Customer Relationships in the Cloud – A New Challenge

Scott Calonico

image of a cloudTimes are changing for MSPs. The gradual move away from on-premise servers to cloud solutions means that IT businesses have had to quickly adapt; redesigning services, partnering with cloud providers and protecting revenue streams.

In the midst of all of this, goalposts have also moved in terms of maintaining customer relationships. When everything was in one place, and under the full control of the MSP, it was easy to establish accountability and provide consistent service. As companies move more elements of their infrastructure out to the cloud, things begin to get complicated.

Support providers no longer have the autonomy they once had. If a client migrates from Small Business Server to Office 365, they soon discover that several of the actions an MSP could previously perform directly now require a call to be logged with Microsoft. This doesn’t always go down well, regardless of how much prior warning has been given!

In addition to this, the more an infrastructure moves to the cloud, the less reason there is for MSPs and clients to have any face to face contact. While MSPs have been embracing remote support for years, historically there usually ends up being reasons for server updates, site visits and face-to-face meetings, and it’s fair to say that these can help maintain strong client relationships.

So what should MSPs do to respond to these new challenges? Here are a few ideas:

Manage Expectations

Clients moving to the cloud need to realise all the implications, and it’s down to the MSP to ensure they are suitably informed. MSPs should explain that server tweaks and customizations are subject to rules that are more stringent in a hosted environment, and make sure customers know that some technical issues may end up out of the MSPs hands.

Build Consistent Systems

MSPs should build service offerings around reliable cloud products and providers that offer consistent, high quality service. Selling on services with the highest margin could be a false economy if the support is bad when things go wrong. MSPs need to work with partners who answer the phone and fix problems promptly, otherwise they will suffer frustration and have to see their own client relationships deteriorate.

Take Ownership

MSPs should aim to remain the central point of contact for everything IT-related, rather than seeking to blackboardpass the buck if a problem is due to a third-party service provider. Clients don’t want to spend time queuing to speak to first-line support technicians – they want to work with MSPs who get things fixed so that they can get on with their work.

Remain Visible

MSPs shouldn’t underestimate the importance of traditional relationship management. Occasional lunches, catch-ups and strategy meetings can keep things on track and ensure that clients remember that the MSP is keeping things con-ordinated, even when services are dotted all over the cloud.

However much the IT industry develops, customers still want the same things in terms of service. MSPs who keep this in mind will continue to thrive.