Client onboarding is one of the most critical stages in the client lifecycle. It is the first point of contact between managed service providers (MSPs) and clients. Ensuring a friendly and straightforward onboarding experience can set the tone for a strong and long-lasting client relationship. The process includes everything from the point when the agreement is signed to the core IT services that the MSP might include in their various support packages. It takes time and patience to get onboarding correct.
MSPs who pay less attention and time may find it difficult to deliver the technical support promised to clients. On average, MSPs take anywhere between 40 to 80 hours to onboard each client. However, this process can be efficient and less stressful with the right practices. This article lists some of the best practices that may help MSPs create or optimize their current onboarding process for new clients.
7 Best Practices for MSP Client Onboarding
1. Collect Client Information
The first step of onboarding should be gathering as much information as possible about the client. A questionnaire is a great way to collect information in a structured manner. It becomes easy to plan and execute and helps understand a client’s environment better.
Questionnaires give every client the flexibility to choose where and when they will complete the questionnaire. A new client onboarding questionnaire should collect the basic details from clients such as:
Client’s company name
Point of Contact (POC) name
Service Level Agreement / Service tier
Quantities and cost of hardware and devices
IT managed services required (e.g., core IT support services such as helpdesk support, onsite support, mobile device management, remote monitoring, patching and updates, antivirus software, third-party liaison, procurement, account management, and loan equipment)
Information about existing services or third parties involved in the IT management
Client role definitions and access permissions
Business-specific details: locations/addresses, working hours for each location
Details regarding technology leasing, hardware warranties, and ISP account
Number of servers and their total value
Number of workstations and their total value
Server and workstation specifications
Account credentials for all systems and equipment
Instructions for emergency response
Any existing documentation (preferably with diagrams of the network environment for better understanding)
Once the necessary information is gathered related to the client’s needs and IT infrastructure, it is time to provide a service-level agreement. It outlines the expectations between the MSP and the client.
The SLA not only includes the description of the services to be provided and their expected service levels, but also includes metrics by which the services are measured, the duties and responsibilities of the MSP and client, the solutions or penalties in the event of a breach, and a protocol for adding or removing metrics.
Before signing, make sure to collect all the necessary information mentioned in the above points. It is always advisable to involve the organization’s legal team to minimize potential liabilities.
3. Provide a Welcome Kit
After the SLA is signed between both parties, the next step is to get the client acquainted with the MSP provider. Organizations can do it by providing clients with a welcome kit.
It usually contains the terms of the agreement, working process, FAQs, guides, team details, escalation policies and procedures, and marketing collateral–case studies, customer testimonials, and brochures of other IT ancillary services that the MSP offers.
The welcome kit can be shared as a digital document (e.g., PDF file) via email or through the customer portal, or by sending physical copies in sealed envelopes. A client welcome kit usually includes:
Team introductions – Let the clients know about the assigned team members and the account manager accountable for onboarding. Include team structure and contact information for assigned team members.
Project management – Break down the project into milestones, including dates for onboarding, and weekly/monthly reporting.
Set expectations – It is important to set realistic expectations for the client to be flexible. Likewise, service providers can accommodate requests over and above the ones listed in the SLA.
4. Schedule a Kick-off Meeting
After sharing the welcome kit, the next step is to schedule a meeting with the client. During the meeting, the MSP will introduce the team members that will be working closely with the client.
Take this opportunity to review client expectations and also reiterate the provider’s expectations to make the project run smoothly. Anticipate questions that clients may have during the meeting.
This is also a good time to schedule future meetings. It will help service providers monitor performance and keep the client informed. Finally, close the meeting by answering all questions and reminding everyone of the next steps.
5. Import Client’s Data
Before providing managed IT services, service providers must import client data or establish connections with the client’s data resources. The data import procedure often looks like this:
Assign an expert team member to execute the data import procedure
Check for information acquired by the sales team and the discovery process to set up the data import
Use automation for the data import process to reduce error and increase speed
Use dummy data to test the data import process
Service providers need to develop and communicate the plan, import the data, set up new monitoring systems and user privileges, configure access devices, install remote monitoring and management (RMM) solutions, and update applications and the network environment.
6. Go Live
After the onboarding process is complete, service providers may want to consider scheduling a webinar or on-site training and awareness session for the client on the technical support software being used before going live.
Once everything is set up to the client’s satisfaction, it’s time to go live. Get the client to acknowledge the completion of the onboarding process. Then send an email to remind the customer that the terms of the SLA are now applicable.
7. Follow Up
Client relationships do not culminate at the onboarding process. Following up is important in avoiding any misunderstanding or misaligned expectations. Every time service providers connect with a client, there’s an opportunity to find useful insights into what the client’s needs are, what their concerns are, and what they expect from the service provider in terms of service quality.
One more important reason to follow up is to keep the client documentation current. Changes are constant, and failing to meet changing customer environments will take them back to square one.
They should conduct periodic reviews – every 30 days for a few months after the onboarding. The review will streamline any bottlenecks and provide the best possible customer experience.
MSP Client Onboarding Checklist
Be comprehensive. Ask questions that are clear and specific and that the new client will be able to answer. Preferably send an online questionnaire. Manual, paper-based questionnaires are expensive, time-consuming, and prone to errors.
Support Team List
If the support team is large (e.g., 20-25 members) ask for a schema of the tiered support model. Depending on the structure, the escalation mechanism can be identified for a quick resolution.
Terms of Engagement
Also known as a project charter provides an overview of objectives, expectations, and project timelines. Make sure it covers additional requests needed before starting the project.
The main objective of the onboarding process is getting clients to know the service provider’s standards. By doing so, it will be infinitely easier for MSPs to support their clients. Adhering to the above-mentioned best practices ensures that MSPs will be able to provide a faster and smoother onboarding process while reducing costs.