Communication is key to any relationship but especially important between a service provider and their clients. Here are some ideas to make sure you’re communicating.
- Stay “top of mind”
Sending a monthly newsletter, either printed or emailed, to clients and prospects will ensure they remember you. This is especially important with customers that you do not have on regular contracts. Staying in front of your clients in an informal, “nonadvertising” way helps to ensure they call you rather than searching online for their next project or repair.
- Respond quickly to any incoming communication
If a client has a problem or question, it is imperative to respond in a timely manner. This does not mean that you have to reply 24/7 if you do not do business 24/7. However, it does mean you should respond within 15–30 minutes during business hours—even if you do not have an answer for them yet. Do not leave it in any doubt that you have received their email and are working on the issue or on a more detailed response.
- Update the status of projects and open issues often
One of the largest complaints from customers is not knowing the status of their issue or project. If it is a critical issue, hourly updates are not out of the question. For noncritical tickets, once a day updates should be sufficient. For projects that last for weeks or months, a scheduled routine of updates should be calendared to ensure proper communication and to set expectations.
- Ask for feedback often
This is easier than you think. Every help desk ticket resolution email should have a link for feedback. Feedback is your single greatest source of complaints and as Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Any improvement process requires feedback to measure results and propose change.
- Visit managed clients regularly for business review meetings
I have written entire articles on business reviews with managed services clients. In order to remain relevant to your clients, you must be aware of the changes taking place in their business. Only then can you align their business needs with your service offerings. It is also very important to discuss budget requirements coming up so they are prepared and do not get sticker shock when it is time for their three-year hardware refresh.
- Periodically say thank you
Everyone appreciates being thanked, and remember you are not their only choice when it comes to IT support and managed services. Be grateful and show that gratitude from time to time.
How well you deliver your services matters to your customers. Slow, messy, incomplete work will drive customers to shopping around for your competition. So:
- Be as proactive as possible
Fixing problems before they deteriorate into disasters is always the better solution for your customer. Using the right tools and the right automations to bring your proactive services to the next level can keep customers up and running with minimal downtime.
- Log help desk tickets accurately
Help desk tickets are a vital input to your business process. They are the trigger that initiates a response and most often some type of work by a technician. If the ticket is vague, the technician will have to spend time gathering more information before beginning work on an issue. If the ticket contains bad information, it could delay the fix by distracting the tech and causing rework.
- Set expectations
This goes for response times, updates, and completion—and set them as accurately as possible. Customers will be anxious, especially during a critical failure, for any news on their situation. If you clearly set expectations on when and how they will receive updates, they can mentally move forward knowing when the next update will be.
- Under promise, over deliver
The premise here again is setting expectations. Setting expectations low always gives you room to exceed, but more importantly creates less surprise if things go wrong.
- Clean up after yourself
In IT we do not have many situations where we create messes. When we do though, make sure you clean up after yourself and leave the work area at least as clean as you found it, if not cleaner. This goes for computers as well: always close any open windows or browser tabs. In fact, I suggest logging all the way out. That way they login and get what they expect every morning. Plus, from a security standpoint it helps to make sure that any websites or applications you accessed with privileged credentials are cleared out.
How you approach your role with your customers is equally important to the mechanics of what you do for them. Act like a business partner rather than just another vendor and over time they will come to view you that way as well.
- Be an advisor
In most cases you and your company are seen as one of the primary advisors to any size of business. Right up there with accountants, IT providers are a critical piece to any business plan. Make sure you are seen that way by providing solutions to their business problems, not just fixing equipment.
- Be a promoter
Be an advocate for your customers’ businesses. It will build goodwill from them, and it will also drive referrals from them as well. Most of the time they will promote your business when you promote theirs.
Reducing churn with your managed customers and keeping break/fix customers coming back can add up to massive revenue over time. In the age of the recurring revenue model, lifetime value is the key to business stability and long-term growth as each new customer compounds on the last rather than just replacing them. Therefore, protecting existing customers is at least as important as, if not more than, gaining new customers.
Eric Anthony is principal of customer experience 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 @EricAnthonyMSP