At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world seemed to be coming to a halt, but IT services proved to be one of the few bright spots. MSPs stepped up to the plate, enabling businesses to swiftly shift their employees to remote work.
In the months since then, however, it has become clear that the novel coronavirus and its corresponding economic fallout will be with us for a while. Much of the business world is trying to navigate this uncertain landscape, pivot operations, and add agility before a potential second (or third) wave hits.
For MSPs, today’s environment brings an added level of risk. If a client’s business struggles now, it may not be around to need services in the future. In other words, a client’s success is directly tied to an MSP’s success.
This is both a challenge and an opportunity for MSPs to strengthen client relationships and further prove their value. Putting in the extra effort to establish a trusted business adviser relationship during these times can contribute to collaborative success and long-term growth.
Here are a few ways MSPs can help clients weather the storm by assisting with not just technical implementation, but also change management:
- Do a pulse check. Set up a virtual meeting to talk with clients about the current situation. At the start, make it clear you want this to be an honest conversation about the state of the business and what obstacles stand in the way of the client getting back to “business as usual” or moving forward in a new normal. Ask about their outlook for the year as well, along with challenges to their current working environment and any IT worries they may have. The more you know now, the more you can tailor a meaningful strategy for helping them ride out this wave of uncertainty.
- Create a plan. From your conversation, craft an agenda based on the services you provide today and the associated costs. Ask yourself questions like, considering the client’s current challenges, or lack thereof, what new services would be affordable? What can maybe be minimized? Has the business direction changed at all? How is their overall cyber resilience during this time? Many small businesses may be looking to pivot considering COVID-19.
- Determine how you can assist. People want to do business with companies that demonstrate empathy and seem trustworthy. In that vein, try your best to be flexible with clients, while remaining profitable. For instance, can you help accommodate the period between the client’s business restarting and establishing a new normal? Taking a slight hit in monthly income or margins is an acceptable sacrifice if it helps keep a potentially long-term client afloat.
- Outline how you can help. Work with each client to draw up a joint “recovery plan” with a timeline for scaling work back up and recommendations on how you can assist with recovery. This may involve stressing the costliness of a data breach, downtime, and other ways your services help the client’s bottom line. For example, you can point out the 640% increase in phishing attempts and 125% increase in malware targeting Windows 7 seen in 2019 alone. Clients that work to become more cyber resilient now will be better prepared for an attack, better able to respond, and better positioned to experience growth.
- Establish a cadence of check-ins. Schedule regular client account reviews to monitor technology-related pain points and assist with addressing them as reasonably as possible. Regularly re-visit your recovery plan and adapt your approach as needed, including presenting timely solutions to the ever-evolving IT and security landscape.
The economic recovery will likely not be easy, and many clients will be facing an array of tough decisions. However, MSPs that offer a plan to help them navigate this uncertain time will contribute to the success not only of the client’s business but of their own business as well. Along the way, MSPs will also establish themselves as trusted advisers that clients can depend on in the years ahead.
GEORGE ANDERSON has over 20 years of experience in the IT security industry, including roles at Computacenter (Europe’s leading systems integrator), Clearswift (data loss prevention, email and web security), and now over a decade with Webroot where he oversees product marketing for business security products: endpoint, DNS, and security awareness training.