Key Considerations for Developing Your Service Offering
One of the most common questions I get from businesses converting to managed services is what to include in their offering. This simple question can leave businesses in a state of service plan paralysis, unable to move forward until they come up with the perfect offering. Unfortunately, what is perfect for one managed service provider (MSP) is not necessarily right for your business.
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There are two assessments critical to driving and evaluating your service plan.
First, you must understand why clients want the services you provide. If you understand the IT problems your clients have, it will help you focus on relieving pain points so they can concentrate on running their business. There are four key concerns that MSPs should target to meet the needs of business owners.
A key recurring issue for end-users is the certainty that issues will be addressed and resolved quickly. Clients dealing with response time issues from their current IT vendor will want reassurance that you will provide maximum up-time and fast resolution when IT issues do occur.
Business owners worry about IT security, especially with new vulnerabilities and breaches making headlines almost daily. Every MSP should offer minimum security services, including threat protection from viruses and malware, and proactive patching of operating systems and third-party applications.
Protection against data loss is one of those nightmares that keep business owners up at night. Your service plan should address data backup and have a plan for system recovery in case of a hardware failure or disaster scenario. Redundant data storage, backup technologies and off-site data storage are key components of data protection.
Labor costs are among the highest expenses for most businesses, so keeping your clients’ staff working efficiently is critical to client satisfaction. Response time, security and data protection tools all help to protect against unexpected outages. Recovery time can also be improved through other services, including spare workstations stored onsite or the ability to recover a failed server either in a virtual environment on-site or in the cloud while a failed unit is repaired or replaced.
What Do Top MSPs Include in Their Offering?
Each year MSPmentor surveys the MSP community and selects their MSPmentor 501 list of top MSPs. The following chart represents the service plan components offered by MSPmentor 501 members. The majority of the services shown map back to the key concerns outlined above.
The second part of evaluating your service plan is your ability to follow through and deliver. The following are some areas to consider each time you add a new service component to your offering.
Can you purchase the new service component on a scalable basis and deliver it to all of your clients no matter the size of the deal? Services you can purchase as a monthly service will be the easiest to add. Services with large up front purchase requirements or high setup charges should raise warning flags.
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Your SLA serves as a contracted response and resolution time commitment to your clients that often includes financial penalties if missed. As a result, SLAs present a potential risk to your firm. If you’re considering offering SLAs, you must be confident that you can meet your SLA commitments every time. If you can’t, it will not only impact your client relationships, but it may have you providing service below your actual costs. If you can avoid SLAs, do so. However, it is always best practice to implement internal SLAs to measure yourself against so when asked, you know what you can commit to and what you can’t.
Evaluate any labor you bundle into your service plan for scalability. If you bundle 4 hours of weekly onsite service into your service plan, will you be able to continue to meet that requirement as your client base grows?
Your service plan will evolve as your business grows. Starting with shorter contract terms or month to month contracts can help you avoid getting locked into a long-term service plan that isn’t working for you or your client. As your business and service offering matures and you have known cost metrics, you can then think about increasing your contract terms to lock in revenues for a longer time period.
Understanding key client concerns and avoiding some of these pitfalls will help you build a service offering designed to meet your clients’ needs and allow for the growth of your IT services business.