Ask an MSP Expert

Q:  As a newer MSP business, we find ourselves running into new challenges all the time. What are some common challenges other MSPs are running into—and how can we avoid those issues moving forward?

Often, the largest challenge we see MSPs run into is getting their clients to see them as a trusted advisor. Whether you’re explaining that they need additional services or it’s just time to update their old infrastructure, getting customers to understand the value you bring to their business as a managed services provider is essential.

Learning from your MSP peers is a great way to find out what hurdles they’ve seen in the industry and how they’ve persevered to build their business into what it is today. We consulted some of your MSP peers and compiled the top five problems they’ve run into and advice on how to overcome these hurdles.

1. Navigating price increases and product upgrades
Chris Cable of Techworks Consulting has run into this issue and shared a bit about his experience: “As a company, we have set, what we believe, is high standards for the work that we perform. We constantly strive to do better, sometimes to our own detriment. We feel like we need to do the best job possible, but then the client doesn’t always want to pay for that or think that they should. When we have new products to implement, the client thinks we should just be including them in our offer automatically with no additional charge. Are we not people too? We all have bills to pay and can’t just eat the cost for everything. Sure, we are more efficient, but product costs are outside of any labor we could reduce.”

To effectively navigate price increases, emphasize the value you provide to your clients. Educate them on how the new product or service will help their company be more efficient, how it will help them mitigate advanced attacks, and why they need this service. Focus more on the benefits to their business and how it will make their lives easier than on the technical aspects of the change.

2. Managing time and balancing project schedules

Time is valuable, and often technicians are balancing multiple projects. We had a few service providers share that their largest problem as an organization was managing their time appropriately. Let’s face it, technicians might be working on their day-to-day responsibilities and then get a call about a customer’s data loss crisis that needs to be addressed immediately. This can create a time crunch for those other projects they’re working on.

To effectively manage time, have technicians keep track of where they’re spending their time. Are they spending a lot of time managing tickets? Deploying new solutions? Reading emails to the help desk account? Or is their time being consumed by putting out fires at customer sites? If you find out where their time is going, you can find new processes and procedures you can implement to streamline these issues—and get your technicians time back on track.

3. Dealing with repetitive tasks and processes

Repetitive tasks and processes could be discouraging your employees. If they’re constantly fixing the same problem or need to do the same process over and over—it can get mundane. While many of these job functions are necessary, be mindful on how the processes are put in place. Are your processes standardized? Do your techs set up new customers the same way? 

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Instead of leaving room for mistakes, implement a standardized onboarding procedure, for example, to ensure that each client is set up the same way. Come up with a checklist of best practices your techs should follow, such as changing the default passwords on firewalls and admin accounts. By finding ways to get your team on the same page, you can eliminate problems down the road.

4. Trying to explain things to customers who aren’t tech savvy.

A few MSPs admitted that their hardest challenge is getting someone who doesn’t know anything about technology to make a tech decision. Often, bridging the gap between tech speak and plain language with users who aren’t tech savvy poses a problem for service provider and their technicians.

We admit this can be tricky! You don’t want to talk down to a customer, but you also need to put things in terms they can understand. The best advice we can give you is to use real-life examples and tie it back to something they can relate with. For example, if you’re trying to explain VPN security to your customers, highlight examples from the news or make a comparison to something they can relate to more easily—like highways and traffic coming in and out.

5. Dealing with customers who don’t want to migrate off legacy services.

Another thing we’ve seen MSPs go through is to get customers to migrate off legacy infrastructure and systems—especially when a customer has a tight budget. Anthony Marranca from Medix Dental shared that one of the toughest challenges he has run into is “Getting clients to upgrade hardware and understand their seven-year-old server should be replaced. In the client’s eyes it works fine, but in reality, on the back end it’s a nightmare for us as faults are happening and we are spending additional man hours resolving them.”

Legacy systems are also an attractive target for hackers but getting your customers to migrate off old systems and infrastructure can be difficult. While it may work fine on their end, it is a huge vulnerability. The best approach is to show your customers the facts and what it might cost them if they fall victim to an attack. If after you explain to them the importance of upgrading their systems and they still refuse to move over to new systems, consider cutting them as a client. After all, keeping customers who aren’t willing to upgrade their systems can cost your MSP more time, money, and headaches than they’re worth.

TruMethods MSP Improvement Plan

Photo:  sirtravelalot / Shutterstock.

Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is a content and product marketer with several years of experience in the IT channel. She has created and developed content that helps managed service providers grow their business, and has written many articles featured in SmarterMSP’s The MSP’s Bookshelf and Ask an MSP Expert series.

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