The first step in establishing a new business relationship is creating an environment of trust. Your clients need assurances that your team is committed to their well-being and will bring the skills and knowledge required to keep their IT systems and productivity at full capacity. That comfort level won’t happen without clear and concise communications and processes.
Be sure to lay that groundwork at the earliest point possible. Prospects typically receive a lot of attention, from lead generation calls and sales discussions to the overlying marketing efforts designed to get them to sign a contract. It’s after that point, when the business owner or manager inks the deal, that communications can fall apart.
A smooth handoff will ensure those on both sides (providers and clients) understand the expectations, deliverables, and various processes involved in the relationship. Communicating those points upfront helps keep everyone on the same page and establishes a foundation to move forward.
Think of client onboarding as a professional welcome party for new customers. It’s an opportunity to validate their decision makers’ selection of your organization to fulfill their needs and indoctrinate their team members on the awesome things you can do with their support. In other words, client onboarding is the perfect place to make the best impression on the people who your team will be working with ‒ who may also have influence over contract renewals in the years ahead.
Keep It Simple
Processes tend to get more complicated over time, especially in the IT services field with engineering-oriented people creating and documenting the steps. Minimize the text and streamline the processes as much as possible.
A good best practice when creating a client onboarding plan is to make it a collaborative effort between the management, sales, support, and customer services teams. Spend time developing a framework or template document that you can customize for each new customer. Then circulate the draft (using edit controls) and attempt to refine the processes and trim the word count of the document to make it as lean as possible.
Brevity is important, but the goal of every onboarding plan should be to give and collect the information both sides need to make each relationship long and productive.
Leverage Industry Best Practices
An onboarding template should be considered a roadmap to customer success. That being said, creating these processes isn’t rocket science, and many variations of industry best practices are available for MSPs to review, alter and adopt. The basic elements of these plans look something like this:
- Designate an onboarding project manager
- Usually an account manager though sales may lead in some cases
- Develop a list of contacts for both companies
- Set realistic expectations and limits
- Define the roles: account manager, technical support, and other provider personnel
- List end-user responsibilities
- Describe the engagement, including methods of communication, SLA details, etc.
- Outline the actions required to achieve the desired outcomes
- Review the order of solution implementations
- Go over password management policies
- Discuss all pertinent security precautions
- Map out milestones in the client onboarding process
- Set start dates and provide approximate times for completing each step
- Coordinate schedules with end users and client representatives
- Manage exceptions and adjust the plan
- Tailor the implementation roadmap to address unforeseen issues
- Doublecheck and modify timelines if needed
- Communicate all changes promptly to everyone involved
- Provide documentation!
- It’s not a plan unless it’s written in language everyone will understand
- Distribute electronic or printed copies of the onboarding process to both teams
- Review the steps. Don’t assume everyone will study details on their own
One of the most important things to remember with onboarding plans is the dynamic nature of these processes. What works in 2019 may not be applicable a year from now, so be sure to update the templates every few months ‒ or more frequently if needed.
The other consideration with the onboarding process is understanding part of that process never ends. From the initial contact, your clients are always in the education mode. When you manage those relationships with great care from the start, it creates more opportunities for upsales and long-term contract extensions. Everyone benefits when MSPs have well-designed and properly executed onboarding strategies.
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