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Why consultation helps IT service providers keep customers for longer

Managed service providers need to focus on the ‘partner’ aspect of their role, says Mav Turner, group vice-president of products for SolarWinds MSP

IT has evolved considerably, and the managed services provider (MSP) role has transformed with it. 10 years ago, many of these providers were running a break-fix business model and looking after things when something went wrong.

With businesses needing more and more proactive support as they shift workloads to the cloud – not to mention Covid-19 pushing the world to its digital extreme – the break-fix model has become redundant. It simply doesn’t support the needs of modern-day businesses.

The sweeping changes in enterprise IT have unlocked opportunities for IT service providers. Whether it’s cloud migration, business intelligence, monitoring employee productivity, or enhancing security, today’s critical IT decisions are as complex as they are important. MSPs have an important role to play as consultants, helping businesses navigate these changes.

And the MSP’s continued struggle with demonstrating their worth to produce a healthier customer lifetime value backs up why this is crucial. Without seeing worth in their provider, a customer can be easily swayed to leave. Churn has troubled this community for some time – SolarWinds’ data shows that, on average, European MSPs pick up three clients every two months, while losing more than one in the same period.

Not only does this consultative role welcome upselling opportunities, but it will strengthen the relationships between MSPs and their clients. When businesses see a partner as a consultant, versus just another provider, they begin to understand the value they offer and are willing to stick it out for the long haul.

Where to focus on to demonstrate value

First and foremost, security must be a priority for businesses – it can no longer be an afterthought. And while the global pandemic has taught us many things, one thing it has shown is that cyber criminals will use uncertainty to their advantage.

Cyber attacks continue to pose imminent threat to all types of businesses, but many won’t prioritise security until they’ve been hit – and by that time, it’s too late. MSPs should be advising customers on how to invest in security, the tools they need, and the services they can offer. At a time when the stakes of making ill-informed security decisions have never been so high, this proactivity will be appreciated and rewarded.

IT service providers also have a role to play in consulting on all things cloud – many companies continue to be confused by how they should be adopting and using the cloud. There are several elements of the cloud that MSPs can advise on.

The first is infrastructure. Many businesses will be blinded by the benefits and will want to move everything from on-premise to the cloud. But from a capital expenses and operational expenses perspective, sometimes this can do more harm than good. MSPs are in a prime position to consult on the types of services which should go in the cloud, and which should stay on-premise, to help their customers drive cost savings.

The other part where MSPs can play a valuable role in cloud advising is on software-as-a-service-based (SaaS-based) services and apps. There are many SaaS apps available today, but businesses really want to know if they are effectively using the ones they are paying for.

There is also a security element to be considered here. Access management has often been a pain point for MSPs, but the proliferation of SaaS apps adds another level to this, as it forces a business to consider, for example, which employees should have access to which apps, and how does this work when job roles change.

MSPs can provide valuable support by offering insights into the SaaS apps businesses should be using – especially if they specialise in a particular vertical – how to manage data, and how to keep them as secure as possible.

And finally, there is data management. Many businesses want to know how to integrate data and analytics, so they can understand how their business is performing, and there are business intelligence tools available for that. For MSPs, the opportunity lies in connecting the dots between data that flows through a business, and this is when business intelligence becomes truly powerful.

The global pandemic has truly put a spotlight on MSPs that have played a crucial role in advising and helping their clients. But this consultative role shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction; it’s something that IT service providers can, and should, adopt as a standard.

Businesses need managed services partners more than ever, and the key word here is partner. By building long-term trust, MSPs can build long-term customer relationships that lead to reduced churn. There is opportunity there for the taking, and MSPs must rise to the challenge and act if they are to maximise its value.

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