I can't really say that I look forward to transition periods. Activities like searching for a new job, taking on a new role at work, or moving to a new place of residence equal long hours and (often) sleepless nights. But there's also something I like about transition, something fascinating: I can control the outcome of the activity. I can choose a new job. I can create structure and processes in a new role at work. And I can paint walls, install flooring, and make numerous renovations in a new home.
While transition periods may be uncomfortable, they give us the opportunity to change; to lay down ground rules and set up processes. The ability to take advantage of these transition periods in our businesses is extremely important -- especially in the area of Customer Engagement.
Customer What?According to the latest MSP Partners/Institute for Partner Education and Development (IPED) research, Customer Engagement is one of the 10 Critical Business Components MSPs should focus on when developing an organizational strategy. The whole idea behind Customer Engagement is to optimize the period in which you transition your new customer into a serviceable customer. This period represents some of the highest risk you'll face as an MSP: there are new expectations, new personalities, and many unknown factors about your customers' current state of affairs. Likewise, the Customer is experiencing a high degree of chaos: a new service provider relationship, a new line in the table of expenses, and an expectation that all of their problems will soon be fixed. It is imperative that you hold on your customer's trust at this time of transition.
The 5 Step ProcessBest Practices point to a formal process behind Customer Engagement. Mature, successful MSPs use a well-documented, repeatable process that can walk the shakiest of new customers through the ramping up period. Our research breaks it into 5 simple steps:
1. Assessment - Go through your customer's site with a fine-toothed comb. Make sure you understand their technical infrastructure status AND their underlying business needs.
2. Stabilization – Standardize your customer’s environment. Upgrade old software and hardware to ensure that it meets your minimum service requirements.
3. Testing – Move into a short, defined period of testing. This will allow you and your customer to set realistic targets in the SLA.
4. Full Service Launch – Once targets have been agreed upon, migrate to full SLA mode, providing your customer with all the services promised.
5. Performance Benchmarking – Provide your customer with regular statistics on the health of his/her technology infrastructure AND on the work that your technicians have performed. Quarterly meetings are nice. Not only will this allow you to update the SLA as required (i.e. upsell), it will remind your customer of the valuable work you do and why you’re indispensible to them.
You can learn lots more about the Customer Engagement, the 10 Critical Business Components and many other important managed services topics through our IPED best practices courses at www.msppartners.com.
Andrew Pohran is program director at MSP Partners. Follow MSPmentor via RSS; Facebook; Identi.ca; and Twitter. And sign up for our Enewsletter; Webcasts and Resource Center.