Should MSPs Hire a CXO?
… also the CXO; sometimes, the top sales executive (if the CEO isn’t also wearing that hat) doubles (or should double) as the CXO. Nonetheless, the CXO role, in Agrawal’s view, speaks to a broader shift in the channel.
“For decades, partners have aspired to achieving ‘trusted adviser’ relationships with their customers,” Agrawal says. “But if the market is moving from value addition to value creation for the customer, isn’t it essential to move beyond ‘trusted adviser’ status to becoming, in a meaningful sense, a partner of the customer, invested in the client’s business success? Yes. Enter customer experience officers.”
With that in mind, let’s consider three key points partners can take away from the CXO trend, even if the role isn’t likely to materialize in your company in the near future.
- The “S” in MSP has two meanings. Whether it’s an executive post or falls under the auspices of an existing strategic accounts program (or similar), customer experience shouldn’t exist in a silo. It needs to be everyone’s job.
“Generally speaking, too often IT service providers focus too much on the IT services and not enough on service. By definition, an MSP is a services company and a service company,” says Sobel from SolarWinds MSP. “The customer experience should always be a priority that runs wide and deep throughout the organization. Every level within an MSP’s organization needs to think about the customer experience and how they are working to improve it.”
- MSP value and client expectations need to be in sync. MSP relationships – like in many service provider contexts – tend to fray when there’s a gap in expectations. Nelson from West Monroe Partners notes that this is where the CXO role could be tailored specifically to the MSP industry: working relentlessly to ensure the value the MSP is providing is well-aligned with what the customer needs. The advice applies even if you’re not going to create the position.
“The value would be driving both the MSP and the client to the same expectations and value,” Nelson says. “The client cares about the value being delivered and a CXO in an MSP would align internal operations with client value.”
- The channel is changing. “Duh,” says everyone. What business or industry isn’t changing? Agrawal, for one, notes that the channel, in particular, is necessarily evolving from a transactional business to one where success is defined by long-term customer relationships — which, if you want to boil it down to dollars and cents, translates to: “recurring revenue.” Poor customer experience is antithetical to recurring revenue. Vendor partner programs should take heed, too, Agrawal says.
“It is my assertion that, by 2021, 100% of MSPs should be focused on meaningful customer partnerships,” Agrawal says. “Which means that for MSPs they need to have a focused business strategy on customer experience and shared risk deployment. What it means for the MSP’s vendor partner is that they should incentivize MSPs on lifetime value over transaction value.”
The customer may not always be right, but you want to keep most of them around for the long haul. Their experience and satisfaction will determine whether that happens or not.
“Every MSP – regardless of size – should be focused on the satisfaction, happiness and overall experience of its associates and its customers,” Sobel says. “The fact is when an organization does customer experience right, it’s baked into the DNA. And if it isn’t, that’s step one. Be customer-centric every day and in every way.”