Building strong relationships with your customers is critical to the growth of your business. As a managed service provider (MSP), a large part of this comes from sitting down with your customer—not just as a way to prove the value of your service, but also as a way to really get to know their business needs.
In today’s business environment, delivering reports on a monthly basis doesn’t work; you need to be focused on delivering strategic advice and guidance—essentially becoming a trusted advisor when it comes to technology. To do this, you need to understand the direction of your customer's organization.
The market obviously changes for you as technology changes, but what does that mean for your customer? How is their business moving forward? Are they growing? Are they shrinking or are they looking for future capabilities? Do they want to move to the cloud from on-premises? You need to understand these things and help them to understand how you can improve their day-to-day interaction with technology. And that doesn’t just mean from the perspective of how they use the technology, but how that technology will help them to drive efficiency, productivity, and ultimately revenue.
By aligning with your customers’ goals, objectives, and growth strategies, you become a part of their business and a partner to them, not just a supplier. And with that, you're going to eventually be able to start to have different types of conversations with them. Also, as part of this, you need to think beyond the immediate future. Typically, we see service providers talking about things they can do to help a customer within the contract period, but you really need to look outside of that. You need to be thinking 12 to 24 months out, or even 24 to 36 months. As you plan with their business, and as they plan their own growth, you will naturally start to see longer-term contracts, because you are helping to develop the goals and the objectives they're working towards, and becoming essential for them to meet those goals.
Another aspect of this process is the need for a clear understanding of who’s really managing the relationship with the customer; is it your sales person, is it a technical person, or is it you as the business owner? None of these are necessarily the right or wrong answer. However, whoever it is, you need to have clear KPIs for them, so you need to understand what they do on a monthly basis, what they do on a quarterly basis, and what type of information they deliver outside of just the standard reports you might be able to pull from your RMM.
And as you get further embedded into an organization and get invited to be part of other meetings, this may change… other people may need to be involved to help lend more credibility to the discussions you’re having with people higher up in your customers’ organizations.
At minimum, you should be talking to all of your customers at least once a month in a proactive fashion—not having them call in to you when they might have an issue, because that's not the type of interaction we're looking for. A lot of people treat their customers like they're just another contract, and that's not the way to look at it. You need to treat your contracts as individuals, and you need to have that relationship with them. When you have a relationship with somebody and you can build on that relationship, they are likely to be a lot more open. They will be more trusting of the recommendations you make. And that’s important to creating a long-lasting and profitable business for yourself.
To understand more about engaging your customers with your customer relations process, watch David Weeks’ MSP Institute Webinar below
To get more help developing your MSP business, check out the MSP Institute here