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How can managed service providers remain competitive?

Anthony Lamoureux, CEO of Velocity Smart, shares his thoughts about how an MSP can stand out from the crowd

With an increasing number of organisations sticking with remote and/or hybrid working practices, getting fast and efficient access to reliable IT remains one of their greatest challenges.

In the event of a hardware failure, without having on-site IT support to call upon, both employees and their IT support departments face challenges in rapidly delivering the essential hardware required to quickly get up and working again.

This simple problem can damage productivity and negatively impact employee engagement through lost days of work and frustration, ultimately impacting on the bottom line.

With a significant shift towards self-service solutions being adopted by the corporate world, organisations are searching for meaningful ways to save money and time, while increasing productivity.

Computer hardware, for example, can be ready for collection from a centrally located “smart locker” in as little as 60 seconds (a current real-world average of 45 minutes), representing an average reduction in time of over 99% (statistical average of customers, down from three days to 45 minutes).

Smart locker technology enables IT support teams to secure, manage and distribute hardware quickly and easily. So, given that businesses that opt to use managed service providers (MSPs) expect them to have the skills and access to systems to address issues related to cost, quality of service and risk, it is surely a question of when, not if, MSPs will implement smart lockers. Right?

How do smart lockers work in practice?

In short, these clever bits of kit automate the management of high-value devices, reducing loss, damage and management time. Smart lockers benefit from cloud-based software that offers real-time analytics capabilities for both the MSP and customer.

This provides MSPs with a real opportunity to increase their efficiencies as well as boosting customer satisfaction – a no-brainer.

Smart lockers offer businesses and consumers storage solutions that have built-in integrated technology, allowing the smart locker to automate package delivery, notification and distribution.

For the customer, they can reduce the downtime between pieces of equipment being deposited and collected. For the MSPs, this gives them unhindered 24/7 pick-up, drop-off and returns from internal or external units.

A smart locker system also provides real-time analytics for each stage of order fulfilment, from the moment an order is placed in the lockers to the moment it is collected by the customer – giving MSPs reliable and real-time access to data on a scale that cannot be matched by standard practices.

What influence are smart lockers having on consumer behaviour?

In an age of pretty much everything being available on demand, from groceries to entertainment, people are opting to do what they want, how they want it, at times to suit them.

The “on-demand” trend is already augmenting and, in some places, replacing traditional business models, with technology removing the obstacles of the past to accessing products and services, such as can be seen through the rise in e-commerce brands making everything available now, thanks to their omni-channel approach.

This has not only set the bar for the speed and choice of service, but has significantly raised customers’ expectations and is something MSPs should factor into their service offering, given that their very purpose is to ensure seamless service to their customers.

IT hardware is no different. Typically, the first stage of the customer experience is either to request a new piece of equipment, a replacement item, or to request help with an IT problem – usually a problem that cannot be resolved instantly by remote desktop access, such as a hardware failure, ie broken laptop, replacement charger cable, or lost mobile phone.

The ability to have the equipment collected and replaced in as little as 60 seconds has to be at the top of any MSP’s business model.

Mitigating the risks

One of the biggest concerns for IT MSPs and the businesses they service is ensuring that what is delivered is both safe and secure.

Smart lockers can give the MSP and its customers added layers of security, because unlike a traditional parcel delivery locker, the smart locker uses a personal identification number (PIN) or barcode, which is provided to the recipient upon notification of a shipment received and offers the user easy access to deposit and collect their items.

Apart from the logistics involved in the last mile of delivery, there is the risk element for the MSP to ensure that the expensive and business-critical equipment reaches its destination safe and secure.

With traditional methods requiring signatures, perhaps waiting time while someone answers the door, or they find the right floor in a building, this all leaves in the air the prospect of theft, false loss claims and other issues that impact the bottom line – which ultimately will be for the MSP to stump up the cash for any replacements, not to mention any penalties imposed as a result of failure to meet replacement times.

How to implement into an existing service management process

There is no argument that both speed and convenience are a standard customer expectation.

Smart lockers provide MSPs with an opportunity to implement cost-effective systems for retailers to extend the convenience of 24/7 online ordering to the kind of seamless pick-up services that customers expect.

The nature of a smart locker neatly fits with existing workflows for MSPs, whose ultimate aim is to keep their clients’ services running, with the added benefit of significantly reducing turnaround times.

Despite the up-front investment needed to source the smart lockers to deliver the service, the benefits from the investment will far outweigh the initial cost.

The future belongs to MSPs that can deliver what their customers want, when and how they want it – while driving costs down and increasing efficiency.

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