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How can Managed Service Providers find time to improve?

In the fast-paced, unregulated and ever-changing world of managed service provision (MSPs), it can be challenging for those who strive to do things the right way to find the time to pause and improve. Dedicated providers work tirelessly behind the scenes, ensuring that their clients' operations run seamlessly. However, amidst their commitment to customer service, many MSPs often wonder how they can carve out time to look at their own business and it can feel like each fire you put out internally, another one to pops up elsewhere. 

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are established with the goal of assisting people and businesses. Often founded by individuals who strive to go above and beyond for their clients, they soon discover a peculiar phenomenon as their businesses grow. Enthusiasm and dedication are essential qualities, but unfortunately, they cannot be easily scaled. Even when MSPs are putting forth their best efforts and working tirelessly, clients may express frustration. Expressions of gratitude can be rare, and the satisfaction derived from resolving a problem late at night can quickly fade when questioned about the time it took to fix it.

At some point in the journey of every MSP, they come to realise the need for more robust processes and understand that enthusiasm and goodwill alone cannot keep clients happy. Sadly, this realisation often dawns upon MSPs when they find themselves drowning in an avalanche of tasks and their client base has grown to a point where finding the time to implement crucial business changes feels overwhelming.

This is a common challenge that most MSPs face, but what is the solution?

It's important to acknowledge that you won't always be able to satisfy every client. It takes time to understand that no matter how exceptional your service may be, there will still be times when clients are dissatisfied. However, this doesn't mean you should give up or stop striving for excellence. Sometimes, it's necessary to give yourself a break when faced with an unreasonable client. Take a moment to reflect on whether there was anything you could have reasonably done to provide better service. If the answer is no, then perhaps the client's expectations were unrealistic. If the answer is yes, then it's crucial to implement processes that prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. Take just 10 minutes to establish those processes and ensure smoother operations going forward.

Are you pricing your services appropriately? Many new service providers start by offering a basic break-fix service and adopt a "win at all costs" mindset with new clients. This is understandable, as you initially need to generate income to cover your expenses. However, this approach often leads to low prices and unrealistic customer expectations. As your business matures, you realise the need to offer a wide range of services as a managed service provider. These may include patching and monitoring services, account management and strategy, security and data protection, technical solutions, and more. Have you taken the time to review your pricing structure to ensure that it adequately covers the costs of delivering these services? Charging too little will hinder your ability to hire enough staff, which can leave you constantly scrambling to meet client demands.

It is important to understand that you do not have to find all the answers on your own. The managed service industry has grown and matured, and there is a vast community of experienced professionals who have faced similar challenges. From my personal experience, this industry is incredibly supportive and friendly. It is natural to feel hesitant about appearing vulnerable or disorganised in front of your peers, but the truth is that everyone has either gone through or is currently going through these struggles. Remember, there are countless service providers out there who can benefit from your knowledge and expertise as well. You may have already found solutions to problems that they have yet to encounter. Online platforms like Reddit and LinkedIn are filled with MSP groups where you can engage in conversations, and industry bodies such as CompTIA and the British Computer Society offer networking opportunities that are vendor neutral.

How can I begin to propel my clients forward instead of constantly being reactive?

As you develop and refine your business processes, it's crucial to shift the focus of client discussions. Instead of being reactive, strive to be proactive and hold your clients to account. Just as you've been diligently addressing risks and enhancing processes in your own business, it's important for your clients to understand that they bear responsibility for the risks in their own business, not you. While you can provide them with valuable knowledge and insights, they must find the resources, time, and mindset to progress, just as you have.

As a proactive managed service provider, it is crucial to communicate with your clients in simple, non-technical terms about their level of risk. By ensuring that your clients are aware of their risk level, you can mitigate the possibility of them blaming you when things go wrong. If you have provided them with this information and they choose not to take action, you suddenly find yourself in a stronger position. While you will still assist them in resolving their situation, it will be on your terms rather than theirs. This empowers you to effectively manage their expectations and avoid being shouted at while trying to find a solution. Avoid overthinking or overcomplicating the process; simplicity is key. Instead of delving into overly complex topics, focus on helping clients establish a strong foundation by getting the basics right. Have a look at our simple Benchmarks here to get an idea.

As you start proactively engaging with your clients regarding their risk profile, you will witness a transformation in your conversations. A nice by-product of this shift is an increase in the number of projects and managed services that become available for you to offer. You will gradually evolve into a trusted partner, the one they turn to for assistance in challenging situations, instead of being the company they blame whenever something goes wrong.

We understand how challenging it can be when going through this change. Many people get stuck in this phase and experience burnout, but it doesn't have to be that way. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to reach out for a discussion with our team. We have first-hand experience running managed service providers, so we truly understand the difficulties you're facing.