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Top 3 Onboarding Pitfalls to Avoid

Posted July 14, 2016by Michael Lannon

Sometimes the smallest changes have the biggest impact. This is especially true when it comes to your client onboarding program. I’ve personally noticed it’s possible to reduce churn simply by standardizing an email address and signature, or adding an extra qualifying stage. Below are the top three onboarding pitfalls I’ve recognized throughout the years and how to avoid them.


1. Setting Unrealistic Expectations

Setting the right expectations is easier said than done. Since most companies struggle with this, it's the most important pitfall to avoid when acquiring a new client. It’s so easy to set wrong expectations without even realizing it. This is especially dangerous during the presales and onboarding stages, because who doesn’t want to promise the world to a new client?

If you’re not blunt about what to expect at the beginning of the relationship, you’ll end up wasting too much of your precious time and eventually lose the client. Trying to adhere to unrealistic expectations can cause a ton of stress for both parties and easily diminishes trust. If you can’t perform a certain service or project, don’t pretend you can.

If you want productive partnerships, you need to ensure that new clients understand and comply with your expectations. Cover service level and pricing agreements during these initial onboarding conversations. Presenting a defined service level agreement (SLA) to your clients helps you communicate the levels of support you can guarantee. SLAs are necessary for building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well constructed. After walking through this information and answering any of their questions, verify that you have your clients' support and adherence to all expectations discussed. 


2. Offering Too Much Too Soon

Offering too many services or products too early on can confuse your new clients and lead to sticker shock if you start to discuss pricing. Avoid confusion by introducing your products and services gradually throughout the onboarding period, but never lose focus of the core product or reason they chose your company.  

Too much too soon also opens you up to more situations that can go wrong. What if you failed to meet the agreed upon service levels because you were unable to support these requests all at once? Nobody wants this, especially when you’re trying to make a great first impression. Unless there’s an immediate need for an add-on I would resist the urge to cross-sell during the onboarding period. Your focus should be on building trust and providing excellent service, not overwhelming the client and your staff.


3. Poorly Communicating

It’s extremely important to establish effective and timely communications during the onboarding period. Your customer should be able to reach you easily. Provide one phone number, email, IM, etc. and have this standard contact information live in your team's email signature and on any other onboarding materials. I’ve witnessed significant reduction in churn just because we streamlined these simple communication best practices.

You should also aim to be transparent. Share reports and stats with your customer as often as possible, at least on a monthly basis if not weekly. These reports should show clients the value you’re providing – like the number of tickets closed, amount of uptime provided, status of projects and updates, etc. Continuum offers Executive Reports for IT providers that are designed specifically for the end client. You can use your own branding, logo and company details in this report and even have it automatically generated and sent to the end client on a monthly basis. If you visit our IT Support Portal and click the ‘Reports’ tab at the top, you’ll find the option for these reports.

Remember, one of the main reasons you created an onboarding or proof of concept period was to nurture and build solid relationships with new clients. By shunning the three worst practices described in this post, you'll be well on your way to growing your clients' success and creating loyal advocates of your managed IT services. 

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Michael Lannon is Continuum’s Director of Partner Services and Marketing Operations and is responsible for developing processes to onboard new customers. Prior to Continuum, Michael joined Zenith Infotech in 2005 and held several positions including Senior Technical Account Manager and Assistant Director of Technical Account Management. He currently has 10+ years of Managed Services experience and 14+ years in the IT industry. Prior to Continuum and Zenith, Michael worked at ANH Refractories, a world-class provider of Refractories products, as the Senior Support Specialist supporting 53 locations and 1,500 employees.

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