Onboarding ITaaS—for Yourself and Your Customers

December 20th, 2016
Vadim Vladimirskiy
Vadim VladimirskiyFounder & CEO, Nerdio

We all try to give our customers a positive experience—that’s a given—but it’s especially important that MSPs make the onboarding experience a good one. Like a first date or the first five minutes of a job interview, it can set the tone for your future relationship. It can impact your revenue stream (and your reputation) in either a positive or negative way. So before you get a new customer up and running with a service like IT as a Service (ITaaS), you should be sure to master it yourself. ITaaS is inherently complex, combining infrastructure, network, software, and desktop as a service elements.

No, managed service providers don’t need to know all the nuts and bolts of the ITaaS solution in their offering, but they do need to understand the data requirements for provisioning. So don’t overpromise, know your customer’s pain points, and speak with confidence and knowledge about your MSPs solution. Because understanding your provider and customer needs helps to lay the foundation for the kind of remarkable first experience you want. The kind of first date that leads to a second; the kind of interview that lands you your dream job. You want to give your new customer the kind of onboarding experience that leads to a positive, lasting business relationship. Let’s explore how, by working together with ITaaS, we can accomplish this goal

1. Don’t dig a hole

Every sale your MSP makes is an opportunity for the future. If you invest in the first exchange, make the effort to provide your customer with a great product, and ensure they walk away smiling, guess who they’ll be coming back to? You’ll become their go-to for more of the same services and new ones, too. Your MSP will have the opportunity to cross-sell to them without actually having to “sell” to them again. Listen to your customers’ requests. If they have an interest in a service that’s missing from your portfolio, figure out if you can add it. Talk to your providers, too. Welcome feedback to help tailor your future offerings.

Your customer’s reference and good word of mouth lead to future sales, and satisfied customers afford you time and resources to cultivate new accounts. Rather than continually defending your position and doing damage control, you’ll have more time to spend on new customer acquisition.

2. Review your standard documents

When adding a new service to your offerings, make certain that your statements of work align with both your provider’s and customer’s goals, metrics, timing, and costs. Draw out and clearly state the customer’s responsibilities, making sure they actually understand them (don’t just assume the materials were read). It’s best to spend the extra time reviewing the contract early, avoiding some contentions or disputes in the future. Ensure mutual understanding of dates, deliverables, and SLA’s. Additionally, clearly reviewing the metrics before deployment can give you the high ground later.

We’ve all had a difficult customer or two who can quote you line and verse of the SOW. Having the, “Do you remember when we discussed these items?” arrow in your quill may help to avoid these issues down the road. In the end, you want your agreement to align well with the established metrics of your provider, your products, and your services, and you want them contractually integrated, all the time considering deliverables, SLA, and planned dates.

Welding Sparks

3. Onboarding starts at the sale

Once the deal is signed, the customer’s onboarding experience begins. Far too often, salespeople are quickly off to the next opportunity, leaving a big gap between sale and delivery. To help ensure a positive experience, tighten up internal communications with a solid process for handing off the customer. Build closely aligned onboarding methods, welding a bridge between you as the Reseller/MSP, your customer, and your provider. Proactive communication about customer responsibilities and your deliverables reduces confusion and continues the “pain and needs” conversation for future sales.

Like that first impression, your first deliveries against SLA’s are critical. Make sure your customer understands the data needed for provisioning and you have mutually agreed upon dates for getting data to your team. Be available to answer follow-up questions to provide the best service and meet their expectations.

4. Be Girl and Boy Scouts

A scout is always… prepared! So be a scout and be ready to help whenever needed. You test failover and contingency plans, right? You know your backups are valid? Yes! Test the onboarding process with real “run book” style testing. Use your notes and experience to refine the process, then test it again. While it’s not always feasible, using the same process and services internally will add credence to your story. It reflects confidence and gives you an edge—a depth and breadth of knowledge beyond educational materials. You can avoid being blindsided by an issue, scrambling to find an answer.

If using the same services internally isn’t possible, use those developed “run book” processes in a mock fashion for testing. All the time spent upfront to make the onboarding process as flawless as possible can go a long way to support the excellent service standard.

5. Leverage your provider

Don’t rush to sell! We all want new sales, and, of course, we want them right now. But resist the urge to hurry. Learn the nuances and discover the gaps between processes (yours and your providers’). Once you’re comfortable with your MSP’s newly added service, continue learning through seminars, webinars, and regular calls with your provider. Even if you think you know the market and the material inside and out, something will arise that you weren’t aware of, or a question will come up that you hadn’t considered. There are likely some specific gaps between onboarding your current offering set and the requirements of offering a new service. This doesn’t mean you need to scrap your current practices (hopefully they’re working well), but integrating some new elements into the process can be helpful.

Ask questions of your provider partners, because you are the customer representing your greatest asset, an established client base. Everyone wants to increase revenues and profits. Following proven methods and learning the products (like ITaaS), while relying on our combined expertise and knowledge, will certainly lead to a positive customer onboarding experience and a lasting relationship.