May 30, 2017
By Brian Largent
Businesses may choose to work with a managed service provider for any number of reasons. Maybe the MSP can offer IT capabilities the internal team doesn’t have the resources to achieve; often, an MSP delivers services at a better value and level of simplicity than a business could provide for itself. Compared with the prospect of developing or implementing a vendor solution without expert assistance, the basic advantages of enlisting an MSP are enough to win over many clients.
However, I’ve found that there are other, sometimes less tangible, qualities that help MSPs stand out from the pack — practices and services that go beyond the expected. Using these methods can help you compete, even against much larger providers and those that seek to gain clients by offering cut-rate service.
1. Client Advocacy
Businesses most often don’t have the expertise or wherewithal to address technical issues they encounter with the software or service vendors they use — that lack of expert knowledge is probably a big part of why they hired an MSP in the first place. Say, for example, that a client has an issue with the speed of a piece of software. When a client contacts the vendor looking for support, it’s not uncommon that a vendor representative will brush off a complaint such as this, which lacks in technical detail.
The rep will often try to pass off issues as being caused by a lack of optimization with the hardware, network or whatever other source is believable, in an attempt to close the ticket and get the client off the phone. And, in most cases, the client will believe this explanation, having no insight into the reality of the situation.
A little-celebrated advantage of working with an MSP is that they can and should advocate on the behalf of their clients in these circumstances. MSPs will deliver this advocacy as a part of their service diagnostics, communicating with vendors to ensure the client is receiving the best experience available.
Even in situations where the vendor is gamely trying to offer the best support it can, the rep may not understand how to address the issue given the customer’s layman’s description. Whatever a vendor’s intentions, MSPs have the knowledge to demand the most out of them for their client’s benefit.
MSPs will also apply their expertise to solve custom issues for clients, and get creative when necessary. Here’s an example from our own experience. A client of ours that works with X-ray machines needed a method for encrypting their IT systems. The client had a potential solution, but their plan involved an expensive system upgrade and costly encryption coverage for each of the company’s machines.
Before proceeding down that financially draining route, the client asked if we had any alternatives available. Employing our knowledge of available solutions and a little originality, we offered a more affordable solution. The client has now upgraded its old X-ray machine systems to include self-encrypting drives (SEDs), which we’re able to ensure the security of using Beachhead Solutions’ SimplySecure SED management tool.
Information on those machines is now encrypted, and the solution serves the client’s needs effectively.
I encourage creativity with my staff. It’s important that MSPs put their knowledge and connections to work by thinking hard about unique ways to solve client problems. Be sure to confer with your vendors for ideas as well — like ours, many will be pleased to help.
3. Vertical Expertise
MSPs have the experience and insight to understand the legal regulatory requirements governing the industries a client’s business is active in, and offer a practical application of this knowledge as a part of their services. In the healthcare field, for example, HIPAA requires that the electronic personal health information (ePHI) of patients is stored in a secure manner and emphasizes the importance of data encryption. To respond to specific client needs such as this, MSPs don’t need to become complete experts, but we do need to be able to offer guidance and deliver a capable solution. We may partner with services that help ensure our clients gain compliance; in our case, we use HIPAA Secure Now, a service that allows us to provide all clients that are HIPAA Covered Entities with the tools and safeguards they need to comply with the law.
Similarly, the Breach Secure Now service allows us to help protect clients from data breaches, especially clients in industries where such protections are required. We recommend that MSPs maintain a general awareness of industry or geographically specific regulatory requirements that affect their current or potential clients. For instance, we’re keeping our eye on state legislation like New York’s new Cybersecurity Mandates for Employee Training, which has a strong potential to be adopted by other states. By being in-the-know about both industry-wide and localized regulatory requirements, MSPs increase their value to clients, and the likelihood that they’ll stick with you as a provider they trust through any regulatory changes.
Brian Largent is CEO at ArcLight Group, an IT support provider serving the Tulsa area.
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