Managed Service Provider Relationship Status: It’s Complicated
Managed IT solutions have long been considered a low-value “commodity”—a necessity with offerings identical across providers. But this perception is changing, and managed service providers are building stronger relationships more than ever with customers seeking to maintain their IT managed services as a profit center that provides infrastructure efficiency, end user satisfaction and freedom to focus on core initiatives.
“When technology solutions first entered the business world, anyone with some perceived IT experience offering services to organizations seemed like a worthy enough partner,” says Jeff Clendenin, Director of Professional Services at Innovative Technology Solutions. “Today, customers desire service providers that offer value, a trusted partnership, and insights into underlying causes for issues in the IT environment.”
By understanding the factors behind this shift in thinking, IT managed service providers can focus on changing the way they’re perceived and gain that coveted trusted partner status. Clendenin points out four key aspects that are vital to supporting a quality provider-customer relationship.
EDUCATION AND INSIGHT
To convert a cost-driven prospect into a value-driven customer, a managed services provider must educate customers on the value the partnership can deliver. This involves positioning the IT managed services provider as a vendor “that takes a holistic view of their business first, over and above focusing on the daily, recurring tasks of short-term problem-solving” and provides “ongoing, actionable insights into root causes and trends.”
Clendenin stresses the importance of talent on the IT managed services team, observing that low-cost IT managed service providers “tend to hire employees with a limited skillset that dictates a ‘scripted’ approach to solving simple problems for the client.” This can often lead to delays in resolution and frustration for the customer. Hiring people with the skills and motivation to explore problems more thoroughly is a better approach.
Quality skills and significant experience are a key component of shifting customers’ perception of managed services providers. Once a provider has a talented team in place, it’s critical to develop a reputation for expertise within the industry—IT managed services providers who implement industry best practices and embrace new innovations are who serve clients best.
Clendenin credits a commitment to following through as the most important factor in providing valuable managed IT services in a customer partnership. That means not only solving problems and resolving incidents quickly, but gaining insights and developing predictive strategies to address new issues before they arise. Managed services providers who can do that can make significant contributions to their customers’ bottom-line success.
Jeff Clendenin is Director of Professional Services at Innovative Technology Solutions.