Move beyond delivery of expected services to build a strong customer experience.

September 28, 2020

6 Min Read
Customer Satisfaction

By Mike Cullen

Cullen-Mike_SolarWinds_TopGun51_2019-150x150.jpgCustomer experience focus is important to MSPs. There are three ways MSPs can sharpen their customer experience focus. But first, why do it? Customer experience isn’t just about responsiveness or how quickly issues are resolved. It isn’t merely about delivering service in a predictable, satisfactory manner and billing customers accurately. Customer experience is about that and more. Today’s MSPs need to understand how to keep customers engaged for the long-term.

No matter how good your service delivery is, you still have to build a good rapport with your customers. A single failure can overshadow all that you do well, but it doesn’t have to. If you deliver a consistently excellent experience and succeed in building trust with customers, you can ride out a one-time crisis and quickly repair any damage to the relationship.

Building the right type of customer experience takes time and effort. In addition to delivering the services customers expect from you, like remote monitoring and management, password management and backup and recovery for Microsoft 365, what else are you providing to round out the customer journey? In my experience, I have found that strengthening your business in these three areas will help sharpen your customer experience focus.

Cybersecurity Is Crucial

Aside from keeping the lights on, protecting clients from cyberthreats is one of the top priorities for MSPs today. If you don’t view cybersecurity in terms of customer experience, you’re making a mistake. A single security incident that causes a business shutdown or seriously disrupts operations can swiftly put you in hot water with a customer.

Studies have found that many customers lose confidence in companies that suffer a breach or have subpar security. In one of the more dramatic findings, PWC discovered 85% of consumers will not do business with a company if they have concerns about its security. This puts pressure on MSPs to protect their customers, especially in light of recent trends involving cyberattacks on IT services providers. As reported by ISC2, hackers have been targeting providers because, if the attacks succeed, they gain access to not only the providers’ data, but also that of their customers. In this way, they can get into the systems of hundreds, or even thousands, of businesses. It isn’t hard to understand the damage an attack like this can create for an MSP, and why having a robust cybersecurity strategy may be a matter of survival — not just for customers, but for MSPs themselves.

The onus is on every MSP today to establish and follow sound practices internally, from patching and monitoring systems to employing good password policies to taking a comprehensive approach to security. All elements of a solid security strategy factor into minimizing business risk — and risk is something most customers understand. If a breach occurs, it could be costly, but there’s no disputing the fact that proactive security measures help reduce the risk.

A big part of security is also response. Every MSP must have a plan in place for responding to an attack. And, as you engage with prospects, communicate not only how you will respond when an incident happens, but also be sure to let them know your services include being there to help them through it. That follow-through becomes a powerful testimony to your ability to deliver on the promise of CX.

Finally, remember your reputation is critical — and CX drives your reputation. As cyberthreats inevitably continue to emerge, more MSPs will grow their security offerings. Those that already have a strong security reputation will likely have a competitive advantage over those just getting started. That edge can lead to more referrals, more business and a way to stand out in a crowded market.

Boosting Customer Skill Sets

When it comes to customer experience, security is only one part of the story. MSPs need to also invest in other areas that help boost their customers’ businesses. For instance, do you offer services designed to sharpen users’ IT skills? With technology evolving at a relentless, accelerated pace, it’s hard for any user to keep up with it all. But you can help them.

Think about how customers would see you if you built an offering around IT training and updating user skills. In their eyes, you’d become more than just …

… the “IT guy,” you would become the trusted partner that understands their needs and goals — and supports them in their efforts to address both.

A few approaches to boosting customer skill sets include:

  • Deliver ongoing IT training sessions, whether through brown-bag lunches, video calls or another delivery method that works for your customer. Pick a different topic each month, and be sure to make your training relevant to the pain points IT teams and businesses are facing today. Make it something attendees look forward to; keep it conversational and interactive.

  • Regularly point customer contacts in the direction of software provider partners that deliver resources — from blogs, boot camps and webinars to ebooks, reports and whitepapers.

  • Designate one or two client employees — individuals with the interest and aptitude — to serve as your go-to contacts for skill-set improvements. Provide them with ongoing training, invite them to participate in online conferences and share journal articles and tips with them. Communicate with them frequently. They can help you pass on knowledge to the rest of the IT staff and other parts of the business. With the increase in attacks against MSPs, maintaining a go-to expert on staff will give you an extra set of eyes and an added layer of protection from within the company.

Establish Consistent Touch Points

In addition to customer education, MSPs can significantly improve the customer experience by addressing all customer touch points, from service delivery to email communications to technical support. When is the last time you reviewed each of these areas to identify weaknesses and make improvements?

Make a habit of auditing your customer touch points quarterly. And don’t remain committed to a certain approach just because you’ve “always done it that way.” Agility is key; as we all know, things can change on a dime. For example, as many MSPs have been working remotely, customer interactions have had to be adjusted accordingly. Those MSPs who were able to pivot faster and more effectively no doubt scored big CX points with their customers.

And remember, addressing all touch points isn’t something a single individual can accomplish within your organization. It’s important to ensure your staff recognizes customer experience as a team effort. It’s still a good idea to appoint a customer experience champion who keeps track of all customer-experience-related efforts.

Lastly, MSPs shouldn’t confuse customer experience with marketing. Though related, they are not the same. Develop processes and programs for each; they should complement — but not short-shrift — each other.

Customer experience gets ample lip service these days, but many companies still struggle to get it right. MSPs that approach it in a holistic way are bound to stand out and increase their chances of retaining happy customers.

Mike Cullen is group vice president of partner success at SolarWinds MSP. Prior to joining the company he was vice president of sales at the Ottawa branch for IKON Office Solutions. He was also interim president of the Quebec region. Additionally, Cullen was vice president of sales and co-founder at Fulline Office Products. Previously he held sales management positions with Canon and Pitney Bowes. Follow Solar Winds on LinkedIn or @SolarWindsMSP on Twitter.

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