The MSP trends expected to shape 2021 reflect the interweaving between maturing technologies and emerging developments. As a result, managed service providers can expect to see a continuation of the patterns that shaped 2020, such as the continuing evolution of cloud computing. Other trends that shaped 2020 include decreasing IT budgets, shortage of specialized tech professionals, and the need for complex IT operations to drive business.
Both large and small businesses were forced to outsource many long-term strategic projects and short-term IT tasks. Cybersecurity also played a role in the nominalization of remote work. Robotic process automation, which initially appeared to be a distinct technology, became embedded in various central business applications.
The industry needs to ask if these trends will continue and how they will shape the industry. In addition, are there new expected trends that will be characteristic of 2021? To get answers to this question, we reached out to various IT professionals to hear their thoughts about top customer service trends in the MSP in 2021.
Customized Client Portals
Emily Hodge, Sales and Marketing Assistant at OnPar Technologies, says that it has been crucial for their company to track and monitor their responses to their clients. We track, monitor, and set hourly goals for our response and resolution times to our clients. This creates an environment where we consistently meet our clients' needs and exceed expectations," says Hodge.
Not only does the company track goals in real-time, but it also makes use of a customized client-facing portal called OnPar launch. Through the portal, clients can monitor vital network infrastructure, manage their invoices, and follow up on their tickets. The portal is only customized to the company's clients to allow easy communication between the client and OnPar employees.
Additionally, the portal serves as a hub for each of the client users. They can easily customize their dashboard by adding essential links to help them quickly access daily tasks. Moreover, they can create shortcuts to frequently visited programs and websites. Through the portal, training videos and tests can also be uploaded for users to review.
The portal also comprises a knowledge base that contains crucial company information within each client's domain. All this has been put up with security and compliance in mind. On OnPar Launch, clients can quickly and effectively review essential documents and communicate internally and externally. With all these features, the portal takes the guesswork out of how OnPar maintains the environment.
Hiring Security Experts Instead of Outsourcing Specific Functions
Security is one trend that never goes out of fashion. As a result, companies need to keep up with the latest security measures to protect themselves from cyberattacks. Wayne Audette, President, RetroFit Technologies, says that his company is hiring a full-time CISO to help them legitimize and build security practices. He notes that most of his competitors outsource this service, which tends to be unreliable and expensive.
Together with the CISO, Audette will create an all-encompassing security platform to provide their clients with a security assessment and all necessary remediation. Later on, they will also offer ongoing security management. "We are calling it our Security ARM," adds Audette.
Hiring security experts instead of outsourcing specific services has some advantages. First, it helps an MSP provide a wide range of services in-house to keep their clients safe and compliant, something that many enterprises can't do. Besides, it also puts a company ahead of the competition.
Proactive Customer Service Approach
Nothing beats being proactive as far as customer service is concerned. Mike Shelah, Business Development and Strategic Marketing Leader at Advantage Industries, says that their customer support can be summarized in one word: "proactive." Advantage Industries sends weekly and monthly updates to their clients for the work they do for them. The clients also receive a quarterly business review to discuss what happened in the last 90 days.
The company also uses this time to discuss what their clients want to accomplish over the next 12-18 months. Then, working together, they develop and revise their technology roadmap to support those goals and adequately align the budget.
In addition to all this, Mike and his team spend a considerable amount of time evaluating their solution stack. The aim is to establish what they can do better as they continue to serve their clients. As new and innovative solutions come to the market, they evaluate their effectiveness and incorporate them into their solutions.
Ashu Singhal, the President at Orion Network Solutions, shares similar thoughts. He says that every month, his company holds technology-focused conversations with each of its clients. Given that technology evolves fast and permeates every aspect, there is a need to solve business challenges through innovation. However, this must also be done fast to the advantage of the client.
At Orion Networks, when clients bring the challenges they have, like team collaboration and security concerns, they get appropriate solutions from the experts. This has helped form a much stronger bond as a true partner with the clients. "At the same time, seeing our small business clients becoming more competitive with our help is a bonus for us," says Singhal.
MSPs that provide digital transformation services to their clients will thrive in 2021. This is according to Carl Fransen, Founder and CEO at CTECH Consulting Group. He says that cloud services are breaking the inherent limitations of traditional on-premise servers. Migration from physical servers into the cloud has enabled many new services that were not possible before. For example, a file server can now be moved into the cloud, and staff members get file sharing and file collaboration. Since it is cloud-based, they also receive increased mobility without a VPN or remote desktop services. In addition, IT departments can now add chat, video, and voice into the day-to-day business tools or improve the way clients communicate with online forums and forms. All of this does not require any new or expensive hardware to purchase or maintain.
Delivering Over and Beyond Expectations
The coronavirus pandemic presented many challenges for all businesses. For MSPs, this is an opportune time to show how much they care about their clients by delivering beyond what is expected. This is clearly demonstrated by Nick Allo, Director of Information Technology at Semtech IT Solutions. Allo says that his company has been striving to prioritize its clients' needs as they try to adapt to the new work-from-home environment. "There have been a lot of moves and changes. We have been involved through every step, including helping them store certain furniture between moves. Also, we have even driven equipment 2 hours plus to employee's homes to ensure they were ready to work. All this has been because we are trying to go above and beyond basic support," says Allo.
In the same spirit of delivering beyond expectations, Eric Schueler, Senior VP of Information Technology at HRCT, notes some sacrifices his company has had to make for the sake of the clients. For example, with the increasing ransomware events, the company decided to acquire and roll out Sophos' Managed Threat Response service to all its customers. "In many cases we were doing this on our dime or at or below cost because we want our customers to be protected."
Sophos MTR is a Security Operations Center staffed with threat response experts who proactively investigate suspicious activity, block, and remediate it on the customer's behalf. There is no silver bullet for ransomware protection, but Schueler believes that the MTR team at Sophos is by far the biggest bang for the buck. It's the solution that will enable MSPs to fight human-led attacks with human-led defense.
The business needs of your MSP clients are evolving There is no better way to be effective at service delivery than transforming your business to meet those needs effectively. This means that you have to keep up with the growing trends for 2021 and beyond.
If you'd like to put up a stack of solutions that effectively serve your clients, the experts at Ulistic can help you. Get in touch with us today for more guidance on how to improve your MSP business based on the trends shaping 2021.