As the former owner of a managed services provider (MSP), I’m all too familiar with the pattern that emerges when you take on a new customer.
Initially, it’s very common to take new customers on-board who have neglected infrastructures; servers that are misconfigured, workstations that have out of date software, network switches that are badly setup.
You may even have taken on the customer after they had a bad experience with a neglectful IT company; slow to respond to support requests, negligent in helping the client get the most from their IT, or frankly, just plain incompetent.
In those first few weeks you diligently undertake work to remediate the misconfigured infrastructure. You update the workstations so they are more reliable and run faster. You give the customer great support, responding to support requests quickly – something they aren’t used to. In a matter of a few weeks, the client views you as their hero, allowing them to get on with their important work.
But then a strange thing happens. The customer gets used to IT systems that run without crashing every day. They get used to workstations that “just work”. They start to take for granted the fact that you answer their support requests quickly. They forget the world of pain they lived in previously, and the blissful service you offer them now becomes the new normal.
Because they’re not feeling any pain anymore, they ask you the dreaded question: “What is it we’re paying you for?”
That question can come like a kick in the gut to any MSP. How is it that your customer doesn’t see all the hard work you put in to keeping their system running smoothly? Why don’t they appreciate the out-of-hours patching you do, or the automated processes you run to keep their systems running in an optimum state?
The client often doesn’t see the value of the service you’re offering because you haven’t explained it to them.
Clients forget pain very quickly. It’s important that you remind them what you are doing to keep them away from returning to that pain. One way is through consistent reporting.
When I was running an MSP, we would send Daily Health Check reports to customers. These reports highlighted all the systems we had checked, along with any issues we had found.
I know some MSPs that make sure to undertake remedial work on any issues they find *before* they send these reports, showing a clean bill of health each day.
In my opinion this is a mistake. We preferred to send the reports showing the issues that were found along with a note that we were working on those issues. We’d usually re-started any failed services, patched any vulnerable systems, or re-ran any failed backups before the client had even read their Daily Health Check report.
So, when they enquired what was happening about the failure? “All sorted” we’d advise.
The bottom line is, the customer was continuously aware we were undertaking proactive maintenance, and also aware that despite this things sometimes went wrong. They customer understood the value of us continuing to monitor and maintain the system in this way.
Often, however, these Daily Health Checks would be sent to the office manager or the person responsible for IT. This wasn’t necessarily the decision maker who signed off our contract renewal. They simply weren’t interested in the day-to-day running of the IT systems, but were interested to know they were getting value for money.
With this in mind, we sent a monthly “Executive Summary” report. This contained an “at a glance” overview, backed up by statistics and colored graphs, of the issues that had been resolved, the system uptime, the average response time to support tickets and, importantly, benchmarks showing how these metrics compared to previous months *including* that early honeymoon period when we were seen as the heroes.
This report reminded the decision maker of where they had come from, and provided a high-level view of what we were doing as an MSP to prevent them from returning to the pain they once felt.
When you start looking after a new MSP customer, you move them away from pain and to stability. You give them service they never experienced before. During this honeymoon period, you become their hero.
But over time your customers will become accustomed to this great service and forget the pain they experienced. Then they’ll start to ask you what you do for the money they pay you.
It’s your job as an MSP to head off that conversation by continuously demonstrating the value that you provide, and there are few better ways to do this than by sending regular reports to your clients.
Is your MSP sending client reports, or do you live in fear of the question “What is it we’re paying you for?”