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From Wrongboarding to Onboarding: How to Get Engagements Started Right

From Wrongboarding to Onboarding: How to Get Engagements Started Right

No one likes to make mistakes, and the bigger the decision, the more that holds true. When customers select your organization to deliver critical managed services, they are making a big commitment.

That’s why onboarding represents such a critical point in the managed services engagement. It’s a time when you have to move from selling to actually delivering on your claims and commitments. Once the deal has been signed and the onboarding process starts, your clients are very eager to see you prove them right.

During this juncture, even relatively minor hiccups can be amplified for the customer, a trigger that can arouse doubt, suspicions or concerns. If more significant issues arise, it can damage your credibility and set a negative tone that may permanently taint the relationship, potentially even leading to non-renewals or early contract terminations.

While the onboarding effort is vital to setting the stage for a successful engagement, too many service providers have the odds stacked against them before they even get started. What’s the worst that can happen? Following is a scenario to illustrate.

Wrongboarding: A Worst-Case Scenario

Acme, a regional service provider, won a new deal, but that’s where the good news stopped. Once the deal was signed, Acme’s teams got started with the onboarding process, and chaos ensued.

The sales representative said yes to a lengthy list of customer requests, most of which were new to the Acme team. Because this was uncharted territory, the operations teams had to build the infrastructure and capabilities effectively from scratch. Faced with a steep learning curve, engineers made some critical mistakes, and delays ensued.

Before the ink on the deal was dry, sales, management and operations were consumed with discussions, questions and debates concerning what was included in the service purchased and what needed to be billed separately. What’s worse is that this internal confusion resulted in inconsistent messages getting to the customer, which led to several misunderstandings and disputes with the client.

Further, while sales promised the customer’s team that the service would be up and running in “a couple weeks,” the reality is that the service wasn’t operational for two months.

After repeatedly coming up short of the client’s expectations, Acme’s credibility was seriously compromised. The fact that this was a one-off deal meant that all the infrastructure investment that had to be made might never be leveraged with other accounts. Up-front expenses were high, so breaking even on the service may take years, if it happens at all.

Keys to Getting Onboarding Right

Onboarding success doesn’t start once the deal’s signed. If the proper groundwork isn’t established before sales efforts even begin, onboarding can be difficult, if not completely doomed to failure.

Following is a summary of the key requirements that need to be addressed and when:

  • Before the sale: First and most importantly, you need to establish standardized and documented service offerings, and well-defined operational processes for each offering. In addition, sales should undergo the training required to effectively sell these services. If your service offerings are being “designed” on clients’ white boards, your onboarding efforts may look a lot like Acme’s.
  • During and after the sale: Once sales teams are trained and services are clearly defined, everyone working with the customer should have a clear understanding of how long implementation should take—and it’s critical that those timeframes are communicated consistently to customers throughout the process. In addition, it’s important to start with standard offerings, and only take on any custom or add-on services after the initial rollout is complete.

Conclusion: The Payoff

By instituting the approaches above, you can help not only boost your rates of onboarding success, but build enhanced scalability, repeatability and standardization into your business.

For more information, be sure to download the strategy brief entitled “Onboarding Success: How to Avoid Delivery Issues, Streamline Implementations  and Delight Customers.

This guest blog comes from The CA Service Provider Center of Excellence. The CA Service Provider Center of Excellence delivers the proven strategies and insightful resources that can help your business boost its efficiency, profitability and maturity. No matter where your service provider business is in its evolution, count on the Center of Excellence to provide the guidance you need to more fully leverage your technologies and investments, optimize your operations, enhance your go-to-market capabilities and scale intelligently. To access CA Service Provider Center of Excellence resources please visit


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