IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Opportunity Knocks: How to Improve Your Services Portfolio

With the right next-generation services in your portfolio, you can boost business and margin without adding staff or increasing costs. By Eric Townsend

You remember all of those 1970s commercials for furniture retailers? The announcer always said, “How do we make our money?” Then he shouted the answer: “Volume!”

In some ways, system builders and VARs run their businesses the same way. By focusing on standard break-fix and warranty work—replacing the failed hard drive or fried motherboard—there isn’t much wiggle room because to remain competitive, prices must stay low, and that means making money by servicing more customers more quickly. But to do that actually costs money because it requires more technicians.

So how do you boost business and margin without increasing your costs? With a wide range of management consoles or RMM (remote monitoring and management) tools and PCs built with hardware remote management technology, you can tweak your operations to provide better, more efficient service and deliver real dollars directly to your bottom line by offering services your customers need with the staff you already have. Here are a few you might consider:

Power management services. Energy costs are high enough without having PCs running all weekend long, but many employees leave their computers on or in a sleep cycle. You can offer your customers real energy savings by using your RMM tools to remotely power down their PCs on Friday night. In fact, our real-world interviews with MSPs and IT consultants show that they can save their customers up to $631 per PC over a three-year period.

Enhanced security services. When you consider that in 2010, the Ponemon Institute reported that a typical data breach cost U.S. companies an average of $204 per compromised record, helping your customers stay secure in a world full of spammers and scammers could be a full-time job. Instead, after hours you can use your RMM tools to push out security patches to customers who have PCs built with hardware remote management technology. And you can do this even if the PCs are turned off. These simple tools not only keep your customers safer, but reduce by 83 percent the time it takes to reach 95 percent patch saturation, according to consultants we interviewed.

Platinum remote remediation services. Diagnosing and repairing PCs remotely saves both you and your customer time and money, but trying to do this on the phone while a customer describes what his or her laptop is doing? Well, forget it. However, with hardware-based KVM (keyboard video mouse) remote control, you can use the keyboard, video, and mouse on a customer’s PC. And unlike software-based KVM tools, hardware-based KVM connects easily, maintains the connection through reboot cycles, and gives the technician a full GUI (graphic user interface) view of the PC through all states, even beyond the firewall. The best thing about it, though, is that your customers will think you are a magician.

These are just a few ideas that can help you provide next-generation services to today’s SMB customers. The next time you are with a customer, ask, “What service would you like that I don’t provide today?” By offering a seemingly individualized road to service, your customers will be more engaged and more satisfied—and you just might find the next area of expansion for your business.

ERIC TOWNSEND is the director of MSP and SMB marketing for Intel Corp., where he often consults with ISVs and OEMs on the integration of Intel vPro and other technologies into their product offerings.