MSPAlliance Member Op-Ed: Jim Buchanan, Founder/CEO of Buchanan Technologies
COVID-19 has changed our world and how we navigate day-to-day in ways no one could have ever imagined. Social distancing, shelter-in-place and other strict mandates have become commonplace in the US and beyond. What exactly does all of this mean for managed service providers and the technology industry as a whole?
One thing is for certain – we cannot lose sight of our customers and their demands, as it is times like these when they need our support the most. As we learn to adapt to this new normal, it is time to begin looking forward and seeing how MSPs can best assist our customers as they begin to recover from the fallout of COVID-19.
Communicate with Your Customers
Above all else, it is imperative you listen to your customers and prospects and truly understand their needs. As an IT expert, your customers and their internal resources rely on your ability to recommend solutions that will enhance and protect their IT infrastructure, data and applications. Understanding their company’s position during a crisis will help you better guide them to solution offerings that will benefit them and provide value.
As essential as listening to your customers is, it is equally as important to convey updates from your company. By having meaningful conversations with your customer base and prospects informing them of your response protocols, services, special offers, etc., they will be able to make more educated decisions when it comes to doing business with your company.
Finally, it is more important than ever to be empathetic. Several of your customers are likely experiencing some degree of disruption to their business due to COVID-19, possibly in more ways than one. Though your sales team’s primary objective is to generate revenue and bring in new business, they must understand many companies simply may not be in a position to move forward at this time, but your understanding may keep them as a long-term customer for you when their business turns back around.
Be Flexible in Your Offerings
During this unprecedented time, it is very likely many of your customers will need to reassess the services they are receiving from you. Industries such as healthcare and education are experiencing a rise in demand, while automotive and retail companies may be seeing a downturn in business, and therefore, require a reduction in IT spending. As an MSP, it is advisable to meet your customers where they stand and scale their services to match their current needs.
We have seen how quickly things can change, and your customers’ business operations are no exception. For instance, at Buchanan, we have had to stand up a service desk and provide VPN connectivity in a matter of days for many of our higher education clients to equip them with the necessary support for a virtual learning environment. This is just one example of how being flexible in your service approach is of paramount importance to your customers’ business continuity.
Keep in mind, as quickly as you provide additional support and services to address demands, you also must be prepared to readjust those services once customers’ business volumes have leveled off.
The financial burden COVID-19 has caused across the world cannot be ignored. While some businesses have had minimal impact, many are struggling or ceasing operations entirely. If your company is in the position to do so, offering creative financing solutions, such as delayed billing or even discounts, may provide much-needed relief to customers who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.
This is also a great time to identify ways your customers can save money long-term through additional services. For example, automation can help streamline repetitive and time-consuming processes, freeing up resources and allowing your customers to focus on more important projects. Furthermore, conducting an assessment of their overall IT framework may pinpoint both opportunities for more efficiency or vulnerabilities in their solution where you can make recommendations for increased efficiency.
Adapt to Changing Demands
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, many organizations adopted a work-from-home model. During this transition, MSPs worked tirelessly to accommodate end users through service desk solutions, network connectivity, hardware procurement, and so much more. As more and more companies are looking to make their remote workforce a permanent fix for their employees, MSPs must be prepared to continue to provide these types of solutions and support.
Those organizations that have chosen to assimilate back to an office setting have their own set of concerns to address. Besides adhering to workplace directives and restrictions, they must be mindful of the rapidly changing health and safety protocols for optimum employee safety. However, it is not only the customer’s responsibility to comply with the stringent standards. As a service provider, it’s imperative that field technicians and other IT resources that perform duties or provide onsite assistance must also be aware of and abide by the restrictions, too.
Help Your Customers Prepare for the Future
During this crisis, it is important not to oversell – or undersell – to your customers. Although they may be seeing a shift in business now, it will eventually normalize to its pre-COVID state. For this reason, deploying services that will scale with their growth and decline will keep their organization’s IT solution healthy and ready for whatever challenge is next.
It is also a best practice to virtualize your customers’ platforms and introduce cloud solutions if they are not already utilizing them. Cloud solutions provide a wealth of long-term benefits to your customers, including cost savings, the ability to work from nearly anywhere, and most importantly increased security of their data and infrastructure.
Lastly, your customers are sure to experience increased productivity and efficiency if they are operating on updated systems. As their IT partner, you will need to assist in identifying these opportunities – whether it’s just a PC refresh or an entire network system upgrade – and convey the value it will bring to their organization. Projects like this are typically a short-term cost for long-term savings and can help your customers adjust for business moving forward.
As we all learn to navigate these uncharted waters together, our customers must remain at the forefront of everything we do. Adhere to the tips mentioned above and you are certain to forge a relationship that fosters a positive end user experience, and your customers will thank you for it.