Is There A Future For The MSP?

The media recently has been pretty gloomy with regards to how this year will go for IT support professionals. Instead of focusing on a (hopefully) improving economy and rebuilding with optimism, instead it seems that virtually all sources of news about our profession is pretty dismal. Whether you’re reading industry articles, blog posts or forums, you’ll notice that everyone seems to be complaining about the coming decline for managed service providers.

While everyone of course is entitled to their opinion, my view for the future isn’t nearly so grim. I don’t believe that our entire industry is in the tank or that managed service providers who have their heads on straight are in any kind of potential danger.

Now, I realize there are many support providers out there who might be very qualified to fix a computer, but not nearly as qualified to run a business. And for them, it’s easy to declare war on the industry if you simply don’t understanding why you are failing, are unable to learn, or just haven’t properly marketed your company.

As a successful and long standing IT consultant, I’m here to tell you that after almost two decades in the industry, these naysayers aren’t able to see the future – and that we have many good years ahead of us.

I make this assertion because I simply know my clients. I know what they want. And if you know what someone wants, and you’re able to help them get it, you will be a success.

What my clients want today is the same thing they wanted when I started my computer consulting business back in 1996. And it’s the same thing they’ll want ten years from now.

  1. They don’t want problems with their systems hindering productivity.
  2. When problems occur, they want them fixed quickly.
  3. They want good communication from the person responsible for keeping them running.
  4. They want to pay a fair and reasonable rate to keep their systems running at their peak.

Thinking about these four things from a clients’ perspective, they are all things a business should expect to receive from their computer consultant. But if you fall behind in even one of these areas, you might become one of those IT consultants who are complaining about hard times, as your competitor steps in to take your place.

Fortunately, it is easy to meet these needs if you take advantage of the affordable tools available to you to today to provide a top-level, proactive, managed service offering.

Let’s back up a moment to the four keys to keeping your clients happy.

First, they want to be able to count on reliability from their systems. Well guess what the best way is to keep everything running smoothly? By having a well-designed system constantly monitoring them to notify you and the client of any issues. You, and your clients, must be proactive, not reactive, with regards to system problems and difficulties. This way we can prevent larger issues by receiving alerts that let us take care of a problem before it spirals out of control, or to address something that might become a bigger issue later. Today’s very affordable RMM applications let us do just that – we can easily monitor our clients systems around the clock and be instantly alerted to problems – for literally pennies a day.

Second I mentioned that they want a reliable expert to take care of them. This is where you, as a managed service provider can really make your mark. With today’s low-cost, or even free remote support solutions, you can log into your client’s systems remotely and essentially be at your customer’s side at an instant – as opposed to having them wait hours or even days as you might have had to in the past. Even if you can’t fix the problem instantly, you can begin looking at the issue – and that type of quick attention is often all the client really wants to make them confident in your ability to serve them.

The third thing I mentioned was related to proper communication with your clientele. Your clients want you to communicate with them easily, for you to explain problems in ways that they can understand, to make proper recommendations, and most importantly, to get to them quickly when they do have an issue. The biggest complaint business owners have which causes them to seek out a new service provider is that their tech is unreachable or they are left for long periods of time without resolution. They want to be able to reach out to you, and get a solution fast.

Well, being able to provide remote support is one part of the equation, and one that helps tremendously. But if you don’t return phone calls or emails promptly, that’s the kind of lack of attention that destroys relationships. With a smart phone in your pocket, there is really no excuse for not communicating promptly with a customer – and I don’t care what the economy looks like, if you don’t communicate with clients, you won’t have any.

Last- they are of course concerned with fees. They want to pay the least amount required which is smart of any business owner. The good news is that if you are using the right software, you can increase their productivity (and therefore their profitability) while keeping your support costs flat and predictable.

When you use the right applications to allow you to server more clients faster, using fewer of your own resources, you decrease your own cost of operations and can pass that savings along to your clients, keeping you very competitive. Your clients aren’t always looking to get the lowest possible rate they can find. What they want is a fair rate for quality service.

It’s a good time to be a computer consultant. New tools are emerging at a blistering pace, allowing us to provide an ever improving service to keep our customers productive and happy. As far as I can tell, the future looks very, very bright.

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