What we learned from over 10 years of MSP experience
As an MSP, it’s our job to stay on top of the latest trends in technology to help our clients get the most out of their IT infrastructures. That means staying up-to-date on new tools and resources that will help them do business better. But what are the biggest takeaways from all these years? While many are obvious, some are not so much. Here are the top 8 takeaways we learned over 10 years of being an MSP.
1) Customer service is paramount
Over these past ten years, two ideas have solidified in our minds when it comes to customer service: customer satisfaction matters most and communication is everything. We’ve found that when an agent stays engaged with customers, setting realistic expectations and responding in a timely manner, customers are more than happy to pay for premium service. Plus, effective communication means your agents can avoid miscommunication issues that lead to unhappy clients—and unhappy clients cost money. In fact, research from Pareto Principle shows only 20% of your customers account for 80% of your revenue. Our suggestion? Focus on building loyalty through great customer service so you can focus on keeping those 20% while also making room for new business through other channels. Or, put another way by Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why customers don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. When people buy from you not because of what you do but because of why you do it then every employee acts like an owner. And if everyone works as an owner, everyone works harder. It seems simple, but too many companies fall into the trap of growing their company first and worrying about culture later.
2) B2B can be easier than consumer
For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), B2B can be simpler than B2C because you’re providing a service to another business. With consumer sales, you have to make sure that your sales funnel is tightly designed, with proper onboarding and nurturing after purchase. With SMBs, it’s easier because all you need to do is solve a problem for them. It sounds simple, but most businesses fail here. Focus on being different in ways that don’t require lots of marketing spending. Instead, focus on long-term customer satisfaction through an excellent product or service. When done right, word will spread organically through referrals and positive reviews, leading to more customers naturally.
3) Security matters more than ever
The number one priority for our customers, and it should be yours as well. The events of 2018 have made that abundantly clear: Ransomware attacks such as NotPetya and WannaCry, phishing emails containing malware such as Spectre and Meltdown. With so many potential threat vectors to track, it’s clear that security matters more than ever. Keeping your systems safe means blocking or stopping bad traffic before it can infect or infect any systems within your network – and potentially preventing a much worse outcome altogether. Fortunately, if you’re already using an MSP solution then you likely already have most of what you need in place! Platforms like AWS and Azure enable clients to focus on developing their business and not their IT support needs. They do offer effective security by default: But there are best practices you should follow while working with these platforms to ensure no one else has access to or is modifying your data while you use them.
4) Cloud computing will be critical
From network security to software and other technologies, many organizations will rely on cloud computing as a service. The trick, however, is determining how best to manage such programs, as well as figuring out which companies should be considered as potential providers. Both factors must be evaluated before making a decision that can both protect your data and cut costs. Your challenge? Research cloud-computing platforms in detail so you have all pertinent information in one place when it comes time to choose a company.
5) Businesses will need help keeping their systems up to date
When you think about it, how hard is it for an IT admin to just click a button and send out patches? Pretty easy, right? Well, if businesses go down that route then there’s no need for us. At that point, any business could sign up for Office 365 or G Suite and get free antivirus scanning. Plus, they can get patched by their current provider with just a few clicks. There goes our old money-maker. Businesses will want everything automated: We used to have a saying at Leapfrog Market: One problem, one call—easy as one-two-three. It was our promise that whenever one of our customers faced a problem, we would diagnose it quickly and fix it even quicker without them having to make multiple calls back to us later on. And, because our motto was so popular among our staff, I still think about coming up with a new version of it every time I go through recruitment processes. But what does one-problem, one-call mean in today’s environment where automation is crucial? The simple truth is that automatic systems are not always reliable enough to rule all circumstances out completely. Sometimes they fail or give false positives…and sometimes these problems are caused by human error too.
6) Annual maintenance fees may disappear
In 2012, Microsoft changed how it charges for Windows Server products by eliminating its per processor model and replacing it with a per core model. This means that every server receives a guaranteed minimum payment and customers only pay for what they use. For many IT shops, annual maintenance fees may not be required anymore. However, most enterprises will still need to pay for full software licenses because their servers exceed the cap set by Microsoft. Licensing costs are expected to reduce significantly as well. Reduced complexity helps reduce maintenance fees even further. The new as-needed licensing model encourages moving towards an on-demand usage strategy instead of holding on to licensed software at all times. One example is enterprise data backup provider Druva, which no longer needs any staff managing up-to-date license keys across all clients because subscriptions are handled automatically. We don’t track licenses whatsoever, says Chris Picklesimer, vice president of product management. It has been a monumental cost saving for us. As users become more comfortable consuming software as a service (SaaS), licensing models could become much simpler going forward, saving organizations money in additional ways besides reduced annual maintenance fees. However, traditional funding options aren’t going away anytime soon since legacy business models remain so lucrative for Microsoft and other technology companies alike.
7) Incident Response is Necessary for Survival
For a Managed Service Provider, incident response is an absolute must. Without it, there is no survival. Everything else is secondary to having a solid and fully functioning Incident Response Team (IRT). We’ve seen countless businesses that falter and die because they did not give their IRT enough resources or importance. We’ve also seen many, many businesses that have done just that—give their IRT all they need in terms of people and tools—and succeed tremendously in both revenue growth and client retention due to their focus on IT service delivery excellence through core competencies in IRT. And, let’s be honest here, most companies don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about what will happen if they are breached. Having a solid plan for post-breach recovery is essential, as well as planning for new business opportunities that may arise because of some unique data leak.
8) Regulations Will Continue to Expand
Managing more devices, applications and platforms is already more complex than it used to be. This complexity will only increase with regulations like CSA 2016-177. Even when regulations don’t require you to implement new security controls, they often suggest them or otherwise encourage them for organizational risk management purposes. As regulations become more stringent in Australia, your business will need to prepare accordingly—but remember that not all regulations are created equal. Many compliance requirements merely advise organisations to take a given course of action rather than mandating them. In those cases, take advantage of flexible compliance rules to do what works best for your organisation rather than sticking blindly to an inflexible rulebook.