Amid Financial Crisis, MSPs Must Learn From Utilities

Yes, the managed services industry continues to grow during the current economic crisis. However, it's important to note: Even if you introduce services that your customers crave, some customers may fail to pay you.

Skeptical? Consider the situation with the U.S. electric grid. Electric service is the most basic managed service. Businesses and consumers "can't live without it. Even so, some utilities and power suppliers are experiencing record payment delays from their customers.

Here's one example from LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority -- along with some thoughts on how to ensure customers keep paying you for your services.

LIPA has turned off service to more than 12,000 of its 1.1 customers due to late or unpaid accounts, according to Newsday, the daily newspaper serving Long Island. According to the Newsday article:

"With the economy souring, the number of customers paying their LIPA bills late hit an all-time high of 219,171 in August as total arrears exceeded a whopping $155 million."

Keep It Personal

Still, there's a difference between big utilities and local managed service providers. Most consumers and small business owners don't have a "personal" relationship with their electric, gas or heating oil provider. So when times are tight, those customers don't feel guilty about paying their monthly utility bills a little late.

In stark contrast, MSPs have the opportunity to build personal, first-name relationships with their customers. Instead of hiding from customers during these high-stress economic times, you should be showing your face even more frequently with customers.

Make sure that your company -- and your services -- remain front-of-mind for your customer base. That way, you'll be at the top of the list each time the customer sits down to pay monthly bills.

Many MSPs have resorted to automated electronic payments in recent months, drawing a fixed monthly fee from customer bank accounts every 30 days. It's like direct deposit from your customers to your business.

Stay friendly and visible. Negotiate hard. Get paid in an automated method.

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