What is your managed service provider (MSP) doing to proactively assist your customers as they grow?
As the technology service provider, it should be part of your mandate to help the companies you work with evolve both their technology and their processes as they grow. When I ran my own MSP business, my tagline was “IT & Business Consulting,” because I knew my responsibilities were not just contained between the keyboard and the internet. In fact, it was to my advantage to play a more integral role in their strategic planning, so I could help them plan for the inevitable change that comes with growth.
The first function that comes to mind in terms of your customers’ growth is how to handle employees. Many small companies, in particular, wait as long as they can before hiring necessary personnel. This is primarily due to the cost of on-boarding those new employees. If you can provide a flat fee to on-board those employees from a tech perspective, it takes away some of the uncertainty around budgeting those hires. I have seen some MSPs actually spread the equipment cost over three months to help ease the burden. Carrying the equipment cost is a small price to pay for adding a new device to a 12-month contract. Of course, adding new employees is more than just new equipment. It is creating domain logins, email accounts, and so much more. Standardizing these processes and providing easy ways for clients to submit those requests so they contain all the required information makes life easier for you and for them.
Another obvious area to consider is infrastructure. Servers, switches, NAS, and a host of other shared resources must be periodically checked for capacity and consumption. For example, the router that worked for 25 users may no longer be suitable for 100. Infrastructure goes beyond physical devices. It can also cover your cloud strategy for the customer. When does a local fileserver no longer become useful because there are too many remote workers? What about larger organizations; who wants to migrate from local domain servers to managing their Active Directory® in Azure?
Location and geography are additional important hurdles that usually must be overcome as your clients grow. As they expand to different locations, sometimes in other countries where different regulations may affect their business, there are obvious networking challenges to overcome. These will affect not only network traffic, but also voice traffic as well, since VOIP is the best option for most businesses with multiple locations. Making sure you have a standard technology stack to implement when your customer reaches this stage of growth is important. If you don’t have a strategy to match their plans, they will most likely look for another provider.
All of these things are important to consider in terms of having tools and technology partnerships in place to provide all the elements needed when your customers reach certain levels of growth. However, more importantly, you need to put your company in the position of trusted advisor. My litmus test here is whether or not they consult you before making strategic business decisions. Are you included in management meetings? If you are truly acting as someone’s outsourced IT department, you should be included in those types of meetings. If you aren’t part of that “inner circle,” try getting in gradually.
The best starting point is the regular business review—these can be monthly, quarterly or even annually, depending on the size of the business. They should never be charged for but should absolutely be considered when planning out your managed services packages. Remember, the purpose of these meetings is to strengthen the bond with your customer’s management team and find out where they are headed as a business, so you can recommend technology to help them run their business better and achieve their goals. Once you are conducting regular meetings with the customer, suggest your meetings coincide with existing management meetings, so you can update and hear from the entire management team.
Helping your customers grow and being able to support them through their entire lifetime is critical for MSPs. As long as you have the solution, they won’t have a need to look elsewhere.
Eric Anthony is director of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter® at @EricAnthonyMSP
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