Customers aren’t exactly ecstatic about the performance of their MSPs. In fact, new research indicates customers see much room for improvement. Two-thirds (67 percent) of end users who engage MSPs for IT services believe the management of their IT environments could be improved, according to results of a survey published in CompTIA’s “Trends in Managed Services” annual report. That 67 percent compares with 50 percent of non-users of managed services who said their IT management could be better.
But while the statistic is hardly encouraging, all is not lost. Asked to rate their managed services experience, only 9 percent of respondents said they were partly satisfied or partly dissatisfied. Sixty-three percent rated their experience as mostly satisfactory, while 27 percent indicated they were very satisfied.
So what should MSPs make of all this? Clearly a self-examination is in order, but it’s important to keep in mind the dissatisfaction isn’t attributable only to their performance.
The 67 percent of users who want improvements to their IT management aren’t necessarily pointing the finger only at their providers, since many of those users’ environments are a blend of internal functions and managed services. So, as the report suggests, the stat “could indicate a dissatisfaction with MSP performance or dissatisfaction with a hybrid blend of some managed services and some internal IT, among other dynamics.”
But make no mistake, MSPs own some of the blame. “Companies that assessed the state of their current IT management ‘fine as is’ were much more likely to use internal staff as the primary steward of their network, software, and other infrastructure,” the report said.
Where the blame falls on MSPs, the issue most likely boils down to communication and expectation. When customers engage an MSP, often they are looking for the provider to handle a specific function, such as hosted email. “Many end users use an MSP to manage specific IT functions such as outsourced email or help desk duties, while keeping the management of other areas of IT under their internal staff umbrella,” according to the CompTIA report.
Judging from the findings, MSPs aren’t always making a good impression with that first engagement.
A recent LogicNow study of 1,300 IT departments and 700 IT service providers suggests one problem is how providers deal with new customers. In many cases, customers get frustrated because providers try to push more services on them before they are ready. “Service providers are failing to appreciate IT departments’ priorities when selling their services and are pushing strategic engagement too early,” the vendor posited in its “Global IT Providers Harmony Report.”
Don't be pushy
Providers should work toward long-term, strategic engagements, but they need finesse and timing. “Service providers need to address the tactical task at hand first and then use success here to move the relationship toward a more strategic one,” LogicNow recommended in its report.
It comes down to listening to customers. And when the time is right, you can introduce more services that help cement a long-term engagement. The original engagement should give providers a better sense of what else a customer needs and how to best address those needs.
Understand your users' priorities
Having a good handle on current end-user priorities also helps. According to the CompTIA report, the main drivers for managed services adoption currently include strengthening security and compliance, improving IT reliability and efficiency, and freeing IT staff for strategic work. MSPs should be aware of these macro trends, but the trends shouldn’t overly influence how providers pitch further services to customers.
Ultimately there is no better substitute to learning what customers need than asking and listening. And if customers still are only “mostly satisfied” once you act to fulfill their needs, you need to ask them why so you can do better.
Pedro Pereira is Massachusetts-based freelance writer with two decades of experience covering and analyzing the IT channel and technology. He can be reached at [email protected].