Prevent Cancellations of Your IT Services and Non-Renewals of Contracts
While many Government Officials are now beginning to put plans in motion to reopen economies, even they do not know what the results will be when the doors open and our wallets are free to roam. One thing that is for certain is that some businesses will fail (or already have). Unfortunately for many, this will send a financial ripple through every company these businesses transact with, including their IT vendor.
The other concern that IT Providers have expressed to me over recent weeks is that surviving customers may clamp down financially and either cancel crucial services, or break their contracts entirely, ultimately seeking cheaper alternatives. It is important to get ahead of this issue now and prevent these thoughts from even creeping into your customer’s head. While many MSPs have heroically executed their customer’s work-from-home transition, this will likely be “old news” by the time the residual financial stress sets in. This is why bolstering your relationship over the next few months is crucial.
Here are a few ways to this to ensure that you retain as many customers as possible through tough financial times:
Proactively Check On Customer’s Well-Being
If you haven’t called or personally emailed every one of the Decision Makers that you service just to find out how they are doing, do it now. Keep in mind that the current pandemic is a very human problem that requires an even more human response. While we have all received an onslaught of “we are with you” corporate newsletters, that isn’t going to be enough to retain business in a “survival” economy.
I would recommend setting aside time each day to send proactive emails, calls, or texts to customers just to find out if they (and their families) are “okay.” In addition to this gesture, make sure that you stress your availability to them should they need something, no matter what that something is. I personally have done this over the past two weeks and I have found that many people who I reached out do in fact need help and I am offering my time to all of them just the same. Even your least important customer deserves this kind of attention. Not only for the sake of their humanity, but also because the value of any paying customer is on the rise.
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Over-Communicate Technical Recommendations
Another important part of this equation is to never leave anything unsaid when it comes to your technical recommendations and getting your customers to adhere to your standards throughout their next transition. Have a documented plan for them whether they request one or not and follow up persistently to find out if they are adhering to it.
When your customer reflects on this, they are going to take inventory of every suggestion you have made and what the impact of those recommendations were. Make sure that regardless of whether or not they follow your expert opinion, that you continue to offer it anyway whenever possible. This is your duty as a Managed Service Provider and when it is all said and done, it is the least you can do.
Reinforce The Value of Your Services
The value of an IT contract has always been difficult for most SMBs to comprehend. When things are working well and there are very few support requests required, it can seem like a frivolous expense that is unnecessary. Yet, when support requests are through the roof and their utilization of the contract is high, customers will blame the IT Provider for the excessive issues.
It is incredibly important to set this straight through calculated communications. If things are going well and utilization is low, reach out to your customers and tell them why. Offer some insight into how you are improving their infrastructure, productivity, and security and preventing issues from occurring. You want your customer to see the value in every dollar they spend with you, not only when they interact with you, but even when they don’t .
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Offer Flexible Payment Options
If you haven’t already, it is important to establish a means for your customer’s to self-finance project or service invoices. This means accepting credit cards for your services so that Customers don’t need cash in their bank account to pay you. The more flexible you are in accepting payments, the more likely you are to get paid, and it is worth the extra fees to expedite the process.
For those customers that have been deemed unessential and may not be able to afford payment at this time, offer some kind of grace period, repayment plan, discount or account credit to help them get back on their feet. If your business was largely unaffected by this change, be lenient on those who were not so fortunate. While you shouldn’t bankrupt your own business out of generosity, do what you can to help those in need and it may pay off in your long term customer retention.
Be Honest About Your Shortcomings
The week that most “stay-at-home” orders were put in place was a very trying time for many MSPs. Support requests were at all time highs and every Customer needed help transitioning simultaneously. This put an incredible amount of stress on Help Desks everywhere, which often leads to mishaps, oversight, and poor service. If this sounds familiar, don’t just sweep it under the rug now that the surge is over.
Instead, look to own your mistakes. Explain to your customers why SLAs were breached and what you are doing to prevent this from happening in the near future when everyone transitions back (and beyond). This will help clear the air and allow your customer to regain the confidence in you and your business that they may have lost throughout the last few weeks. It is also important let them voice their frustration with you so that they can get it off their chest. Sometimes, much like a marriage, your partner just wants to be heard and will feel better knowing that you are willing to listen.