stretched resources. Another has dedicated onboarding teams that take clients through a structured process that continues even beyond the initial 90-day period, or lets clients shape their own onboarding process based on their requirements and expectations.

David Wilkeson, CEO, MSP Advisor

Generally speaking, though, the most successful MSPs follow best practices for successfully onboarding clients based on past experience. “The larger the MSP, the more they’ve learned about the importance of onboarding,” says David Wilkeson, CEO of MSP Advisor.

Onboarding Challenges

One of the key struggles MSPs face during the onboarding process is gathering all the relevant information, according to Michael Goldstein. There’s always something an MSP misses, says the president and CEO of LAN Infotech, an MSP in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This can include specialized applications the client didn’t tell you about or that weren’t obvious.

Another area that can prove tricky for MSPs during onboarding is the risk of over- or under-delivering. For example, Wilkeson says an MSP’s team dealing with new clients and the onboarding process may set unrealistic expectations, which creates the potential for problems once a customer transitions to the help desk.

“If you can solve problems in onboarding mode in 30 minutes, and then in your normal help desk operation it takes 45 minutes, you’re setting the wrong expectations,” Wilkeson says. “If you over-deliver without the client understanding what’s happening, as soon as you slow down because you’ve handed off to your regular help desk, they’ll be unhappy.”

Likewise, MSPs can often under-deliver during the onboarding process, with performance lagging behind regular service while the MSP is still getting to know the client and their needs, Wilkeson points out.

Best Practices

To get the onboarding process right, you need to create standard operating procedures (SOPs), according to Karl Bickmore, CEO of Snap Tech IT, a managed services provider headquartered in Cummings, Ga.

“I think maybe only 10 percent of MSPs do a good job at onboarding,” he says. “The average MSP doesn’t have templates, doesn’t have a plan, and doesn’t think comprehensively. They might get their agents installed and do a few things, but I think so many are not at all well planned.”

Snap Tech IT, by contrast, utilizes a minimum of five SOPs during onboarding: how to set up a new user, how to set up a new computer, how to terminate a user, how to decommission a computer, and how to establish the customer’s patching schedule.

“Every client is unique on those,” Bickmore says, “but I find very few MSPs deliberately create an SOP for every customer.”

In addition, MSPs should document everything, advises Bickmore. “We don’t do any major changes until we’re through with the documentation.” 

About the Author

Jessica Meek's picture

JESSICA MEEK is a freelance technology and financial writer based in New York.

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