Q: I do my best to keep my managed services customers happy, but I am not seeing the long-term client retention that I’d like to. How can I be more effective at showing my customers that our relationship is worth continuing?
As discussed previously, managed service providers (MSPs) must properly demonstrate their value to clients for their clients to fully appreciate how vital the role of an MSP is in their organization’s success. However, this is not a simple task, and is a common struggle for those operating in any services business.
Most MSPs are focused on demonstrating value, but unfortunately, they’re not all equally effective at it. There are best practices, and then there are common tactics to “show value” that can often backfire. Too often, MSPs fail to realize that demonstrating value is all about the customer’s perception of how the MSP is helping their business.
To help ensure you’re not making any of these common mistakes, we’ve compiled a list of them as well as for how to course-correct in any areas where you may be struggling.
The challenge: The saying “first impressions are everything” certainly holds true in business, so it’s understandable why MSPs are so eager to showcase their offerings to new clients at any and every chance. Offering complementary service components or service levels beyond the scope of your agreement with a customer can hurt you in the long run. While this can initially endear a customer to the MSP, it can create expectations of service levels that are unsustainable (and can actually cause them to perceive the value of the contracted services to be less than they really are).
How to overcome: It starts with setting reasonable expectations. Before starting any work with a new client, service providers should outline what a “normal” level of service looks like to avoid falling into the trap of customer overtreatment. Be clear about with is included in their contract, and what is not. It is also helpful to show them what is available in addition to their contract, so they can recognize the value associated with additional services and so you can establish a growth path with the customer.
Missed opportunities with reporting
The challenge: Reports generated by service providers offer visual, result-driven insights to the work an MSP has done for its client. Unfortunately, the value of these reports are not maximized when an MSP simply passes reports to the client without further explanation of what they indicate. Something simple like the amount of patches deployed to company devices can seem less significant to the client, unless the MSP explains what issues those patches have fixed or guarded against and how the patches will help those using the devices to drive more business.
The amount of #patches deployed to company devices is less significant to clients, unless the #MSP explains what those patches have fixed or guarded against and how they will help drive more business. #DemonstrateValue
How to overcome: When offering reporting on their work, MSPs must provide detail and context to the client to ensure they truly understand how the work shown on these reports provides value to the client’s business. Without that additional explanation, many clients will fail to grasp how these reports prove the value of the MSP’s work. To stay with the earlier theme of consistency, MSPs should maintain a regular schedule of reporting and communication with clients, to ensure that the value of the services they provide stay at the top of clients’ minds.
The challenge: When attempting to showcase their value, most service providers will point to an instance(s) where they “saved the day” by, for example, recovering a client’s lost or stolen data. While these instances are impressive and should not be discounted, clients will evaluate MSPs on more than just the times when disaster struck. Consistently meeting the evolving needs of clients is a constant challenge, and one just as firmly linked to a client’s evaluation of value as those “shining moments.”
How to overcome: Service providers can avoid misalignment with their clients by remaining “one step ahead” and anticipating their new needs. Customers often expect their MSP to be readily equipped with the right technology, as soon as their need emerges and is identified. MSPs also need to make sure they “fit” well with the clients they support. If an MSP serves clients in a particular vertical or clients with specific compliance requirements, the MSP must provide the level of expertise required by that customer, or set the expectations up front of what they can and can’t advise on. If they are unable to “fit” well with a client on their own, the service provider should work with a third party to supplement their own offering to make the fit work.
Equating time with value
The challenge: Many MSPs will often determine the value of their work in their internal operations by measuring the amount of time working with a task, project, or alert. This carries over to their discussions with customers. However, those clients really care about what the MSP’s work achieved: what the client is now protected from, how much their security posture has improved, and how much downtime has been eliminated.
How to overcome: To avoid equating time with value, service providers should start by highlighting the positive outcome(s) that resulted from their work. The time spent should be the last point highlighted. That way, clients won’t view tasks that were completed relatively quickly as insignificant and lacking in value. If you want to talk about time with customers, aim to talk about reductions in downtime, time saved by blocking cyber attacks, and other ways you’re saving them time. That way, you’ve framed the thinking to how you’re putting time back in their day.
Managed service providers should remember that they can increase the value of the work they provide by approaching their tasks, projects, and services from the perspective of their clients. This will help MSPs understand and communicate with clients about what the clients are hoping to have accomplished and how the MSP’s work aided their organization in its goals.
For a more comprehensive look at how you can maximize the value your current and prospective customers see in working with you, check out the MSP’s Guide to Demonstrating Value to Customers.
Photo: fizkes / Shutterstock