Guest Column | September 3, 2020

Building Partnerships In Challenging Times

By George Anderson, Webroot


As an MSP, your success depends on the success of the industries and clients you serve. Simply put, you win together.

The novel coronavirus has rocked the business world, creating new challenges and enormous uncertainty as we navigate the near-term and plan for long-term impacts. But as a service provider, uncertain times create a new opportunity to strengthen relationships with clients and become a trusted advisor – one who looks at the whole business, the future health of that business, versus a single save all solution for a point in time. Putting in the extra effort to establish business advisor status during these times can contribute to collaborative success and long-term growth for both your business and that of your clients.

There are multiple ways MSPs can help clients weather the storm right now by focusing on helping customers navigate change management – not just technical implementation. Changing this mindset won’t happen overnight, but MSPs can help their clients easily navigate this new path with a few steps.

The first step is setting up a virtual meeting to discuss with clients what the current situation is. This should be an honest conversation about the state of the business and what obstacles stand in the way of them getting back to “business as usual.” During the conversation, you must push the client to be as up-front about their situation as possible. If you’re not aware of all the challenges, then you won’t be able to advise on the next best steps. Ask questions to unpack what’s happening – the more information you have, the more you’ll be able to see how technology can help to solve.

Next, review the services provided today and the associated costs. Based on the challenges the client shared with you, what is affordable right now? What can be minimized? Has the business direction changed at all – warranting a new approach? How is their overall cyber resilience during this time? For example, the shift to remote work means most companies need a new layer of security services to protect the network – but they can likely adjust elsewhere. Equally, laptop sales have jumped enormously, so adding services around provisioning hardware, pre-installing applications, and transferring data from other devices, plus ensuring remote devices are backed-up in case of loss or infections, is also more important than in the past.

Always be flexible with clients and willing to accommodate the period between business restarting and establishing a new normal. For MSPs, this is a great time to rethink business going forward and experiment for the new realities that will exist for their clients. Consider offering an extended trial or free offers from vendors to test new features with your clients and get feedback. Of course, profitability is always important, but ask yourself if taking a slight hit in monthly income or margins is an acceptable sacrifice to make to help keep a potentially long-term client afloat. During times of tragedy, people will always remember those who were willing to lend a hand.

Be a partner to your client and work with them to draw up a joint “Recovery Plan” with a timeline for scaling work back up. Then devise a plan on how you can specifically assist with recovery. This may involve analyzing the cost of a data breach, downtime, and other ways your services help the client’s bottom line.  Remember, sometimes it’s not just about dollars and cents, but also about the cost to an organization’s reputation, or operationally, the productivity of its employees.

Lastly, keep the lines of communication open and schedule regular client account reviews to monitor for technology-related pain points and assist with addressing them as reasonably as possible. Be a neutral third party who can assess whether a challenge is truly driven by technology – or if an operational or organization challenge needs to be fixed for the technology to work.

As we all work to adapt to this new equilibrium, the MSPs who can be seen as trusted advisors during times of crisis will be the ones who come out stronger and on-top of the competition.

About The Author

GeorgeGeorge has over 20 years of experience in the IT Security industry, including roles at Computacenter (Europe’s leading systems integrator), Clearswift (data loss prevention, email and web security) and now over a decade with Webroot where he oversees product marketing for business security products: Endpoint, DNS and Security Awareness Training.