4 Common MSP Onboarding Pain Points (and How to Tackle Them)

Author: Nicole Hunter Hart
Author: Nicole Hunter Hart

Welcome back to my blog series, where we’ve been discussing how you can enhance client engagement and increase revenue and retention through onboarding. I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey through onboarding so far and have picked up a few key takeaways throughout the series to aide you in increasing client retention and satisfaction. In a previous post, I talked about the importance of interacting with clients to create a thoughtfully-crafted experience and build the foundation for a long-lasting relationship. To build upon this, let’s dig into some common onboarding pain points and then take a look at how MSPs like you have successfully overcome them.

Through talking to MSP partners via individual interviews, reading our partner survey responses, holding advisory councils or chatting at user conferences like Navigate, I have found that most MSPs experience pain points when onboarding new clients. No matter what vertical you serve, the size of your clients, or how you go about the onboarding process, there always seems to be four common onboarding pain points MSPs struggle with. Let’s explore each one:

The 4 Common Onboarding Pain Points

1. Failure to Clearly Demonstrate Value

Demonstrating value is one of the core pillars of onboarding, and it can help you create lasting business relationships. MSPs tend to fall short of this in a variety of ways, through lack of impactful communications, skipping onsite meetings or training, and missing opportunities to provide business or system reviews.

A few ways I have seen successful MSP partners combat the “lack of value” perception is by providing an on-site network audit, or using RapidFire Network Assessments pre- and post-onboarding. Additionally, requiring on-site training and 90-day reviews as part of the onboarding process are essential and extremely beneficial to the client’s business. For more details on this, check out how you can demonstrate your MSP value from day one.

2. Incorrect Client Expectations

Setting proper expectations are key in any relationship! For an MSP, nothing is worse than leaving a client guessing. In this type of business relationship, having clients understand what their purchased services do and don’t entail along with what will and won’t happen in the first 30-90 days starts the journey off on the right foot and sets the tone for the relationship. You should strive to be a trusted advisor for your clients. To do that, every conversation, communication, and interaction should reemphasize your strengths and knowledge in your domain and set appropriate expectations.

To set proper onboarding expectations, I have seen partners be very creative in every essential onboarding touchpoint, including their Welcome Packet, sales materials, and other onboarding communications. If you need help with any of these items, click here for more information.

3. Emergency Client Onboarding

I have often heard from partners of the need to complete a “rush job.” Although MSPs are thrilled to take on a new client and help them solve real problems, this scenario creates stress and havoc for your technicians and internal teams to get the client set up properly in a less than ideal timeframe. What a double-edged sword! Emergency client onboarding can be tricky to get right, and expectation setting is more important than ever here.

To overcome this barrier, my tip is to develop an internal process for “rush jobs.” You know it will happen a few times a year, so get ahead of the curve and save yourself some pain by taking the time to create a lean onboarding process that can be done in a shortened timeframe. However, keep in mind your client’s experience and expectations in this scenario. You will need to ensure you set proper expectations during the sales and onboarding phases, and let the client know that this is an emergency case and there’s an expectation of capturing all necessary items later. You can position this in many ways, but ultimately you’ll want to convey the need to get them fully onboarded once the emergency passes, making sure you incorporate your Welcome Packet and communications for emergency onboardings.

4. Abandoning Your Onboarding Process

If a client is demanding, in a rush, or doesn’t seem to listen, don’t let this influence your adherence to internal onboarding processes and procedures. If you do, it will hurt your business over time through reduced retention rates, client dissatisfaction, and internal inefficiencies. I know it’s very tempting to make special considerations for one client, but before you know it, abandoning your onboarding process will be a regular occurrence! When no process exists, client experiences will become inconsistent, expectations will not be set, and crucial technical elements will be missed—all of which results in service delivery issues later down the line. It may seem like you’re doing your client a favor, but when documentation or requirements have been omitted, you’re really selling yourself short and setting your business up for future failure.

You simply can’t provide a best in class offering if you have rushed, skipped steps, or cut corners. To overcome this onboarding hurdle, successful MSPs have developed step-by-step internal onboarding checklists and processes that are checked and double checked throughout the process by sales, onboarding, and engineering teams. Some creative MSPs also position their onboarding process as a selling point and competitive differentiator by stressing the comprehensive and inclusive nature of their service. This sends a message to the client that not only will they be taken care of, but that the MSP is dedicated to the success of the partnership and their satisfaction with the service.

When you address these onboarding pain points and work to enhance this process for your clients, you’ll successfully create a client-centric approach. With the client at the center of every decision, it provides a better experience that helps improve your relationships and—most of all—increase your retention and satisfaction rates. Be sure to check back in next month for our next installment on how to ensure your client onboarding process is set up for long-term success.

Bonus: Looking to optimize your client onboarding program? Download Continuum's newest success kit to set the right expectations and build lasting business relationships with clients. Get the kit here!

Nicole Hunter Hart is senior manager, partner success programs at Continuum. Read more Continuum blogs here.