How to Offboard a Customer

During the life of your MSP, there will come a time when you need to offboard a customer. There are a variety of reasons why, but regardless of the circumstances, a well-orchestrated transfer makes you look professional and leaves the door open for the future.

So, what can you do to make sure you are offboarding well?

What are the Risks?

There’s always a risk the new provider will claim you didn’t hand everything over or handed over wrong information. I constantly hear about situations where former customers accuse MSPs of refusing to hand over documentation or changing passwords right before the transition. Doing this on purpose can land you in hot water—anyone who claims they can hold credentials for non-payment will most likely be proven wrong if the issue ever goes to court.

I‘ve also heard of several cases where the new provider messed something up and blamed it on receiving the wrong info from the former provider. It’s prudent to do screenshots or recordings of logging into critical assets with the credentials you are handing over to make sure you’re covered—Windows domain admin, routers/firewalls, and internet domain credentials come to mind.

Of course, the biggest way to manage these risks is proper documentation. Unfortunately, proper documentation is frequently one of those boring but important tasks that gets put off—save yourself time and headaches down the road by making sure documentation is a top priority.

What’s Included in the Handover Process?

For a start, never respond to a new provider directly unless a customer specifically requests it. This is basic security protocol. Make sure you get something in writing from the client stating the new provider should receive access to all their systems and documentation you possess. This is like the document you should have when working with other contractors that need access to specific client assets. This document should be drawn up by your attorney.

If you don’t get an authorization in writing, only communicate with the client. If you do get written authorization, never leave the client out of the communication. Additionally, make sure you give a copy of whatever you give to the new provider to your client. This ensures that if the new provider comes back claiming you didn’t respond or provide the information, you and the client have proof you did.

How do You Make Sure to Get Paid?

Payment can be an issue during transitions. In most cases clients leave a provider because they’re dissatisfied with something. This can be accompanied by an unwillingness to pay due to the dissatisfaction. Your service agreement should be clear about payment in the event of a termination of contract. However, I believe (and I think most would agree) an “offboarding fee” shouldn’t be included in your managed services contract. One thing you can do is set out a past due balance plus administration fee for the transition. Offering this flat fee for turning over the data (as opposed to billing them time) should be an attractive enough option for them to choose it. This also forces them to decide and agree in writing to the final fee schedule.

For the most part, good offboarding comes down to preparation and communication. Preparation includes having a services agreement in place that defines the offboarding process. A tool designed to make comprehensive documentation easier is also something that can dramatically improve the process. Of course, tools are of no use unless you have an internal culture where documentation is imperative.

Communication in writing and in detail minimizes misunderstandings. Remember to keep the client included in all communications—regardless of what the new provider says. Follow these guidelines and perhaps the client will come back one day.

 

Eric Anthony is the Head Operations Nerd at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.

You can follow Eric on Twitter at @operations_nerd

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