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Ask an MSP ExpertQ: I want to create a standard process for conducting customer onboarding sessions at my MSP to make it simpler for any member of my team to run one. This would help us offer onboarding to all of our new customers, start things off on the right foot, help us understand more about their needs. How should I get started?

onboarding_new_customer-1We know how important it is to set the right tone with your customers. By blocking off time to get to know each customer, you can also make sure you’re addressing their needs, providing them the best IT support possible, uncovering potential upsell opportunities, and creating an open and trusting relationship.

At Intronis MSP Solutions, they also see the value in conducting 1:1 onboarding sessions, so when we got your question we knew exactly who to talk to. Jayne Haggard, the Technical Onboarding Specialist, runs onboarding sessions with new MSP Partners, and she had some great tips to share.

Here’s Jayne’s advice for running an efficient onboarding session:

Come prepared

Know what questions you need to ask 

Before any onboarding session, come ready to ask questions—and know what those questions are in advance. Asking the right questions will help you and your customer walk away knowing exactly where you stand. To help you prepare your questions, send out a meeting agenda before the onboarding session. In the agenda, write up a brief description of what you’re hoping to address in the meeting and include bullet points noting the topics you’d like to discuss, the questions you plan to ask, and goals for the meeting. This will keep everyone focused during the onboarding session and make sure you leave the meeting with all the information you need to get them up and running.

In your onboarding session, you should ask:

1. What data needs to be backed up

As a best practice, you should never assume anything about what data should or shouldn’t be backed up. Conduct a data assessment with each customer to avoid any potential issues down the road, such as a customer asking you to restore a file and discovering that it wasn’t being backed up.

To figure out what data to back up, ask what applications do they use to run their business. Follow up by asking who uses them, when, and how often. Depending on the type of data they want to back up, do you think they should be backing up both locally and offsite? Be sure to figure out how much total storage space they’ll need, and discuss the associated pricing with them during the onboarding session.

2. About their environment

Find out what machines are running on site and which will need to be backed up. For example, ask what types of operating machines they’re using for their business. Then ask about virtual machines. Are they currently backing up VMs? If so, are they backing them up locally or offsite? Ask about their files and folders, and find out what specific files are most important to their business. Ask about Exchange servers as well to see if those will also need to be backed up.

3. Where they currently store their data

You’ll then want to find out where their data currently resides. Are there copies kept onsite and offsite? Are they only using local storage, and can they afford to store data offsite? Find out where they want to store their data and decide where you think they need to store it moving forward. Keep in mind that businesses with certain types of data sets will need to store that information in a particular way. For example,  customers in the healthcare field will need to ensure that their patients’ information is stored both locally and in the cloud.

4. How long they need to store their data

It’s important to ask your customer about their data retention requirements. Are they required by state or industry regulations to retain data for a certain period of time? Consider this for data like medical records, tax records, and other sensitive information that might need to be stored for longer periods of time. For less sensitive data, ask what data they think is mission-critical to their business so you’ll know to protect it appropriately.

5. How quickly they need to be back up and running in a restore situation

You’ll also want to review their restore requirements. Ask what data is essential for their business to operate? This will help determine their recovery point objective (what’s required to get their business running again) and their recovery time objective (how quickly the RPO must be achieved). Knowing these metrics will help you create a disaster recovery plan for the customer.

Document takeaways

As you’re asking the questions outlined above, it’s crucial to write out your customers’ answers. Take note of the information they provide and outline any key takeaways or agreements you made together during the session. To make it easier, create templates for your team to use so each onboarding session covers the same topics, answers the same questions, and collects all the necessary information.

Once you have this information documented, have the customer sign off on it. This will confirm that you and your customer are in agreement on what services they’re paying for and what you’ll need to provide. This will help you to avoid issues in the future and start your relationship with clear communication.

After the onboarding session, follow up by sending your customer a comprehensive report on their IT environment. This report should include metrics like the number of machines you’re backing up, how many backups you have running, and how many backups have been completed.

Getting started with an onboarding program  

By the end of each onboarding session you should have installed and set up software on your computers and your customers’ computers, created backup sets, run test backups and restores to confirm that everything is working properly, and discussed disaster recovery plans with your customer. While running an onboarding program will require time, effort, and planning up front, it will save you from dealing with avoidable problems later.

Photo Credit: Didriks on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license. 

Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.

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Courtney Steinkrauss

Posted by Courtney Steinkrauss

Courtney is an Editorial Associate at Intronis. In her role, she assists in creating and publishing content that helps IT service providers grow their businesses.

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