Starting an MSP in 2021…

Inspired by social threads where new and/or small MSPs are trying to figure out what attracts new clients and increases revenue… 

I’ve been thinking about this topic for weeks now, ever since an episode of @Dave Sobel’s podcast “The Business of Tech” in which he has discussed building an MSP today around Microsoft cloud services and focusing on high value business processes, not so much the traditional IT products and services… He’s urging that if you start today without the baggage of a 20 year old IT services company with years of history (good and bad) buried in an outdated PSA, you should be thinking about where the market is GOING, not where it is coming from – and he’s right! 

But….

Dave and I approach things from very different angles.  He takes an analytical, data driven approach to everything, and he’s good at it.  

Me, on the other hand, I’m a salesman who happened to have an IT hobby, that happened to turn into a job and then a company.  I was good at turning fancy technology concepts into a sales process that doesn’t make C-Level executives feel dumb or afraid to make a decision they don’t understand.  

That’s why I’m going to gloss over the tech and focus on why the MSP of the future must draw significantly from the sales and Customer Experience (CX) side of the business….

That said, let’s start building our new 2021 MSP…I’m going to steal from one of my favorite authors, Jim Collins:  The best new years resolution is a ‘Stop Doing List’. 

Stop!

Let’s build out the beginnings of that STOP DOING list… 

  1. Stop communicating poorly – hiding behind emails and ticket systems
  2. Stop deploying onsite infrastructure whenever possible
  3. Stop trying to have some value for everyone – there’s more value in killing it in your niche.
  4. Stop doing low value and commodity tasks – Outsource them
  5. Stop discussing technology problems – communicate business solutions.  

There is a fairly common thread on the stop doing list – and it’s CX (Customer eXperience), or more specifically, the items on my stop doing list are items that detract from the CX that most MSPs deliver. If you want your customers to be raving fans, start by fixing this very emotional pain point.  Make getting support from you frictionless, and make the experience pleasant. 

Start!

Start with asking, “How do you communicate with your customers?”

Today’s MSPs have a few ways, but they are arcane and painful.   

  1. Everything’s a ticket?  
  2. Email updates creating even more junk in your contact’s mailbox?  
  3. A Customer Portal Product?

Who wants more email clogging up their mailbox?  Or one more portal to login to?  Nobody. Improved communication with your customers, using the methods of communication they care about, would be #1 on my list, as it is a cornerstone of exceptional CX. Communicate with your clients where they prefer… 

Next, the pandemic has increased the trend towards cloud adoption.  Sure, some customers aren’t ready, and for my new MSP those folks aren’t a good fit.  The people who I would want to work with would also have alignment with cloud first as a core tenant.  

As part of that cloud first mentality, I would likely focus on some niche cloud services, which brings me to G-Suite. Why? Most MSPs push clients towards M365, leaving a huge swath of faithful G-Suite fanboys (and girls) annoyed, if not abandoned. Providing those clients a positive experience by supporting their platform of choice and communicating in English by their preferred method will help you find raving fans.  

But wait, there’s more!  I would also push these G-Suite clients to explore the value add of Chromebooks where they fit the business.  What is the logic here?  They are super secure and easily managed.  They are affordable but premium options are certainly available for C-Level executives. Additionally, 2021 models should have more options with LTE/5G built in to ARM chip based devices allowing road warriors to have all day battery life and “always-on” connectivity.  This is a huge (and very affordable) productivity boost for some individuals.

Automate

Business Tools/Automation focus – Chromebooks and Google users are big on cloud tools, and need to be.  An MSP with this focus needs repeatable answers to cloud print servers, scanning from Chromebooks, everywhere access to data.

My 2021 MSP would focus on business process automation, vCIO and consultant work.  Leave the helpdesk to an outsourced company – none of them are perfect (including the one you run yourself) but if presented correctly you can help your client manage their helpdesk interactions with a third party partner.  Collabrance and GMS Live Helpdesk both have highly rated offerings, and I’m sure there are many more partners out there who I have not met yet.  

Omni-Channel Support – this is a nut that I don’t think anyone has fully cracked….. yet.  Tixt and Chat Genie are headed in the right direction – But by decoupling from the typical MSP PSA tool, it becomes possible to look at non-standard tools.  The key concept here is be where your customers are – and work/communicate with them the way they work/communicate the most comfortably.  

I put in a service ticket with Verizon Wireless recently, and have gotten an experience that was surprisingly exceptional.  No less than every 24 hours, I’ve received a text message telling me that my issue hasn’t been forgotten, and what to expect next.  One of those texts reminded me a lot of what we would email an engineer when a ConnectWise ticket was set to “Assigned”.  It read “your ticket is assigned and being worked.  Thank you for your patience.  Next update within 24 hours”.  But what I find most refreshing about the text message is that I can glance at it and go on to the next thing.  I don’t have to mess with my email or log into a portal.  I think ticket updates by text is an option that every customer should have.  Additionally, I would want to be able to provide support via Facebook Messenger and Slack – again, be where your clients are and give them options.  

Long story short, my 2021 MSP would be focused on companies that I see as currently neglected, and would focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience to them via communication channels that they prefer – not the ones that the industry demands I use.  

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