IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Customer Experience: The Next Wave of ‘As a Service’

ImageNet Consulting aims to offer services that not only help its customers grow, but enhance their customers’ experience too. By Juan Fernandez

IF MSPs WANT TO BE PART of developing the future of IT services and products, we need to get out of the firewall conversation. Instead, we should be talking with our customers about meaningful opportunity, such as how we can revolutionize their business through the thoughtful use of technology. This shift in focus is really about providing customer experience as a service, another step in our industry’s continuing movement toward “everything as a service.”

From my years of owning an MSP business, plus working as an IT executive in both the corporate world and the federal government, I’ve come to believe that successful IT businesses are the ones that look to understand the future buyer, which is why I had already been championing the “as a service” opportunity before I joined ImageNet Consulting in 2015. Coming on board to launch the firm’s managed IT services division was a natural fit for me, as ImageNet already understood the “as a service” concept from its roots in office equipment to its evolution to managed print services.

ImageNet’s managed IT business has since grown over 300% in the past couple of years. The reason for this fast growth has been our focus on the future trajectory of the industry. The millennial customer doesn't want to own anything. Technology becomes outdated so fast that there’s no real value in owning it. Rather, the real value is in solving business problems, which is where customer experience as a service comes into play.

Today’s forward-looking MSPs must provide an experience that not only helps our customers grow, but improves their customers’ experience as well. Every MSP recognizes that we must become more involved with our customers to understand their business needs, but that’s just table stakes now. The next step in our maturity is to move past the trusted adviser role to one of trusted partner.

For instance, we need to be asking questions like, How do I help my customer adopt AI? New cloud solutions? Big data and business intelligence? Steering our customers to take advantage of new and emerging technologies will make it easier for their customers to do business with them, give them deeper insight into new opportunities, and drive more business.

As trusted partners, MSPs are no longer the “janitors” of technology coming in to clean up messes when something breaks or is hacked, or simply providing day-to-day support and maintenance. Instead, we are the engineers building technology that is crucial to the business. Now our services are core components to our customers’ operations.

This is an important shift. It may look and smell the same as what we’ve been doing all along, but it’s a completely different mindset. Customer experience as a service is an opportunity for MSPs and the channel to create new value, gain a seat at the table, and lead our customers to a new place.

Importantly, how we package and price customer experience as a service goes back to understanding the future buyer and how they want to consume services over time. It’s up to us to build revenue and margin into the opportunity. For instance, an MSP can develop a 36-month agreement to implement and manage an AI chat bot for a client that improves their customer service. The customer is willing to spend money on it to enhance the business, and now the MSP has a longer-term opportunity because they’re not just supporting networks, applications, and desktops. They’re supporting business functions within a client’s organization.

That's where the conversation really changes. Rather than advising customers about the need for a new firewall, we are partnering with them on the opportunity to grow their business. And as our role becomes more valuable, the opportunity becomes more lucrative.

Photo: Courtesy Tech Data

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