10 Promises Managed Services Customers Should Demand Quarterly
The underlying critical aspect of managed services is providing business acumen to make informed decisions to improve the bottom line. There is no shortage of “solutions” to buy from sales people and there are ample technologists to implement. However, few organizations actually provide and justify business advice using proven practices. Since the technology industry is unregulated, virtually everyone is trying to build their own model with a common component of a quarterly meeting to review status and prove worth.
Unfortunately, most of the players don’t understand the basic promises of managed services:
- Streamlining technology to reduce complexity and improve business productivity.
- Maintaining operations for less cost and risk for services and products versus growing a staff with related support infrastructure and management.
- Guiding business decisions for competitive advantage and business continuity using solid process, documentation, and education.
In reality, few technical organizations have actually adapted from the hourly staffing and products sales of the 1990’s. It’s no wonder that these same vendors don’t understand what to provide for customers in a quarterly review. The following promises are what managed services customers should demand quarterly:
- Meet with management. You’re a key employee or a shareholder yourself, so you should meet with the CEO or a Vice President from your managed service provider. This is not a sales call and you don’t need something fixed by an engineer. The spend is in the thousands per year and your service provider should be just as committed and accountable to the relationship.
- Talk business. A regular evaluation of your technology stance is not an account representative’s Quarterly Business Review to make another sales call and fill out a satisfaction survey. In fact, modern service providers have no commission sales personnel. What you should get is a snapshot of your situation and some actionable recommendations from someone with enough authority to respond to your needs.
- See the big picture. Talking about an abstract concept is nothing like seeing it. All customers should have a logical overview diagram consisting of where they stand today and what the image will look like in the future. Highly technical details are not as important as labeling major components and risk points over time.
- Realize that the model works. There should be no discussion of rollover hours as you should always be in budget with flat cost. Expect an Executive Summary that shows overall health and uptime, problem devices, high-level account of activity, and comparison from previous periods. This deliverable should not be absently e-mailed to you to figure out. Just like an x-ray or legal brief, a degreed and certified professional should explain the results.
- Stay five years ahead. You may not want to run the latest and greatest technology, but you should always have a rolling five-year technology forecast to know when to budget for needed upgrades and maintenance. More importantly, the forecast can be used to analyze additional growth and alternate strategies using new technology.
- Know immediate risks and action items. Annually, each quarter should be identified with objectives, decisions, and outcomes. The game is understanding what’s coming and using other tools like a forecast to make decisions or change direction entirely. The proactive communication and business review using gathered data provides real accountability and a record of action.
- Understand problem areas. While most services providers have some sort of case management, very few do anything other than provide a listing. Customers should get a breakdown of cases by category and the service provider should analyze and review with you to eliminate recurring problems through education, new process, or depreciated products.
- Leverage improvements. Forget the blatant brags like “we’re the leading whatever on some important list”. Service providers should be consistently telling what they’ve done to improve service for YOU such as self-service case entry, on-demand document access to client folders, real-time network status, and new knowledgebase updates.
- Acquire regular guidance. Unfortunately, the biggest blind spot for most staff is learning new technology with little or no training. Prominent managed service providers today provide 2 weekly blog posts to answer customer questions (not promotional web spam), as well as regular events to experience possible ways to utilize the latest technology without a sales pitch.
- Learn new concepts or strategy. A free mouse pad or pen is a nice trinket, but a major thing customers should get quarterly is a personalized technology update. Some pivotal technology could possibly change the outlook of your business for good or bad. Whether you choose to adopt such ideas or not, you get early discovery to make your own decisions and plot your own course.
A quarterly meeting should be a personalized business discussion solely to give value to customers in about an hour and has nothing to do with sales. If you’re regularly haggling over hours or grumbling about the performance of your service provider, then they’ve failed to communicate – much less deliver on promises.