Q: We recently added new members to the team at my MSP, and we expanded our services. While we’re doing OK revenue wise, it feels like we have a lot of unhappy customers lately. How can we mend the relationships with our customers so they continue to stay with us?
Creating and maintaining customer relationships can difficult, especially when you’re adding new employees to the mix. However, having exceptional customer service is essential to growing your business and keeping your current customers onboard. Businesses often get sucked into believing there’s always another happy customer around the corner. But that’s not always the case. No one wants to deal with an unhappy customer, but it’s easier to patch a relationship with a good customer then find new ones to fill their shoes. Plus, a recent study found that 62 percent of B2B customers buy more after a good customer experience. So improving your customer service can pay off in a number of ways.
To give you advice on how to save your customer relationships, we talked to Taylor-Marie Koterba, one of the Partner Success Managers at Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda. She works closely with partners to align their objectives and goals to build a strong partnership with them. Here are Taylor-Marie’s tips on how to save customer relationships from the brink of disaster.
Customer service starts as soon as they sign the dotted line
Typically, customers are happy right after they sign an agreement—but that’s where their customer service experience begins. After they sign the agreement, make it a standard practice to thank them for becoming a customer and take a little time to get to know them. What are their aspirations for their business? What are they hoping to achieve now that they’re your customer? Most importantly, what are their expectations for you? Find out early on what they’re looking for and what they expect. This is your opportunity to understand what they want and cement what you’re going to provide for them.
Developing a rapport with them early on helps to also determine what they find valuable. Do they like that all IT problems will be covered or that routine backups happen on a certain schedule? Do they like that you hold educational webinars every month for their employees? A customer isn’t going to get rid of a service they find valuable. Find ways to consistently demonstrate your MSP’s value, whether it’s how your services are making their lives easier or how you’re saving them money or time. If you can articulate this value to them regularly, chances are they’ll be more satisfied overall.
Give unhappy customers the floor
Approaching an unhappy customer isn’t easy, and you want to be as prepared for your call as much as possible. If you’re using a CRM tool, go through the history you’ve had with the partner. Are there any tickets or service requests that are outstanding? Taking a few moments to view their account history is a key part of avoiding having them get angrier—especially if a few employees handle the account. Have they previously discussed the problems they were having with someone else? More importantly, was it resolved? If not, chances are they will be even more frustrated if they have to repeat themselves.
While customer complaints can come in various forms like emails, social media posts, phone calls, or angry letters sent through snail mail, the best way to respond is with a phone call. If an unhappy customer contacts you via email or through social media, send out a non-abrasive response apologizing that things did not work out, but that you would love to hop on a call to get their opinion on how you can make the situation better.
Once they’re on the phone, start off by saying how this call is about how you can get better at showing you value them as a customer. This gives the customer an opportunity to have a positive jumping off point. From there, take a step back and listen to their problems and concerns. Don’t monopolize the call. Instead, take notes on what you can do better. If you’ve done something wrong, don’t be afraid to admit it and reassure them that you’ll do better in the future. Tell them how you’re going to do this, and set realistic expectations. Don’t promise them something with no actionable plan. You want to be able to convince them that you value their partnership and that you want to work to resolve this issue—not only for them, but for future customers as well.
Sometimes it’s not personal, it’s a technical problem
If your customer is dealing with an unresolved technical issue, you need to be their advocate. This can be especially true at large MSPs where problems can get lost in the shuffle. Reassure them that you will personally follow up and keep them updated on the progress. Knowing they have an in-house advocate involved in their problem tends to make them feel acknowledged and prioritized—and they aren’t just another ticket in the system. Whether it’s at 8 a.m. the next day or before you leave for the night, make sure to follow up with any news, no matter how small. This builds trust and can ease their anxieties.
Another important step is giving your customer a timeframe for when you think the issue will be resolved. Will it take a few days or a few hours? Create a realistic expectation that fits the situation, and give yourself a little wiggle room to get it done. I prefer the customer to feel that their case was resolved ahead of schedule, leaving them a little happier; as opposed to not delivering what was promised in the timeframe you set.
Talking to unhappy customers isn’t easy, but it’s a necessary part of helping your MSP grow. Following Taylor-Marie’s advice will help you start off the partnership on the right foot and save the relationship if something goes wrong. After all, an unhappy customer is not unique. There are likely other customers having similar problems who haven’t complained yet. Solving the issue for one, could make others happier.
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.