It’s all too easy to take your business and its clients for granted. In the hurried activity that comes with many if not most workdays, MSPs often find themselves running short on the time and attention it takes to focus on their customers’ long-term satisfaction. Of course, that’s usually when you get the call saying your services are no longer needed. That client may have found a provider who promised to solve all their outstanding issues (including the ones they never told you) or suggested upgrades your team passed over.
Many times it’s not a current problem that drives a customer away: it’s their MSP’s lack of forward vision that their business truly needs to remain competitive. If their provider isn’t keeping up with new solutions opportunities and the latest support options, it can negatively impact their own bottom line. With technological advances and new compliance/business process requirements changing all the time, many organizations are being forced to change constantly. As an MSP, if you aren’t addressing those concerns, they may have no other choice than to leave you.
That’s the position a number of providers find themselves in today: losing relevance with their core audience. Sometimes it’s the result of inattention or struggles running their managed services businesses. Other MSPs simply can’t communicate with their customers as well as they need to. Either way, those who can overcome or simply avoid those concerns altogether will have a much greater chance of making it than those who don’t.
Work more ON your Business
The first step an MSP owner can take to improve his or her operations is to get away from the bench (or desk) as much as possible. Obviously, the smaller the business, the harder that can be. It takes time and a clear head to think strategically and build effective long-term goals. Many MSPs get distracted by routine support issues that a low-level tech or outsourced help desk partner could handle. Some simply love the IT work and the planning process takes the proverbial “backseat.”
Those who fall into either category have to break their old habits and learn new skills if they truly want to compete in the new IT ecosystem. Direct sale companies may offer similar services cheaper or other MSPs might offer greater solution and consulting services. If your people don’t know what your customers need to run their businesses today AND what they want tomorrow, your relevance is already waning.
Strong MSPs are closely connected to their clients. They understand their customers’ current issues and help them prepare for the future. Most of all, they share information freely to ensure better collaboration outcomes. MSPs can best enhance their client relationships by placing more emphasis on communication skills and by reshaping their business to better meet their customers’ expectations.
Looking for a few ideas for increasing your company’s relevance?
- Transform: do your current managed services offerings meet all of your clients’ business needs? You may have already lost a certain amount of control if they’re looking at competitive options to fill any or all of those gaps. MSPs have to constantly adapt their portfolios to remain relevant today. Whether their customers need VoIP and mobility options or they need someone to help develop their Big Data strategy, providers must have specific details to make the appropriate changes.
- Enhance the account review process: do you review SLAs and other metrics with your clients on a regular basis? Create a schedule that works well for your customers and be sure your team has access to the information they need to conduct a valuable discussion. Leverage details from your PSA, CRM and other systems to address recurring issues and plan new projects.
- Increase training: this should be a continual process rather than a one-time event. In addition to making sure your team has the right basic skills, be sure they’re leveraged to the greatest effect and refreshed on a recurring basis.
- Enhance interactions: even if your team has a lot of experience working directly with customers, what can you do to improve those conversations? The goal, of course, is to be sure employees can elicit valuable information so you can address potential client issues before they turn into real problems. Proactive consulting skills are a major plus.
- Give your customers a direct line to support: If you can’t have someone available to answer the phone at all times, you could always get an answering service. Better yet, partner with a reputable help desk company that will do a lot more than take their messages. Its well-trained and highly professional employees can also triage issues and resolve the problems you want them to, without bothering your high-level (and more expensive) technical team. A qualified help desk partner can reduce resolution time, increase interactions and improve customer relations. When they input details of their customer communications and activities into your PSA system (like GMS Live Expert’s MSP Help Desk does), you have a tangible record to review and take further action on.
Your managed services company’s true value is what your clients think it is at any certain point in time. That’s what continual improvement in your portfolio and customer support options is so critical. With the right investments and a solid focus on your clients’ needs, loyalty and renewals are sure to escalate.