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As a customer of an MSP, it is great when everything goes well; no problems mean no need to constantly update things; no downtime to impact the business, and there is no reason to pay attention to what you are doing.

However, when something goes wrong, the IT team and the business will turn their focus on their MSP. This is not what you want to happen.

Trouble can leave a lasting impression

For example, say that you are the perfect MSP, experiencing absolutely zero problems with your services across any contract period. When it comes to renewals, the business is unaware of how brilliant you have been and has possibly gotten used to expecting such stellar service. As such, it expects the same from other MSPs, and could potentially look for a replacement who is offering a lower cost.

If, however, you are like most MSPs, then a few things may not have gone quite as smoothly as you would have liked throughout the contract period.  Sure, you provided great support and got everything back up and running as quickly as possible, but the customer will tend to remember the bad things more than the good things.

It now becomes somewhat necessary to try and turn things around. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to get noticed even when things are going well, to the point where this becomes a major reason for a customer to stay with you?

Data demonstrates the MSP’s contributions to the business

The vast majority of MSPs monitor things to a massive extent. They must, as knowing what is going on is key to ensuring that uptime is maintained and that there are no sudden surprises to hit performance.  As such, MSPs know the extent to which there have been unsuccessful malicious attacks on their services, how such attacks have been mitigated, and so on. All this data, which is often just used internally, should be packaged up to paint the MSP in a highly positive light and sent to customers on a regular (probably monthly) manner.

It is likely that the MSP is being hit by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of attacks per day. Customers are unlikely to be aware of how many attacks an MSP is faced with since many are unaware of how many attacks there are on their own systems. For example, most organizations, even though their own perimeter defenses have logging systems, find that the logs have too much information in them and tend to just let them sit there – until something has gone wrong.

Splitting your own data down into areas such as DDoS attacks, brute force access attacks, payload attacks and so on starts to create a basis to produce an easy to understand and visually impactful infographic report. Combine this with data around the number of times different areas of security have been updated across your own platform and the customer can then start to understand how much basic work is being taken off their own hands.

Constantly demonstrating value is key to success

This ‘toil’ – the basic day-to-day work that is required to keep a platform running – is often overlooked by organizations operating their own platform. It is just listed under the general IT budget. Indeed, various research has shown that up to 80 percent of an organization’s overall IT budget can be swallowed up by toil in managing an on-premise environment. This, obviously, only leaves 20 percent of the IT budget to be used in investment in things that help the business.

If the MSP can demonstrate that this cost is now covered within the subscription and that this overall cost is being shared across many customers, then more of that overall IT budget can be assigned to investment in the business. By providing a constant reminder of the business value that a customer is receiving from using an MSP’s services, then contract renewal should be become far easier.

As such, it is recommended that such updates be relatively short (no more than 2 pages) and as visual as possible. Use enough text to ensure that the message is getting through at both the technical and business level as to what each area means.  It may be worthwhile providing live links in the report that allow the customer to drill down deeper to identify the sorts of issues that you have been dealing with, such as breaking threats down to existing and day zero ones, naming them wherever possible.

Similarly, with areas such as DDoS attacks, live link through to data that shows how this was mitigated, through actions such as load balancing, workload shifting, IP protection or whatever. Where an MSP is providing services such as communications, being able to say how many messages were captured as being spam or malicious and how many went into a folder for users to check can also help in showing what activities are being covered by you on the customer’s behalf.

Much of this report production can be automated: templates can be created that pull the data out from your own reports, along with then creating the more personalized aspects of information on the specific customer itself.

Overall, the effort should be low, but can result in strong payback. Customers should appreciate the report, demonstrating what has been automated out of their hands and allowing the IT department to show the business how the use of an MSP has improved the overall status of IT platform. For the MSP, it enables a relationship to be managed better with visibility maintained throughout a contract period – both via the good times and the (hopefully much fewer) the bad times.

Photo: jakkapan / Shutterstock

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Clive Longbottom

Posted by Clive Longbottom

Clive Longbottom is a UK-based independent commentator on the impact of technology on organizations and was a co-founder and service director at Quocirca. He has also been an ITC industry analyst for more than 20 years.

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