Feeling part of a community is more important than ever and strong relationships—especially helping those in need—is critical to getting through tough times.
To get a clearer picture of how MSPs are faring through the current pandemic—and offer support if needed, representatives from eight CompTIA member companies (Acronis, bvoip, Compliancy Group, ConnectBooster, Equilibrium Consulting, Liongard, Pax8, and SOCSoter) hit the road to find out to find out. The three-week, 7,000-mile road trip to visit MSPs during 15 stops across the U.S. was dubbed ChannelStrong by the organizers. It started Aug. 10 in Chicago and concludes this week in Baltimore.
Many of the organizers developed their own camaraderie together as CompTIA members and wanted to take the lessons they’ve learned together and apply them on a broader scale, said George Bardissi, president and CEO of bvoip, a Hatfield, Pa.-based VoIP services company for MSPs.
“We really wanted to find out how MSPs are doing in various regions. That really opened up the conversation, and we wanted to talk to people that are doing well and share that with others,” Bardissi said.
New Opportunities, Long-Term Partnerships
Thus far, the travelers have found several common traits for where MSPs are having success—and where they’re not.
As might be expected, cloud, remote workspace and virtual communications solutions have been popular as more employees are working from home. But MSPs are reporting that customers are starting to request more long-term solutions that will last well after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“Companies are investing in remote work for the long haul. These are investments that have not been made before but are now,” Bardissi said. “They want more communications tools and they want the security that supports them.”
The team’s findings mirror those of a June CompTIA member survey, which revealed that cybersecurity, shifting on-premise infrastructure and applications to the cloud, and managed or outsourced IT services were the top three new customer inquiries and business opportunities for tech firms.
More businesses are also looking for MSPs to supplement or augment what internal IT departments previously handled on their own, according to Paul Redding, vice president of partner engagement and cybersecurity at Compliancy Group, a Greenlawn, N.Y.-based developer of HIPAA compliance solutions.
Many IT departments have either been hit with staffing cuts or just been asked to do more with less. MSPs at all the stops said they are filling the gaps, Redding said.
“It’s co-managed IT with companies that traditionally were not necessarily working with MSPs, but they’ve shipped some functionality to MSPs so they can concentrate on their core needs,” he said. “COVID-19 has put these IT departments in a position where they were not prepared. They’re struggling and MSPs are forging new partnerships.”
During the road show conversations, MSPs also say these relationships aren’t temporary. “I’m hearing two-year [contracts] as the average. So, they’re not five-year deals, but they’re not three months either. That’s good news,” Redding said.
Communications Challenges Present Problems
On the flip side, MSPs have also told the ChannelStrong contingent that despite their best efforts around collaboration and communication there’s still something… missing.
“There is a deficit. We can’t replicate the hallway conversations, the cooler, the lunchroom, the beers after work,” Bardissi said. “Those in-between lines of communication are important, and customers are feeling that gap. From a business owner’s perspective, people are productive and working outside normal working hours, but it’s starting to feel more like work and less like a good time.”
Meanwhile, the age-old argument that MSPs hear from customers—if nothing’s wrong, why do I need you—has become more pressing as in-person meetings have diminished.
“Of course, nothing’s wrong because of what the MSP is doing behind the scenes. If everything’s working, it’s because of the MSP. MSPs are trying to bridge that gap and make sure those customer connections are reestablished,” Redding said. “They’re trying to figure out how to work through the current situation and make sure the customer still values them, that they’re not somebody out on the periphery that can be cut. Usually, there’s a stickiness with customers but now there needs to be more of a level of communication with active dialogue.”
The team aims to reach up to 500 people from MSP organizations during the trip. journey. At each stop, they’re parking a bus in the parking lot of a local MSP, but also inviting other MSPs in the area to attend.
Part of the conversations include reminding MSPs to update their value proposition to reflect the current situation and stay focused on solving customer needs.
“After we leave each location, we’re getting emails and saying, ‘Can you send me this thing we talked about?’ We’re all trying to build community connectors, trying to help these people as we go along,” Bardissi said. “It’s great to be part of a community that supports each other. If we all help out, we’ll get through this together.”
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