Four Ways for MSPs to Create Greater Business Value
Gartner says that customer experience is the new competitive battlefield. With product and service differentiation becoming less of a factor in IT today, how can MSPs create greater business value to ensure customer retention and ongoing business growth? Here are four ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace:
1. Ditch the IT Expert Label: Serve as a Virtual CIO
Your value to your customers extends well beyond IT expertise and device level management. Think of your clients’ goals and objectives and take a consultative approach to their business, positioning your practice as a virtual CIO organization. This requires that you behave as a strategist as well as a solutions expert. Your engagement should begin with a discovery and assessment of the client’s business needs and objectives. From there, you can recommend strategies, best practices and technology solutions that will take into account the client’s short and long-term business goals.
Next, keep the relationship strong by communicating often and working to be proactive. That means anticipating and addressing the changing dynamics of the workplace and their technology needs. When a current event, policy change or breach occurs – and shows early signs of ultimately affecting clients – address the news promptly and put an action plan into play.
Also, to demonstrate loyalty, make it a priority to find out what’s important to your key contacts, including their professional and personal goals, and align your approach to their business accordingly.
2. Customize Your Services and Deliver as Promised
MSPs looking to scale their success must consistently follow defined and well-thought-out processes. At the same time, a “cookie cutter” approach can be a deal breaker, so be flexible and customize your approach to service delivery to make the client feel important.
Remember that for clients, the service level agreement (SLA) is all-important: make sure you follow it to the letter and meet and exceed expectations. When creating your contracts, include response times that set you and your customers up for success. And because emergencies will happen, add a separate clause in the contract so that expectations for your services in urgent situations are set from the beginning. And if you sense that a client requires more hand holding, build extra time and fees into the contract to ensure you’re covered for your time.
Also, don’t be vague about deadlines in general: establish self-imposed deadlines and abide by them. Lastly, since the customer experience trumps everything in business today, always take ownership of it and accept full responsibility for it – and ensure your entire team has the same mindset as well.
3. Focus on Face Time
When you’re meeting with your clients, whether face-to-face, on the phone or online, focus all of your attention on them. Listen first: ask how they are enjoying and using the services you provide, find out what’s working and what isn’t, and discuss what more can be done to achieve their business goals. Client trust in you will grow as they see your ongoing commitment to their success and their business. Not being present during meetings shows lack of interest and opens the opportunity for competitors to move in.
And when it comes to meetings, get on a schedule, whether monthly, quarterly or more. Use the meetings as a discovery process to learn more about your clients’ needs, goals and expectations, and their daily workflows utilizing the technology they’ve invested in. As the relationship evolves, your meeting requirements may change as well, so keep a pulse on the customer’s preferences.
Your meetings should also be personal and professional. Be mindful of their time, prepare an agenda and be ready to lead the discussion, with the customer’s needs always being the central focus. Use executive reporting tools to showcase success and make a business case for future needs, and always close the meeting with a re-cap of action items and a friendly adieu.
4. Be Committed to Client Success
Make sure you have an inventory of the client’s entire IT environment, including all assets – even past software purchases and mobile devices. As you begin the client engagement, assess the assets in play. Run a network assessment and get a clear picture of what’s in use and what’s “on the shelf” waiting to be implemented.
Keep in mind that many businesses purchase technologies and never deploy them properly, if at all. Making sure technology adoption goes as planned – and that existing investments are being fully used — is critical to the customer experience, and allows you to earn a halo as part of your role as virtual CIO.
This goes in hand in hand with understanding that selling isn’t your ultimate goal: customer success is. So focus on moving the client’s business forward and you’ll be able to win their trust. And trust always paves the way to future sales and long-term retention.