Many managed services providers (MSPs) consider selling the hardest part of building client relationships, but fostering a long-term partnership that satisfies client expectations and generates opportunities to grow business requires much more hard work long after closing a deal.
“The best-in-class MSPs I see have a ‘white glove’ project manager working with that client,” said Ray Orsini, CEO of OIT and chair of CompTIA’s Channel Development Industry Advisory Council. “They follow up 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and later.” This continuing pattern ensures regular clear communication with multiple client stakeholders.
Orsini and three other channel development experts shared seven best practices for delivering exceptional service, monitoring performance and continuously improving offerings during a ChannelCon 2023 panel.
It’s a critical area for MSPs, as customer experience as a competitive differentiator ranked as the top factor in maintaining IT channel relevance and health, according to CompTIA’s State of the Channel 2023 report.
The best practices align with two phases from the CompTIA Technology Buyer’s Journey, a roadmap that guides MSPs, vendors and distributors through the channel landscape:
- The technical stage involves delivering the purchased solution or service, training that optimizes the performance of the solution or service, and the technology implementation process
- The customer success stage involves continuing support, billing and paying procedures, facilitating technology adoption and periodic client reviews
Related Content: Exploring the Technology Buyer’s Journey, One Step at a Time
Here are three best practices that align with the three steps in the technical phase.
1. Build Beyond Your Sponsor
“You can’t just talk to the IT manager after the sale,” advised Kris Blackmon, head of channel communities at Zift Solutions and vice-chair of the CompTIA council.
Blackmon explained that focusing on the contact who sponsored the sale is tempting during the delivery, training and implementation that follow signing a contract. But these early steps provide an excellent opportunity to expand your network within the client organization.
Frank Raimondi, vice president of alliances and partnerships for IGI Cyberlabs, agreed. He recommends getting to know staff that may use your solutions or services—such as administrative assistants, customer service agents, finance managers and others who run day-to-day operations
“If you’re not learning how the rest of the company uses technology beyond the IT team, you’re selling [the relationship] short,” he cautioned.
2. Learn By Engaging On-Site
Raimondi encouraged MSPs to visit client sites as often as allowed during the early days of the relationship.
“Maybe in the first month, you’re there every day,” he said. “You’re helping deploy technology. You’re asking what’s going right or wrong. You won’t solve every problem right away, but you’ll prevent those issues from surprising the client later.”
Every conversation is an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the client’s business needs at multiple levels of their organization. You are there to help them save time, money or whatever the business needs from the IT solutions or services you support, he said.
3. Teach by Transferring Knowledge
Like Raimondi, panelist Vicky Bruns, who manages channel ecosystems for ConnectWise, believes MSPs should transfer more than technical instructions during the formative steps of the relationship. She sees early user training as a way to teach how technology optimizes operations over time.
“There’s initial onboarding training, but then there’s also the continuous improvement component of tech training,” said Bruns.
Orsini reinforced Bruns’ point, calling ongoing training an opportunity to “cement their confidence in you” as the right partner for the long run. He recommended assigning your “white glove” project manager to supervise training courses, train client trainers and create training content, such as check lists and how-to videos.
In addition, the group detailed four best practices for the customer success phase of the buyer’s journey.
4. Ask for Testimonials Early
Help desk teams are in prime position to bolster satisfaction and during the support stage of the buyer’s journey, said Blackmon. She encouraged MSPs to take advantage of early success stories.
Bruns added that it’s never too early to ask for permission to gather testimonials or begin developing case studies. The process can be as simple as requesting positive comments from happy users by email or video call.
5. Share Sample Invoices Before Billing
According to Blackmon, nearly eight in 10 technology buyers have experienced billing issues, and 66% of those customers say they would be willing to switch providers after an unsatisfactory resolution.
A simple way to avoid misunderstandings and mitigate this risk, Raimondi counseled, is sharing a sample invoice with a new client before the first formal one.
“A week after closing, you could say ‘Your first invoice is going to be in a month, but here's what it's going to look like.’ Here are the components. Any questions?”
6. Develop Measures of Satisfaction
Bruns suggested MSPs develop utilization metrics as a measure of client satisfaction, starting during training and continuing at least into the adoption period, and potentially indefinitely. Query this data to determine not only the number of employees using the technology, but how they are using the solution or service and in which departments.
“[MSPs] have so much data now,” added Orsini. “Any number of tools you use have built-in data. And if not, those tools are tied into a third-party service that will give you data.”
7. Conduct Regular Relationship Reviews
All panelists agreed that technology business reviews (TBRs) should start as early as possible after the sale. The minimum cycle for reviews should be quarterly, but MSPs need not wait three months after launch to evaluate the health of the new relationship. A TBR at launch is a good idea. Monthly reviews are sound practice. And when clients are not available, meet with your own team to cover what is working or failing.
“If you're doing your job, communicating with the customer, and the customer's communicating with you,” Raimondi said. “There should be no surprises in a TBR.”
In any case, regular business reviews are essential for growing business, Blackmon contended, because “That’s when you uncover upsell and cross-sell opportunities.”
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