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Ask an MSP ExpertQ: As an MSP, I always provide great service to my small business customers. But, what should I do if a backup fails? I want to avoid a potentially awkward conversation with the customer, but I also want to be honest. How should I handle situations like this? 

Communication is a key part of any services business. Letting your customers know about a problem and sharing key metrics with them builds trust and also helps you prove your value.

We talked with Abbey Greene, one of the partner management specialists at Intronis MSP Solutions, who spends most of her time working with partners, and helping them be successful. Abbey had some great advice to share about what managed service providers can and should do when they encounter an awkward situation with a customer, such as explaining that a routine backup failed.

When to notify your customer

You need to have a unique approach for each customer. Every small business faces their own challenges, pain points, and ultimately requires a different level of your attention. In the interest of saving your time (and theirs), it’s important to learn as much as you can about each client during the onboarding process. Ask lots of questions, find out what services they care about most, and note the details. Not only will you be able to impress customers with your sharp memory of their businesses’ specific needs, but it will also help you gauge when to notify them about an issue.

Say, for example, a backup failed on one of your customer’s systems. We recommend referencing the notes you took during your onboarding process and then determining if it’s best to contact them. If you know there’s a technician there who frequently checks the system, it would be best to keep that person informed because they will most likely see the issue and call anyway.

If this was the first backup missed and the next scheduled backup ran perfectly, it might be best not to send a “backup failed” notification and instead just include it within your weekly or monthly service report. On the other hand, if they have missed multiple backups, it would be better to immediately send an alert indicating the number of backups missed.

Keep in mind that your customers have their own small businesses to manage and have little time for constant support updates. That’s why we recommend sending a comprehensive daily, weekly, or monthly report, based on the customer’s preference. When your customer wants to know what’s going on, they can easily refer to this report, learn about any issues and that they’ve already been addressed.

For Intronis partners, we help them customize the notifications they send to their customers. This allows our partners to specialize the feedback they share. For more information on the functionality of our notification system, visit our knowledge base articles.

Explain the situation in detail

Another potential situation is when a customer has been ignoring your alerts and you realize a backup hasn’t been running properly for more than a week. In this case, contact the customer immediately. In many cases, our partners find that the backup failed simply because the computer had been turned off. A simple check-in call can relieve your stress and remind the customer of what’s needed on their end to complete a backup set. It really could be as easy as saying “Please turn your computer back on.”

In the case that there’s a more complicated issue with the backup process, explain what’s wrong in as much detail as possible. Spending the time to walk your customer through the diagnostics will prove worthwhile when they comment on your proactive support!

Communicate regularly

There will also be times when you encounter a “false alarm” that doesn’t require you to loop in the customer. But, even if you’re running perfect backups, you should always maintain an open line of communication with your customers. We suggest sending regular status reports as a way of reminding your customers of all the items you’ve been managing while also letting them know that everything is running properly. These updates also serve as a reminder of the value your services are providing to their business.

Ultimately, determing how to approach your customers will depend on their particular needs, and this is something you will have to figure out in time. Remember that regular communication is key.

How do you communicate with your customers? Leave us a comment letting us know how you’ve resolved potentially awkward conversations with a customer.

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.

Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives on Flikr. Used under CC 2.0 license.

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Courtney Steinkrauss

Posted by Courtney Steinkrauss

Courtney is an Editorial Associate at Intronis. In her role, she assists in creating and publishing content that helps IT service providers grow their businesses.

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