Guest Column | June 22, 2016

Unique And Original Ideas To Provide Value To Your Customers

By Andrew Harrover, CEO, Matrix Computer Consulting, ASCII Group Member Since 2012

Andrew Harrover Matrix Computer ASCII

A key part of any successful business that scales well is an ability to differentiate that enterprise from its competition. This is simple to do if you happen to be an early mover in a particular field. As the market matures, this becomes more difficult. Simply doing what everyone else is doing leads to competition based on price which is not optimal.

The Managed Services market is, at this point, mature and variations on the main business model emerge daily: 100 percent remote, “monthly” managed services, and on and on. However, we all know that the original proposition of Managed Services — fixed price costing chockablock with automation and business value is the most desirable and “sticky” sort of agreement.

Monthly Managed Services and 100 percent remote Managed Services are not really Managed Services at all. They’re just “all you can eat” pricing and, as long as your version of this service is the cheapest, you’ll be fine. However, if you want to move upmarket, increase client retention, and increase your profitability, you will need to provide more value to your clients. Indeed, if you can get the business value part right, clients will literally never leave you.

Most firms can handle the automation and technical part with little difficulty — it is the business value part that trips them up. The primary vehicle used in our industry to deliver this value is the Quarterly Business Review (QBR). However, many service providers complain that, after a few meetings, their clients become reluctant to schedule these types of meetings. There is only one reason that a client does this: the QBR isn’t a business meeting at all; it is really just an excuse for the Account Manager to conduct thinly disguised sales attempts and deliver a re-hash of service reports.

Here are some ideas about creative ways to provide more value both inside that meeting and out:

  • Industry Knowledge: This may be among the most important thing we can recommend. You do not have to display huge depth in the clients industry, just enough to get them past any regulatory concerns for which technology provides the solutions. Make no mistake, your clients understand many of these requirements in the abstract, but once you demonstrate this knowledge and begin to lead this discussion, they are yours forever.
  • Education: My firm holds a class once a quarter and we cover a pertinent topic. Recent topics have been cloud computing and cyber security. That class is open to the public but we invite all of our clients first. After the class, we resize the presentation so it will fit into a lunch meeting and present it to our clients. If you have a customer that is tough to schedule, tell them you will bring lunch. This is really popular. Have a class on the agenda for your QBR and get it scheduled right inside of that meeting.
  • Flash Updates: Send out a once-a-week email update on an important piece of technology news. This email should be nicely formatted and come from you. Spend the time to research and write it. The piece does not have to be very long and it should go to the decision makers and business owners. Odds are they will not read it, but they will see it.

You’re a tech company — automate! Use your PSA or CRM package to send out pre-written content on a schedule. Yes, you will have to craft some content ahead of time but this can be pretty generic stuff and you can schedule it to go out without any involvement on your part. This kind of content is best when it is a bit generic and IT (as opposed to industry) related. One tip: have your system send the emails to you and your staff in case one of your clients asks about the email.

You can use any or all of these strategies to help add some business value to the equation in your Managed Services practice. If you find your clients are not taking your meeting requests, then they do not find value in that relationship and the only reason that they are still a client is because they are under contract. Remember that if clients do not find business value in the service being provided, you will be competing on price at your next renewal and that is not good.