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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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What Your Professor Didn't Teach You about Managed Services

Posted July 1, 2014by Ray Vrabel

Bueller

image source: http://www.ozbmx.com.au/?showtopic=62086
Being a managed services provider (MSP) is a rather straight-forward occupation. All that needs to be done is taking good care of a client’s IT needs. The best MSPs are the ones with the best technical know-how since identifying and fixing technical problems are what lie at the core of the MSP business.

Does anyone see what's wrong with this statement? Anyone...anyone...Bueller?...

Unfortunately, many MSPs operate under this premise and it’s the reason why they have trouble growing their businesses. Success in managed services is much more than just knowing your tech. Sure, it’s important to know how to spin up a virtual server, apply a patch and load balance a server, but there’s a lot more to being an MSP. The ones who can truly stand out from the competition are the ones who can understand their clients’ business goals and help them find success through technology solutions.

So what then have your MSP professors neglected to teach you? What is the secret to making a real impact on a customer’s business or convincing a prospect that your MSP offerings are superior to the other guy’s? Well it can be summed up in three words: add business value.

Sounds simple – many think that “break/fix” or “network monitoring” are what deliver that value. That’s where most make their critical mistake. Those are a means to an end, and that end is creating something that helps a customer realize return on investment (ROI) by working with the right service provider.


How to Make the Grade with Your Clients

So what makes you, the MSP, excel and separate yourself from the rest of the class? It can be as simple as what you talk to your customers and prospects about on a daily basis. Here are a few action items you should “star” on your MSP 101 course syllabus.


1. Establish their business goals

Your customers don’t want to hear about speeds and feeds or any other technical jargon. The only reason many businesses even have a technical need is because it helps to feed their top line revenue and bottom line profits. Many businesses don’t want to think about technology, they just want to focus on their business. Their job is to make products and/or deliver services, and the technical aspects of your customers' businesses only enables them to do it at scale. Think of it this way: Customers aren't using your network monitoring services because they like the tool that you use to do so. Instead, they understand that if their network isn’t up, their employees can’t be efficient, and their businesses lose money. Technical solutions only mean something if they help a business achieve its goals. Bottom line: if it were pass/fail, you’d receive bad marks for talking tech to your customers. It’s just not their school of thought.


2. Identify their business pain points

Now that you know your customers' business goals, it’s time to ask yourself, what’s standing in their way? Better yet, how can you, as their managed IT services provider, break down these barriers and help clients realize their business objectives? Hint: it involves putting yourself in their shoes. If a customer is seeing backlogs because of an inability to keep pace with technical issues then your solution isn’t about taking care of the specific technical issues (although, of course, you need to deliver a strong solution). Instead it's about removing the headache or roadblock that IT can be so that the customer can carry on with his/her business. We like to think that IT is a business driver when in fact it is more of an enabler, a means to an end that usually involves revenue and profits. Make sure you hold office hours with your customers and communicate your commitment to growing their businesses, not just powering them. With this individualized service, you’re more likely to retain your clients.


3. Review your services

Just like how at the end of every semester, students receive a report card, evaluating their scholastic progress, MSPs should perform business reviews at the end of every quarter, measuring how well they helped customers meet their business goals and avoid operational pitfalls. You should highlight Quarterly Business Review (QBR) as a vocabulary term to know. Key questions to ask in a QBR include: 

  • What happened in the last quarter?
  • Where were the successes and issues?
  • What were the remedies?
  • How did your IT solutions perform?

If you want to optimize your customer service and continue delighting customers, it’s crucial you reflect on what worked in the past to know how to better meet client needs in the future! Not sure how to perform a QBR?


It’s safe to say that being a better business person will, more often than not, trump being a superior technical person. Why? Technical people often have difficulty seeing beyond the blinking lights and cable connections. They mistake technology for business solutions. Your customers or prospects, on the other hand, are looking for business solutions and are unimpressed with technical jargon.

Keep it simple. Work with people not technology. Sell value. If you can do these things you will set yourself apart from your competition AND will establish your status as a valued business partner to those who choose to work with you.

 
Did you forget your Managed IT Services text book at home? We've got extras!

The Definitive Guide to Managed IT Services [eBook]

Ray Vrabel is Continuum's Director of Technical Account Management and participates in product and service growth initiatives, and also manages Continuum's Technical Account Management team, which supports over 3,500 partners worldwide. Prior to Continuum, Ray joined Zenith Infotech in 2005 and held several positions including Service Desk Manager, Sr. Technical Account Manager and Sr. Manager of Service Operations. He currently has over 15 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in Managed Services, Disaster Recovery, and Cloud Solutions. Prior to Continuum and Zenith, Ray worked at ANH Refractories, a world-class provider of Refractories products, in their Service Desk Department supporting 53 locations and 1,500 employees. Ray also worked for a startup venture at Body Media a pioneer in wearable body monitoring systems as a technical lead in their Technical Customer Support Department. Ray holds a Bachelors of Science in Business Technology Support and Training from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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