In business as in life, cutting out unhealthy relationships and taking the time to strengthen ones with those who are a positive influence is a necessary practice. That's why it's also your next IT resolution challenge! You want to surround yourself with people that have your goals and interests at heart. That's why I urge you to invest in an RMM or Software as a Solution (SaaS) vendor that's invested in your success, a true business partner. That's step 1, but you can't ignore your client relationships.
Concentrate on finding a managed IT services platform with the following 3 qualities. You can then turn it around and pay it forward for your profitable clients. When you do, expect customer satisfaction and revenue to soar!
So what should you look and strive for in your business relationships?
Do you want to work with someone you don't trust? Someone that just nickle and dimes you, tells you half-truths, and takes business away from you by selling to your end clients, either with or without disclosure?
When choosing an RMM provider, look for one that's channel exclusive. Many companies have now begun selling direct - that means they're going after YOUR end-clients! You're trying to grow your business, not lose valuable accounts and revenue. Whether you're still shopping for your managed IT services platform or need to make the switch, protect your bottom line and pick a vendor that only sells to MSPs, never end-users. Does that mean that all bets are off if your customer comes to the vendor? No! A channel-exclusive solutions platform screens all leads to make sure they're MSPs and will refuse the sale if not.
Pay IT Forward
Just like a channel exclusive vendor's success is your own, make sure your clients understand that your interests and goals are one in the same. First, find a provider that helps you grow, scale, and be as profitable as possible. Then, become that trustworthy ally for your own clients. The best way to pay IT forward is to go back, dig out your MSP business plan, and make sure your service is consistent with your mission statement. Hopefully, it doesn't just include your desire to make money. Your clients are more than a collection of walking dollar signs. A good mission statement will outline why you're in business and what you hope to accomplish beyond revenue.
Related: How to Write an MSP Business Plan
Transparency doesn't end there, however. How honest are you in your Service Level Agreements (SLAs)? Don't oversell yourself or exaggerate your service delivery beyond your actual capability. Your SLA serves as a contractual promise to your clients. It's not a marketing or sales document, but a legal one. An SLA protects the terms and conditions you shook hands with your client on, ensuring they are realized by all parties involved. To pay IT forward, make sure your clients know exactly what they're getting when they choose to do business with you. Then, make good on that agreement!
Pro Tip from Coach Ray: Strive to under-promise and over-deliver!
For more play-by-plays, catch VIDEO: Top 5 Things to Consider in Your SLA - Pt 1: Coach's Corner Episode 3
Reliability & Accountability
Feedback Implemented and Tickets Resolved
Is your RMM vendor leading with innovation and excellence when it comes to the products and services they offer you? At the end of the day, you'll be selling these managed IT services solutions back to your clients. You'll want to rely on your provider to always improve their SaaS platform and make updates based on client opinions. Does your SaaS solution provider offer a client forum, where you can submit ideas for product and service improvement? Part of the channel promise is providing you the most robust managed IT services platform available, but at the end of the day, you know best! The right vendor is receptive to your ideas, questions, and critiques and implements them regularly.
If you're not already in business with an RMM vendor that integrates remote support with a Network Operations Center (NOC), you're missing out on that second layer of accountability. You can't have SaaS without software backed by service. Yet, many vendors claim to be SaaS, and just send you RMM in a box. That instruction manual will suffice, right? Unfortunately, this method leaves you to take it from there. When you partner with a provider that offers NOC support, they're held accountable for the reliability of their technology, and your clients' networks are better managed and protected because of it. Plus, once product updates are made and released consistently, you can count on NOC technicians to be fully aware and trained, adding another layer of technical support.
If you are leveraging a NOC as part of your MSP offering, do you have 24/7 chat support? Issues and alerts don't follow a set schedule. You want your NOC to be accessible and accountable during any time of the day. Make sure you pick one that can not only absorb a large percentage of routine tickets to take pressure off of your techs, but has a reputation for resolving these support requests at a high rate as well.
Pay IT Forward
A NOC can be thought of as customer support for the MSP. Once you partner with a SaaS platform that backs its RMM with a NOC, pay IT forward. Offer the same level of customer service to your clients! There are many ways to go about this, but the easiest parallel to make to a NOC at the MSP level is a help desk at the end-user level. We've talked about the various reasons for transitioning to a smart-sourced help desk model before, and if you're looking for more information, this infographic details the business benefit - roughly $194,500 in annual savings. Instead, when selecting a help desk solution, consider the following:
- How much of help desk time you want to smart source.
- A flexible solution will allow you to select your service serving size, be it 24/7 or just nights and weekends. Remember, keep your options open!
- If the solution is able to be white labeled.
- When the provider agrees to act as representative of your company, all communication is handled in your company's name. That's a huge customer service win!
- If the service delivery is sufficient
- The right solution should be transparent (sound familiar?) about how many calls and incidents each technician fields in a day, their average speed to answer (ASA), abandoned rate (AR), and first contact resolution (FCR).
- Most importantly, don't forget to request their customer satisfaction (CSAT) statistics!
Educational Content and Course Offerings
By this point, you should have a better feel for which business relationships you should either develop or nix in 2015. The third piece of this puzzle is finding those who understand that education enables your success. Your SaaS provider should equip you with all of the learning materials needed to be the best, most knowledgeable MSP. If you're not receiving resources like white papers, trainings, webinars, eBooks, blog posts, etc. covering topics like how to grow your business, you're in business with the wrong vendor.
Likewise, you want to align yourself with a vendor that empowers you to get the most out of their solutions. Do they have an online certification program where you can direct your technicians to hone their skills and understanding of your offering? Some RMM providers even offer these courses for FREE! A trusted partner prepares you to pay IT forward to your clients by creating and distributing content that you can repurpose and distribute to your end-users. In order to sell to them, you'll have to present the business case for them using your services. An RMM provider committed to partner enablement will send you a white label white paper and data sheet so you can properly market yourself to these prospects.
Pay IT Forward
In addition to following through and sending these informational documents to end-users, you could offer your own training program. No, they're not techies, but I'm sure you'd agree that they'd benefit from a course in office security best practices. Need help drafting a syllabus? Use any of these previous blog posts as inspiration:
- Can You Spot The 13 Security Flaws In This Photo?
- Your Biggest Security Threat May Be Your Easiest Fix
- IT Security On-the-Go: Your Travel ITinerary
By Gretchen Hoffman
By Meaghan Moraes