2021 – The year of the Killer QBR

Customers of many MSPs have never had real QBRs and others get them inconsistently both in content and frequency – Why? Because it’s hard…

Well, New Year’s Resolutions aren’t supposed to be easy – if they were, we wouldn’t save them for the end of the year and then lie to ourselves that we’d get them done next year. That said, unlike the gym membership you’ll never use, the perfect QBR process is more attainable than you think.

So, let’s examine the client experience at the typical MSP today – we acquire the client based on some pain in their business (maybe a ransomware event, maybe a previous IT guy who didn’t take care of them well enough, or maybe a referral from an existing client), put them through an amazing onboarding process, and then provide them with ongoing services to keep them protected from malware, keep their computers up and running, and maybe throw in some anti-phishing training for good measure. The client’s experience is uneventful because you’re doing a good job, or good enough, so they should be as happy as can be, right?

But then comes the dreaded, “everything works, what am I paying you for?” conversation. And worse, when you schedule a meeting to present them with all your hard work – proactive events you handled for them, reporting on how well your patching and anti-spam tools are working, and CSAT and SLA reports to show that you’re killing it on the helpdesk – the client’s eyes gloss over because they have no idea what you’re talking about, and they really don’t care. They don’t value what you do, and it’s frustrating.

Now what? 

Enter the Technology Budget: A common theme from MSPs who partner with Lifecycle Insights is that their clients lean forward, perk up, and actually engage when they present their technology budgets at their QBR meetings. The MSP is now presenting non-technical, totally actionable, forward looking data to their client, perhaps for the first time in a longstanding relationship. One MSP told me that his client’s new CFO pulled him aside after the meeting and said, “I come from the fortune 500 world, and this is the kind of actionable information I’m used to seeing – I never dreamed I’d be able to get it working with limited resources in the SMB space.” That quote reflects how most clients feel when seeing a complete 3-5 year budget for the first time, and while you can build it by hand, Lifecycle Insights makes it easy for you.

Present a Risk Assessment: All too often, we assume that our clients understand the risk in their environment – the unfortunate truth is that they understand little of what we do, and next to nothing of the ramifications on their business if we do it poorly. By providing your clients a Risk Assessment that is stripped of technology nerd words we can connect with them on a strategic level that adds value to our services and keeps more customers engaged and committed to the strategic planning process.

Support your presentation with facts: Sometimes even the most convincing presentations need some supporting back-story. When it comes to making IT plans, not much beats a color coded asset list that shows outdated and out of warranty devices in red, and devices approaching their EOL in yellow.

Even the most non-technical of our clients appreciate the stoplight color-code risk assessments and asset list. Additionally, the kind of human beings who wind up in leadership roles in business got there by being competitive – they don’t like to lose. It is against the very nature of a majority of your QBR attendees to be satisfied with a report full of red. They know what winning looks like, and it’s represented by green!

If designing and preparing these materials sounds overwhelming then you’re not alone… Most MSPs don’t do this work for that exact reason, which is why Lifecycle Insights was born – to automate and help standardize your QBR process. While all of the presentation materials discussed in this article can be developed and filled in manually, Lifecycle Insights cuts your time by as much as 75% and produces consistent brandable reports that represent your MSP well, and can be customized to your needs.

If you are resolved to give your clients the customer experience they deserve in 2021, schedule a call today.

Client Business Update and Growth Goals

This is one of the first things you want to discuss in your meeting. In this case what I mean by the word discuss is “Ask probing questions and then shut up and listen”. Everything you learn here will be usable to you later in the meeting and throughout your relationship with your client. Clients find more value in working with a vendor who they believe understands their business, even if they had to teach their business to them. Additionally, their business goals will directly impact how much and what types of technology they need to invest in. The recommendations you make as you talk through the rest of this meeting should tie back to business goals whenever possible.

Business & Technology Risk Assessment

This is possibly the best tool you’ll be bringing to your Business Review. You can call it whatever you want, but you need some sort of assessment to:

  • Identify where the client’s technology may be putting their business or their business goals at risk (data loss, data breach, extended downtime, etc)
  • Identify where the client deviates from your best practices
  • Identify where the client deviates from mandated compliance standards

Think of this as an inventory of sorts. By taking inventory of the status quo, it’s easier to lay out a path forward that minimizes risk, improves security, and helps the client achieve their business goals with technology. This path, and the guidance you will provide your clients as they walk it, lift your value proposition from “guy with a screwdriver” to Leadership Team member. Why? Because now you not only understand the business, but you are guiding the client towards growing and improving the business. You’re quickly becoming more to them than just the guy that cashes large checks for IT services.

Technology Budgeting

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins uses the unforgettable phrase “Growth sucks cash”. If your client is growing their business, they are likely watching their cash position (or they should be). By helping them budget for technology you are providing a service that is integral to growing their business. Equally important, you are also helping them keep their eye on the ball that is technology debt. Many companies get so wrapped up in buying new equipment to feed growth goals that they ignore their existing technology lifecycle. If your client lets old technology pile up, they will eventually have to replace it all at once. You can be the guy who was telling them about the accrual of technology debt all along, or the guy who surprises them with an unexpected project to replace a significant amount of technology on short notice when it will no longer perform its task. Not many things can erode your client’s trust in you as quickly as unplanned expenses, even if they aren’t your fault.

Asset Lifecycle Management

It’s simple – all technology has a lifespan. If you fail to replace it when it goes EoL, then you’re accumulating technology debt. Worse yet, you’re kicking the can down the road. Let’s look at this example, oversimplified for the sake of clarity – a client owns 40 computers and 2 servers.

  • Plan 1 – replace 10 computers per year for 4 years and the servers in year 5. After year 5, lather, rinse, repeat. Technology spend = $15,000/yr, every year forever.
  • Plan 2 – Ignore it all until the client’s key application vendor performs an upgrade that causes all of their hardware to need to be replaced at once. Technology spend = $75,000.

Not only is $75k harder to come up with for most small businesses, but it’s even more difficult when it’s unplanned. By working with your clients to build out lifecycle management plans you are protecting them from letting technology debt pile up, which will eventually cause them to have to endure large, unplanned expenses.

 

Conclusion

With these key components of a Business Review, MSPs are well on the way to delivering that elusive value to their customers. Remember, your highest value comes from having strategic conversations with the entire leadership team at the table. This is an expensive meeting that should provide value for all. Adding up the salaries in the room and you are looking at an $800/hr meeting.

At the risk of over utilizing the wisdom of Jim Collins, I’m going to paraphrase him twice in one article. Jim tells us that the best New Years resolution is a Stop Doing List.

https://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/best-new-years.html

Your patch stats, spam stats, backup reports, and ticket numbers are not $800/hr material. If you need to have a tactical discussion around any of these, then make it a phone call with your point of contact at the client – but I need you to add this to your Stop Doing List. Stop devaluing your strategic business meeting by introducing low value tactical information. Having trouble deciding if something is strategic or tactical? One of the best analogies I’ve heard on the topic is that strategy happens above the shoulders, where tactics happen below the shoulders. Translating that to the MSP world, if it is done in your PSA system (ticket, automation, sales quote, etc) or is a report about something that was done in your PSA, then it’s likely tactical. Strategy is the bigger picture, and will not fit nicely into the square box that is your PSA. 

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