Ever have that moment when someone says something that really hits home – mostly because they used fewer words to plainly state something you’ve felt all along? Those moments really stick with me – like the time one of my peer group members said, “do what’s right and the profits will follow”. I had always felt that way, but was never able to say it so succinctly.
Another time this happened to me was when we were doing a joint Liongard/Lifecycle Insights webinar and discussing the success of some of our mutual partners. David Coles from Castle Rock Sky(one of our amazing MSP partners) was talking about his QBR process and said,“I like to give a gigantic stack of documents and say first off, this is your network, your environment it all belongs to you. I’m the steward, but you always get all the data whether you ever look at it or not, I don’t care but it’s all yours.”
I had always felt that transparency here bought a good relationship, but I had never heard what I knew to be true distilled down to that simple phrasing… Stewardship of our clients’ data.
MSPs often fall into the trap of protecting “sensitive information” to the detriment of their relationship with their client. They are so worried that a client who has the passwords to their own network will either do something stupid or use the password to let a competitor survey the network and produce a competitive bid. Unfortunately, this lack of transparency with information that Dave Coles would argue is the property of our client, is actually driving a wedge between our MSP and the customers who are keeping our doors open.
Transparency builds trust – and trust leads to the ability to have more strategic conversations with our clients. If we want our clients to open up to us and have truly strategic conversations, we should open up first. We should lead by example. That said – we certainly lived in a “Trust but verify” world.
We gave our clients their own admin passwords and user training to educate them as to why they shouldn’t use them without speaking to us first. To verify that our clients were not up to any shenanigans, we had a script (I believe it was Perl at the time) that fired off any time an elevated user logged into a server. The script sent an email to our alerts group and said, “someone logged in as an Admin on %servername% at %clientname%”. If we couldn’t verify that login among our team, we called the client immediately and inquired if everything was OK.
By giving our clients a set of their own admin passwords, even in a sealed envelope that we asked them to put in a lockbox somewhere, we had shown our clients that we had their best interests in mind. We shared this and every other tidbit of information we could find about their environments via shared IT Glue runbooks and regular Strategic Business Reviews. This set the stage for open and transparent discussions with our customers about things like budgets, business strategy, and changes in the client’s industry. When you can achieve your client’s trust, they are more likely to involve you in discussions that have traditionally been off limits.
When you show your customer transparency in delivering their data to the leadership team, you will find yourself able to engage in meaningful dialogue around topics like:
- Long term strategic planning
- Lifecycle management
- Vendor selection/management
- Business process automation.
If you’re reading this and wondering how to actually make that happen, here are some tips and tricks that have worked for many of the MSPs that we work with at Lifecycle Insights. When you present a budget forecast to your clients, provide more than the assets and warranties that are due for replacement/renewal. Include additional contracts and subscription services. These could include the VoIP service, Internet or print/copier agreements.
This achieves two things. It provides a ton of value to your client, giving them an IT budget that includes the total cost of ownership of their technology solutions. But it also opens up the conversation into additional products or services that they likely hadn’t considered as part of their technology spend. Often, putting the entire tech spend in one place on a technology budget helps our clients understand that all of their technology has associated costs – not just the technology that is directly associated with our MSP services. It shows the money that the customer spends with their MSP as what it really is – just a fraction of the client’s total cost of technology ownership. But lastly, the effort spent to transparently present a client with their TCO of technology builds trust.
The strongest relationships, business or personal, are based on trust. Trusted stewards of an organization’s data are valued team members. Trust enables discussions around budget and how important it is to review them at QBRs to set our customers up for success while simultaneously getting them to open up and let MSPs actually become part of their C-Suite (putting the C in vCIO).
If you want your clients to succeed and have a great experience with your MSP, try leading your strategic conversation by being a steward of your client’s data. Presenting that data in the form of a comprehensive technology budget will enable you to engage your clients in strategic conversations that are grounded in reality and address the fundamental question, “how will we pay for it” early and often. Stewardship and transparency can create a level of trust and mutual success for your MSP, and for your customers.
Want to chat strategy and how to build that trust in a QBR or business review, please grab a spot on my calendar: https://calendly.com/alexfarling/20min-1
Alex Farling is the Visionary of Lifecycle Insights. He was a sales/business type owner of an MSP before his exit in 2019. He is passionate about helping MSPs deliver value in their QBRs (and he’s a pretty big fan of steamed crabs).