IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

When You Hear ‘Break-Fix,’ Do You Think ‘Customer Acquisition’? You Should!

Taking the right approach to break-fix or one-off projects gives prospects a chance to know you, and potentially become MRR clients. By James E. Gaskin
Reader ROI: 
A BREAK-FIX engagement is a way for a prospect to get to know you and potentially become a new MRR customer.
MIGRATION PROJECTS and assessments can also open doors to some recurring revenue.
SET EXPECTATIONS for how much time/service you can provide a break-fix client and discuss why a monthly contract may make sense.

EVERY MSP wants more business. Indeed, customer acquisition ranks as one of the top three concerns in most industry surveys. Today, according to Kaseya’s 2023 Datto Global State of the MSP Report, the traditional break-fix model is evolving in a way that MSPs can use to gain new customers. Indeed, the annual survey found rising break-fix revenues for MSPs.

What’s going on? MSPs that raise their hands for break-fix work have an opportunity to convert some or all of those customers to full monthly recurring revenue (MRR) status.

“One hundred percent, yes, break-fix leads to more opportunities,” says Jay McBain, chief analyst at analysis firm Canalys. “Customers invite you without you spending a dime on advertising or social media. It’s the perfect entry point to start a conversation with a customer. When you’re on-site and able to relate to customers, that leads to more sales. That’s why Best Buy started Geek Squad.”

That was Joe Balsarotti’s experience. “Almost all our small office/home office or individual clients on maintenance programs started off as break-fix,” says the president of St. Peters, Mo.-based Software To Go, now celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Joe Balsarotti

Paul Parisi, founder of SaviorLabs, an MSP in Boxford, Ma., doesn’t call it break-fix, “but inevitably things break, and we fix them,” he says. “Clients just pay us differently. They view it as a way to get to know us, and this has been a valuable way to get in the door.”

Fast Computers, an MSP based in Hagersville, Ontario, built a reputation for data protection and networking, which led to break-fix services and projects in those areas that converted customers into full MRR clients. “When we deliver the service, they often ask us to quote additional things,” says owner Chad Kempt, adding that “there’s a fine line between break-fix and project work.”

Strategies to Convert Clients to MRR Contracts

Moving break-fix engagements to MRR customers “has to make sense,” Parisi says, “and it has to be couched in understanding how big a hammer you need to manage risk.” Sometimes, prospects don’t believe technology is as critical as it is. “They settle, making things challenging for us,” he says.

One way Kempt nudges a client from break-fix to a contract is by explaining that MSPs do things for contract clients they won’t do for break-fix projects. “A Band-Aid for two hours of tech time is OK, but we won’t spend 13-14 hours to properly fix a complex problem unless that customer is under contract,” Kempt notes.

He also informs break-fix customers they’ll be scheduled around the needs of his contract customers, because his staffing is built to support his MRR clients.

Kempt reports considerable success from passing out “IT Assessment” forms during speaking opportunities. “These are IT questions for company executives to take to their IT person and get validations from technical areas like checking their email server.” Many execs reach out and ask Kempt’s company to do the assessment for them, and he completes them on a project basis. Even if those customers don’t buy his full MSP service portfolio, they often provide some recurring revenue.

Chad Kempt

“We do a lot of 365 migration projects and continue to provide licenses and some monitoring.” He reports similar success with backup assessments, where he put Datto backup systems in place and manages licenses and monitoring on a recurring basis.

“We have a monitoring package available,” adds Kempt, “where we check patches, update security, and the like. If a tech touches a device or remotely connects, the customer gets a bill. Things like auto reboot, Active Directory subscriptions, 365 licenses, and backups are all automated.” Those aren’t full MSP customers, but they provide recurring revenue after a break-fix call or assessment.

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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