Building an MSP onboarding checklist for clients
Amid ever-increasing demand, more and more businesses of all sorts have come to rely on MSPs to provide them with efficient and effective solutions to their technology needs.
The onboarding process requires careful planning, communication, and collaboration, and you can’t achieve that on the fly. A detailed onboarding checklist helps your MSP team align with client objectives and simplifies the process of explaining managed services to customers who may have limited experience in the area. It also helps everyone stay on task and complete work according to a mutually agreed-upon timeline.
In this blog, we will provide practical tips and strategies to help you and your clients navigate the onboarding process more easily — together.
What is the MSP onboarding process?
The MSP onboarding process refers to the steps MSPs take to establish a successful working relationship with a client. The specific process may vary depending on your service offerings and client needs, but generally, your baseline customer onboarding checklist includes the following:
- Needs assessment: Begin by making sure your team has a deep understanding of the client's business objectives, challenges, and IT requirements. This includes gathering information on the client's existing IT infrastructure, software applications, and any current issues or pain points.
- Proposal and agreement: Based on the needs assessment, create a proposal outlining the services and solutions you will provide, along with the associated costs and service level agreements (SLAs). Once the proposal is accepted, you’ll have your formal deal with your client.
- Planning and preparation: Your team will work hand-in-hand with your client to develop a plan for the onboarding process. This includes identifying key stakeholders, defining roles and responsibilities, and setting timelines for the project.
- Implementation: With the above steps completed, your team can begin implementing the agreed-upon services and solutions, which may include network setup, hardware and software installation, security configurations, and other tasks.
- Testing and validation: Once the initial implementation is complete, conduct testing to ensure everything is working properly and that your client’s needs are being met. This may involve running diagnostics, performing security scans, and validating performance metrics.
- Training and support: It’s also essential for your team to provide training and support to client employees to ensure they understand how to use the new IT systems and services. Ongoing support is typically provided as part of any managed services offering, including help desk support and regular maintenance and updates.
Whatever your process is, you’ll want to understand what your customer’s IT infrastructure currently looks like, what they want it to look like, and what expertise you can bring to the table to affect that outcome.
Why a streamlined MSP onboarding process is important
A streamlined MSP onboarding process is important for several reasons:
- Efficiency: A streamlined process ensures that the onboarding process is completed quickly and efficiently, reducing downtime and minimizing disruption to a client’s business operations.
- Consistency: A consistent process ensures that all clients receive the same level of service and that there are no gaps or oversights in the onboarding process.
- Customer satisfaction: A smooth onboarding process leads to higher customer satisfaction. Clients are more likely to be happy with you if the transition to their services is seamless and hassle-free.
- Retention: A successful onboarding process can increase retention, as clients are more likely to continue working with your business when it has provided them with a positive experience from the outset.
- Cost savings: A streamlined onboarding process can also save costs for both you and your client. By reducing the time and resources required for onboarding, you can offer more competitive pricing, while the client can avoid unnecessary expenses associated with a lengthy transition process.
ConnectWise’s business management packages offer more information about streamlining and managing your client onboarding process.
Process steps for an MSP onboarding checklist
The MSP customer onboarding process usually includes the steps below:
Step 1. Gather client info
You’ll need to understand your client’s:
- Business goals
- Current IT infrastructure
- Software applications
- Security requirements
- User accounts setup
As obvious as this may sound, standard research is essential. Without this basic information, you will not be able to offer meaningful support and advice.
Building an onboarding questionnaire
Create a list of questions that will help you gather necessary information in the greatest possible detail. For example, if you are gathering information on the client's current IT infrastructure, you may ask, "What hardware and software does your company currently use?" or "What are your current network configurations?"
Try to strike a balance between gathering exhaustive information and exhausting a client. They don’t want to feel like they’re doing your work for you.
Step 2. Put together a service level agreement
A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract between your business and a client that details the services for which you will be responsible.
The SLA highlights specific services that will be provided, the expected level of performance and availability for those services, and the timeframe in which clients can expect services to be rendered.
A service level agreement typically also includes clauses regarding:
- Customer responsibilities: The responsibilities of the customer, including providing access to necessary resources and information.
- Reporting: A description of the reporting that will be provided to the customer, including regular updates on service performance and any issues that arise.
- Termination: The circumstances under which the agreement can be terminated, such as breach of contract or non-payment.
A service level agreement can help to prevent misunderstandings, resolve disputes, and ensure that both parties are satisfied with the overall services provided.
Step 3. Assign team members to the account
Delegation ensures that the onboarding process is completed efficiently and effectively. Here are some key roles and responsibilities you will want to consider:
- Project manager: A project manager oversees the entire onboarding process, from initial planning to final delivery. They should be able to communicate effectively, manage timelines and deadlines, and ensure that all project objectives are met.
- Technical lead: The technical lead ensures that all technical aspects of the onboarding process are completed successfully. This includes installing and configuring any necessary hardware or software, testing the new systems and services, and providing technical support to a client during the onboarding process.
- Account manager: The account manager maintains ongoing communication with a client, ensuring that their needs and requirements are met. Account managers should be able to provide regular updates on the status of the onboarding process and address any concerns or issues that arise.
- Training coordinator: The training coordinator is responsible for developing and delivering any necessary training materials to a client. This may include training on new systems, software, or processes, and should be tailored to the specific needs and requirements of a client’s business.
- Quality assurance specialist: The quality assurance specialist ensures that all aspects of the onboarding process are completed to the highest standard. They should be able to identify elements of the process they can improve, and work with the project manager and technical lead to implement any necessary changes.
By assigning separate team members to these key roles and responsibilities, you can ensure that the MSP onboarding process is completed efficiently and without redundancy.
Step 4. Send the client a welcome kit
It’s a good idea to send a new client a welcome kit. Doing so makes a positive first impression, helping to establish a strong working relationship right from the start. A welcome kit can also help ensure clients are familiar with your services, processes, and support resources, which can help to prevent confusion and misunderstandings later on.
What goes into a client welcome kit?
- Welcome letter
- Contact information
- A copy of your service level agreement
- Service catalog
- User guides and tutorials
- Company swag
Step 5. Have a client kickoff meeting
The client kickoff meeting is the keystone of the onboarding process. It helps ensure that all parties involved have a clear understanding of project objectives, timelines, and requirements.
Here are some key elements you should have planned for any MSP onboarding client kickoff meeting:
- Introduction: Begin the meeting by introducing all participants and establishing the agenda for the meeting.
- Project overview: Provide an overview of the project scope, objectives, and timelines. This should include a summary of the services that you will provide as well as information on key deliverables.
- Roles and responsibilities: Review the roles and responsibilities for both you and the client. This should include an overview of the specific tasks that each party is responsible for and any contingencies or constraints that may impact the project.
- Communication plan: Establish a communication plan that outlines how you will communicate throughout the project. This should include regular status updates, scheduled meetings, and any escalation procedures.
- Technical requirements: Review the technical requirements for the project, including any hardware or software that needs to be installed or configured.
- Training requirements: Discuss any training requirements that the client may have and develop a plan for delivering the necessary training.
- Service level agreement: Devise an SLA with a client to ensure that they understand the specific services that will be provided, as well as the expected level of performance and availability.
- Q&A: Allow time for the client to ask any questions they may have about the project, services, or the onboarding process.
Bear in mind that the client kickoff meeting isn’t solely about business and technical matters. It’s also an important opportunity to connect with a client. Without taking an excessive amount of time to do so, get to know who you’re working with; discover what you share in common, where you diverge, and generally build trust and rapport.
Step 5. Begin provisioning
Provisioning is the process of setting up and configuring new services and systems for your new client. Here are some key steps involved in MSP new client onboarding provisioning:
Start by gathering all necessary information from the client, including network topology, server and workstation configurations, and software applications.
After that, begin testing all new systems and services to ensure that they are functioning correctly. Any issues that arise should be addressed and resolved promptly.
Your next step is to install and configure any necessary hardware or software, including servers, workstations, routers, switches, and firewalls.
An MSP should then configure any software applications a client may need, including email, file-sharing, and collaboration tools.
After those have been set up, an MSP should create user accounts and configure permissions for each user based on their role and level of access.
Set up an RMM system
RMM, or remote monitoring and management, is a type of software that helps you remotely monitor and manage your client’s IT infrastructure. An RMM protocol allows you to proactively monitor and maintain their client’s IT systems and devices, including servers, workstations, and network devices.
Some key features of an RMM system include:
- Automated monitoring and alerts: RMM software continuously monitors the performance and status of IT systems and devices and generates alerts when issues arise.
- Remote access and management: RMM software allows you to remotely access and manage client devices, even when they are located off-site or behind firewalls.
- Patch management: RMM software can automatically apply security patches and updates to a client’s devices to ensure that they are protected from known vulnerabilities.
- Endpoint security: RMM software can monitor and manage endpoint security measures, such as antivirus and anti-malware software, to ensure that a client’s devices are protected from threats.
- Asset tracking: RMM software can track hardware and software assets, including license and warranty information, ensuring everything is up-to-date and compliant.
- Reporting and analytics: RMM software can generate reports and analytics on the performance and status of a client’s devices, allowing MSPs to identify trends and potential issues before they become problems.
RMM software makes it possible for your team to efficiently and proactively manage a client’s IT infrastructure. It also helps protect clients’ devices while minimizing downtime and maximizing productivity.
Step 6. Go live
Once all the above has been addressed, it’s time to go live. By going live, your team is signaling that the client has been successfully onboarded and you are actively providing managed services.
Here are some key things that typically happen when going live:
- Service delivery begins: Your team begins delivering the agreed-upon managed services, including monitoring, maintenance, support, and other services as outlined in the service level agreement.
- Communication and reporting: Take this time to establish regular communication channels to ensure that all parties are aware of the work being done and are kept abreast of any issues that arise.
- Ongoing relationship management: Ideally, you should also work to maintain an ongoing relationship with the client, working to ensure that they are satisfied with the services provided and addressing any concerns or issues that arise.
Going live is the MSP-client acid test: If everything was planned right, and implemented according to best practices, everyone is likely to be satisfied. However, going live will also bring to the fore any issues that may have been overlooked during the onboarding process. For that reason, it’s important to monitor a client’s live IT infrastructure and compare it against the SLA.
What are your next steps after MSP onboarding?
After MSP onboarding, there are several important steps to take to ensure that you continue to provide ongoing high-quality services to your clients. Here are some key actions to consider:
- Establish regular communication: It's important to establish regular communication channels with a client, including status updates, reporting, and meetings. This will help to ensure that the client is aware of the work being done and any issues that arise.
- Continuously monitor and manage: Proactively monitor and manage the client’s IT infrastructure and services, identifying and resolving issues as quickly as possible to minimize downtime and maximize productivity.
- Optimize services: Over time, your team should work to optimize your client’s IT infrastructure and services, making improvements to increase performance, security, and reliability.
- Review and revise SLA: Periodically review and revise your SLA to ensure that it accurately reflects your client’s current needs and expectations, and to make any necessary adjustments to the scope of services provided.
Simply put, it's important to maintain a proactive, customer-centric approach to managed services. clients who receive high-quality service are more likely to stick with you and recommend them to others. Good service is good business.
Interested in taking your client service onboarding process to the next level? Check out ConnectWise’s business management demo to learn more about our business management solutions and resources for MSPs.