Nothing Defines “Managed Services” Better than Meeting Your Customers’ Needs
Anyone who has been around the managed services market a while knows this: Companies can get pretty creative with their definitions of “managed services.”
While inventive definitions of the term may deliver food for thought or some level of entertainment, it’s hard to get customers to understand what a service delivers if providers can’t agree on its meaning. It’s no wonder, then, that even customers who hire an MSP don’t always know what “managed services” means.
But does that really matter? It matters a lot less than making questionable claims about what you offer. So you if sell something you define as a managed service, it should involve at least three components – remote capability, automation and prevention. Managed services transformed IT services from remediation to prevention by automating common maintenance tasks to avoid downtime. So if you’re spending all your time troubleshooting customer systems, you aren’t really an MSP.
With that out of the way, let’s tackle the question that often pops up: Do customers understand what managed services are? As Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis at CompTIA, aptly pointed out in a recent MSPmentor column, the term “managed services” is “vague and nondescript, unlikely to pique customer curiosity.”
It is all that. And it is used in other industries, including healthcare and HR, so its utility in IT is inevitably limited. This may explain why some IT service providers use alternatives such as “managed IT services” or “managed IT support services.”
But does it matter?
From a customer perspective, however, the term “managed services” is largely irrelevant. Telling a customer you offer managed services is far less effective than explaining how your services can support their business goals, address their pain points, and put them on the path to higher profitability. The point of IT, after all, is to support the business – and that should be the focus of the MSP’s message.
Successful MSPs achieve their success by listening to customers and delivering the solutions that help them run their businesses more efficiently. So if a client is running out of storage, has no business continuity plans or can’t effectively run patch management because its environment runs too many disparate systems and platform versions, an MSP can effectively address each of those needs by delivering the right service.
To the client, it doesn’t matter that the MSP’s patch management is a “managed service.” What matters is the provider is managing the function consistently and reliably, without interrupting the users. It spares the client from what can become a fairly complicated task if handled manually.
The same is true of backup and recovery, systems monitoring or password management. Call them “managed services,” “IT services,” “tech support, it doesn’t matter – so long as you are meeting the client’s needs. These tasks, when handled in house, suck business resources that can be better applied elsewhere.
It’s about outcomes
So long as you focus on customer business outcomes, rather than trying to dazzle customers with elaborate discussions of technical capabilities, the client will have a better appreciation for what you do. Clients don’t need to hear the term “managed services” if they understand what you deliver, what your value proposition is, and how it helps their business.
But if you feel it’s important for customers to hear the term, make sure they understand what it means. And the best way to achieve that is by delivering on what managed services are all about – consistent, reliable services that minimize customer downtime.
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@example.com.