Plating Your IT Service Offering
The latest television craze at my house is the Food Network. I often come home to find my wife and kids fascinated by the variety of cooking shows that have been turned into game shows. One favorite is Chopped, where contestants are given baskets that contain several seemingly unrelated ingredients and they must create an entrée that includes each of the ingredients in thirty minutes. After the entrées are complete, each chef must pitch their creation to a panel of judges. Only the chefs that present the best entrée using all of the ingredients move on to the next round.
As managed service providers (MSPs) we often unwittingly ask our potential clients to participate in a similar game, with each client acting as a judge who decides whether or not you move on to the next round.
Many MSPs create their initial service plans based on a tiered model using some variation of gold, silver and bronze. Gold, as the best plan, includes all the services that the MSP believes they can provide and is designed to delight clients by meeting their every IT need. Different services bundled in the gold plan are then sliced away to create lower cost silver and bronze offerings. Finally, the individual services sliced from the gold plan are offered back as a menu of a la carte services that the client can individually add back to the lower level silver or bronze offerings.
After spending hours of time building out this menu of plans and services, we throw the gold, silver and bronze plans along with all of the other services into a basket. We present the basket to potential clients so they can select the plan that’s best for them. But do they ever really self-select the plan that’s best for them? I think we all know the answer to that.
After all the service plans, individual offerings, combinations and technologies have been pitched, we can never understand why the client selected a bronze service plan that doesn’t fully meet their needs. What’s more, they decide to opt-out of key a la carte services. Instead, they bring their own choice of antivirus or backup solution to the table that they expect you to manage.
Take some advice from someone who has played the game and made some errors along the way. This is not the model you want to follow. Why? Here’s what I learned during my time as an MSP.
You are the chef
As the IT service provider, you’re expected to present a solution that will remove your clients’ concerns about anything IT related so they can focus on running their business. They don’t have time to analyze a myriad of service options or technologies, nor do they fully understand exactly what they need. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be outsourcing their IT. What they need is for you to present them with the solution that is right for them.
Focus on why, not ingredients
As we discussed in my last post, your service plan should always focus on the core reasons the business owner wants to outsource their IT in the first place. Meeting their business concerns around response, security, data protection and productivity is a higher level business conversation that doesn’t require a full disclosure of each service or piece of software that is part of your offering. Providing a full disclosure just exposes you to price shopping. Deep dives into technologies are exciting to you, but not necessarily to the business owner. They merely want to understand the value you can bring to their business.
As the chef, you choose the ingredients
Offering individual services in an a la carte format allows potential clients to decide which ingredients will make up your service offering. As the IT service professional, it is up to you to select the components of your offering and bundle them together to solve the IT needs of your clients.
Get started creating your entrée
While a single service plan will not always fit the needs of all of your clients, getting started offering and delivering an IT service plan that meets the needs of the majority of your clients will return immediate results for your business. With a delighted base of clients receiving the benefits your plan offers, you have a financial foundation that will allow you to build out customized service plans for other client types and grow into those markets when you’re ready.