How MSPs Can Differentiate From Rival Managed Services Providers

Best-in-class managed service providers (MSPs) distinguish themselves from the competition by putting the ‘customer first’ philosophy at the center of everything they do. Prioritizing the needs of your customers ensures the long-term health of your organization, expanding your client base while helping you retain and upsell your existing customers. When clients feel thoroughly taken care of, they’ll pass your name on—and be interested in hearing what else you can do for them.

Author: Brian Troy, director of product marketing, ConnectWise

Here’s how to embody the customer-first approach in everything you do—and ensure your clients feel the difference.

Take an Outcome-Oriented Approach

One of the biggest differences between best-in-class MSPs and lesser competition is the level of communication they establish with clients from the outset. Gaining a clear understanding early on of the issues that are most important to your customers, along with the outcomes they most want to see, will ultimately set the framework for the service you can provide—determining whether you can be a cost center or a profit and growth driver.

For instance, if your clients operate within the professional service industry (think law firms, accounting firms, healthcare firms, and so on), then their time is billable. More than virtually any other type of organization, these companies rely on efficient systems to support their bottom line, because time really is money. If their systems break down and it takes a full day for their MSP to get out and fix the problem, then they lose a full day of billable hours—and you can be sure they’ll blame their MSP for that loss.

By establishing at the very beginning of the relationship what the client’s needs and priorities are, MSPs can quickly determine the best course of action for that particular client when they call. This might mean putting more billable hours back in their day, helping them avoid common headaches, or making their team more productive and happier. Whatever outcome you’re solving for, if it’s an outcome they desperately want, this approach makes you look like a life saver in the eyes of your clients.

Embrace Next-Level Proactivity

The best MSPs go above and beyond, anticipating what customers need before they even know they need it. This means taking a proactive approach to systems management, catching small issues before they blossom into big problems. But it also means implementing new measures to stop the same problem occurring again—for this customer or the next.

To really let customers know how much value you bring to their company, talk to them about the proactive measures you’re putting in place to support their business. Let’s say your customer’s central processing unit (CPU) usage is at 95%. It’s at risk of slowing down or overheating, but you know it won’t happen right away. Rather than waiting for your customer to reach out and tell you their CPU is slow, though, you set an alert to notify you when it reaches 80%. That way, you can immediately set up a meeting with them to discuss solutions—even if they haven’t started noticing slowness quite yet. You won’t be left scrambling to fix the problem at the last minute, and they won’t have to wait weeks to get their CPU up to optimal performance levels again. Everybody wins.

This kind of foresight and planning signals that you’re really looking out for your client—building loyalty and trust.

Align Expectations

Even if your services are top notch, scope of work disagreements can tarnish your relationship with your clients. That’s why having clear and transparent discussions about your contract up front is so important. If the client is acting under the assumption that something is covered when you never agreed to that, they won’t be thrilled to hear you’re not delivering it—even if the contract is very clear about your deliverables.

Walk your client through the contract at the very start of your relationship, and have regular, documented conversations as you continue working with them to ensure everyone is on the same page. This is the time for them to realize something isn’t covered and ask if you can provide that service, too—not after a month of them expecting you to deliver it.

Setting realistic expectations is particularly important when it comes to cybersecurity. If you want your client to view you as a trusted security advisor, they need to know exactly what you’re doing to protect them—and what they should be doing themselves to manage their risk.

Focus on Risk Management

Nowadays, every MSP is in the risk management business. And this can certainly work in your favor—if you know how to take advantage of what this opportunity can offer in terms of recurring and non-recurring revenue streams.

Every company is susceptible to cyberattacks. And it’s not just money that’s at stake. A breach can severely damage a company’s reputation if sensitive data gets out. And when hackers hold companies’ systems hostage until they pay a certain ransom, productivity can hit zero.

With cybersecurity being top of mind for your clients, proactively assessing the most pressing risks in a customer’s current security environment will be a major point in your favor. Outline what they need to do right away to bolster their security and create a comprehensive plan for governance, compliance, and ongoing risk management.

The most important thing to make your clients aware of is that security is not a one and done deal. Part of that means educating them on best practices, like informing employees not to open suspicious links and encouraging regular password changes. Cybercriminals are getting craftier by the day, so establishing an open, risk-based dialogue with your clients that keeps them abreast of evolving security measures will let them know just how valuable you are. You’re not just responding to individual incidents—you always have their back. This creates peace of mind for them and more touchpoints for you, providing new opportunities to increase your revenue.

Stand Out From the Crowd or Be Left in the Dust

There are plenty of MSPs out there, so if customers aren’t satisfied with your service, they can easily find another provider. Adopting a customer-first strategy is the best way to improve your customer service—and ensure clients are raving about your services for years to come.

Brian Troy is director of product marketing at ConnectWise. Read more ConnectWise blogs here.