Client onboarding process for MSPs

The onboarding process sets the tone for your future relationship with your clients. It's very important to make your clients feel like they made the right decision by hiring you, as a poor first impression could increase your churn rate. It's best to plan the onboarding process beforehand to ensure it runs smoothly. A well-structured approach can set the right tone and help develop a long-lasting relationship.

Everything from the point you're hired to the point your services go live comes under onboarding. While onboarding a new client is exciting, it can be quite challenging. Onboarding takes time, sometimes up to a week. On average, MSPs spend about 40 to 80 hours manually entering information from existing systems and databases to onboard every client.

Every organization is different, which is why there is no set process for onboarding. Every client comes with its own set of challenges and needs. However, it is possible to establish a streamlined framework to save a lot of time throughout the onboarding process and prevent high-cost errors from happening during this crucial stage.

In this chapter, we'll take a look at a 10-step onboarding checklist for MSPs that keeps all the critical variables in mind.

Gather basic information about the client

Since every client is different, it's important to get to know more about each one, especially their IT infrastructure. Doing that will help you understand the client’s requirements better and draft a proper SLA.

You should collect the following basic details from your clients:

  • Company name
  • Client's point of contact
  • Service tier
  • Number of servers and their total value
  • Number of workstations and their total value
  • Server and workstation specifications
  • Managed services required
  • Existing documentation (preferably with diagrams of the network environment for better understanding)
  • Account credentials for all systems and equipment
  • Business-specific details (like operational hours for the client’s various sites)
  • Instructions for emergency response
  • Third-party details regarding support for line-of-business applications, hardware warranties, and ISP accounts

Sign the SLA

Once you've gathered all the requirements and information related to a client's existing IT infrastructure, you can draw up a contract. It's always better to involve a lawyer in order to minimize potential liabilities. And it goes without saying that you should draw a different contract for different clients, as their requirements differ.

Note: Never sign a contract before gathering information mentioned in the first point.

Introduce the client to your organization with a warm welcome

Once the SLA is signed by both parties, send your new client a welcome document (a PDF is the norm) to make them feel comfortable and better acquainted with your organization. This document should contain the following details:

  • A summary of your organization, including its vision and history
  • A detailed description of the provisioning process
  • Information about all your service offerings
  • Related useful URLs (blog posts, articles, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials to reassure the client

Introduce your team to the client

As part of managed service provisioning, your IT team will be constantly in touch with your client. To ease further interactions, it's important to introduce your IT team to the client either in person or over a teleconferencing tool. Record the meeting and share the recording with the client as well.

A typical meeting agenda might look something like this:

  • Review the client’s technology goals
  • Review the status of the onboarding process
  • Set up a regular business review meeting schedule
  • Review weekly/monthly reporting and expectations
  • Review internal processes:
    • Internal use policy
    • Antivirus
    • Anti-spam
    • Website hosting
    • Go-live date and other expectations

Plan for the future

The information that was gathered previously should be documented and maintained in a written format. The entire framework of the onboarding process is included step-by-step in this document. The document should contain the project task list, mentioning all the tasks that need to be accomplished in order to serve the client, along with the planned project schedule.

Commence provisioning

Now that the client is onboarded, it’s time to start the system onboarding process. During this phase, you basically integrate your client’s systems into your systems. This is one of the most important parts of the onboarding process.

Set up help desk software

Here's the expected list of tasks for you to complete in this process:

A typical meeting agenda might look something like this:

  • Set up the client in your professional services automation (PSA) tool
  • Add your client to your account and billing systems
  • Set up SLAs in the PSA tool
  • Send an email introducing the new client to your company
  • Obtain all contracts and warranties for hardware and software, including:
    • IT hardware manufacturer and all warranty contracts
    • IT software license contracts (operating system, antivirus, proprietary applications, backup, etc.)
    • IT communication and service contracts and contacts for the client
  • Enter emergency support information into your PSA
  • Change administrative passwords wherever relevant. This may include:
    • Gateway routers
    • Firewall
    • Wireless access devices
    • Printers
    • Switches (ethernet, fiber)
    • NAS/SAN
    • Virtual machines
    • VoIP devices
    • Windows service accounts (administrator, SQL, SA, SharePoint)
    • Workstations’ admin passwords
    • Other network appliances
    • Antivirus console
    • VPN access
    • Web portals
    • Remote assistance programs
  • Discover all user, service, and backdoor accounts and remediate as needed
  • Identify all admin and domain admin group members and remediate as needed
  • Identify all RRAS accounts, groups, and membership for remote access
  • Scan the network’s internal LAN for IP-enabled devices and review those devices
  • Register for web properties and DNS
  • Review firewall rules and modify as needed
  • Set up the RMM tool to gain offsite access so that you need not visit the client site physically
    • Install RMM agents on the client’s servers, workstations, and mobile devices
    • Ensure compatibility between your RMM tool and any applicable antivirus programs and backup routines
    • Test monitoring systems and alerts to ensure they work
    • Once RMM setup is finished, use RMM to install antivirus on the client's systems, servers, and mobile devices

Conduct training

Schedule a webinar or an on-site training session to train your client on the technical support software you'll be using, as there's a good chance that it's new to them. Try to keep the meeting as brief as possible so that you don't overload them. It'd be a nice gesture to give the client a gift for devoting their time to the meeting.

Ready. Set. Go live!

With this step, you complete the onboarding process by taking everything live. Record the onboarding completion in your PSA tool and send the client an email confirming that they’re all set and SLAs are in effect.

Follow up

Once the onboarding process is complete, you need to see where you stand. It's essential to get feedback on the onboarding process with the help of a questionnaire sent to the client.

You should also conduct a periodic progress review every 30 days for the next three months to find out about any hiccups that may have come up along the way and any concerns that your client may have about your services. This assures your client that you care about their needs. You can also use these monthly check-ins as an opportunity to report milestones achieved (such as cost savings or better backup schedules) in order to reinforce the value you're providing.

Apart from that, the questions and answers related to culture and values should be communicated in the earlier stage as well and shall be treated equivalent to the technical requirements.

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