Are your skilled resources focusing on delivering an exceptional experience to your customers – not just a service? – Part 3

View part 1 here

View part 2 here

Part 2 of this series outlined why you should be offering services in higher-value, in-demand IT areas such as cloud, big data and security. We suggested one way of freeing up your resources for this was to use a partner’s skilled team to take over the day-to-day grind of ‘keeping the lights on’. This would ensure customer satisfaction levels do not fall within your’ bread and butter’ business as you focus on new areas.

In this paper, we consider the shifting customer expectations of MSPs and how you must ensure you are appropriately resourced to not just meet but exceed these.

The new customer expectations

As the managed services market matures, elements of service that were formerly competitive differentiators when offered by MSPs and valued as ‘nice to have’ by their clients are increasingly expected as standard.

Findings from a recent CompTIA[1] study suggest that MSPs should no longer be aiming to ‘just meet’ the new customer expectations; their goal must be to ‘delight’ customers with product and service elements that result in ‘unexpected satisfaction’ – no mean task as customer expectations are constantly shifting.

CompTIA cites the work of Dr. Noriaki Kano of the Tokyo University of Science. The KANO model, developed in the 1980s, is a customer satisfaction model that takes account of the nuances involved when customers are asked to assess product or service features and attributes. It helps companies to identify those attributes that are so fundamental to a customer, that a product or service will either ‘pass or fail’ depending on whether they are present or not. Importantly, it also reveals those attributes that result in unexpected satisfaction (or “delight” in Kano’s terminology) – and it is among these attributes that the new breed of MSP service differentiators are likely to be found.

CompTIA used the KANO model to map satisfaction levels of customers across the delivery of managed services – with interesting results, as shown in the chart below.


For example, ‘near perfect uptime’ is now expected by medium-large companies as a core feature of MSP service delivery[1] – there are no added bonus points for MSPs providing this, but there is marked dissatisfaction with those who don’t deliver. Incidentally, 24/7 support is also a “fairly basic expectation” with 57% respondents to the CompTIA survey citing it as an SLA priority.

Attributes that are ‘unexpected’, on the other hand, can deliver high satisfaction levels (“delight”) with no perceived downside according to Kano: as the attributes were not expected, their absence does not lead to a corresponding drop in satisfaction levels. Industry-specific expertise, proactive maintenance and a single point-of-contact are among those service attributes found to “delight” customers when CompTIA applied the Kano model to its survey findings.

We summarise the main results of the ‘mappings’ in the table below – with the appropriate variations for small and medium-large companies.


But don’t forget – what excites today could be tomorrow’s basic need

The KANO Model is a dynamic process, reflecting the changes in customer expectations over time: a product/service attribute may “delight” the customer until it becomes commonplace and moves into the ‘Basic Needs’ quadrant. The example usually cited is air-conditioning in a car.

So it’s important to keep your finger on the customer’s pulse!

If you don’t allocate the time and resource needed to identify what would “delight” your customers and be geared up to actually deliver on this effectively and profitably, then you risk your offering becoming a ‘me-too’.

Even worse, if you lack the resources to deliver on what your customers expect as ‘basic needs’, you risk losing them altogether.

Face-to-face is still the key

The starting point is to confirm exactly what your customers’ ‘new’ expectations are. That means talking to them – and regularly!

Customers perceive face-time’ as particularly valuable – provided it is about ‘listening not selling’, as emphasised by one respondent to the CompTIA survey[1]:

“We’re willing to hire MSPs in any region. We want to work with the best people, with the best services no matter where they are. But there’s a flipside to that conversation. Our service providers are into our headquarters regularly. We want you, the service provider, to meet with quite a few people when you engage our office. The face-time is invaluable.”[1]
Chief Product Officer, Financial Services

MSPs benefit from having a face-to-face engagement with their customers that IT and cloud vendors can’t match. But your most valuable, client-facing people need to have the time available to do this; to do it often; and to include a broader range of customer contacts in their discussions: HR, marketing and data managers, for example, who are the most proactive adopters of cloud apps and increasingly involved in IT decision-making.

“Every month we want to see the MSPs we work with. That’s not negotiable.”*
CIO, Technology Company

“Our service providers are into our headquarters regularly. We want you to engage with quite a few people in our office. The face time is invaluable.”*
Chief Product Officer, Financial Services

So it’s not just about freeing up your team to add value through their technical abilities; they should be playing a crucial role in developing customer relationships: finding out what the real customer concerns are, identifying new opportunities, planning for future requirements and incorporating these into your services. This is essential if you are to move up to servicing larger customers with more complex needs; imperative if you are ever to achieve the holy grail of acting as ‘virtual CIO or CDO’.

Customers want far more from their MSPs now than traditional PC, server, mobile device, network and storage management.

“From where I sit, I know lots of MSPs can manage our technology. But what it really comes down to is whether the MSP can support us within our existing workflows and future workflows. I’d pay a premium for that.”*
CIO, Technology Company

“I want a partner that is really thinking long-term for me in areas like capacity planning. What type of data might run on our network in three to five years? What does that mean to our infrastructure, design, future build-outs and overall management approach?” *
Director of IT, K-12 School

The opportunities are there for the taking. You may have the very resources in-house that would allow you to seize them – if they weren’t so busy delivering what is expected as standard. But hey, you need to keep the customer happy – and if that means having one of your best engineers set up a new printer for them, then that’s what you’ve got to do. Right?


There is another way; a way that will ensure high levels of service are maintained for your ‘bread and butter’ business – while ‘liberating’ your most skilled people from routine tasks and focusing them on higher value projects.

With service features that were once ‘nice to have’ becoming the new ‘table stakes’- you have to find new ways to differentiate yourself and new means to achieve this.

Partnering for NOC and Service Desk can help.

Use a partner to deliver those elements of NOC and Service Desk now viewed as ‘basic needs’ and focus your in-house resource on developing the ‘unexpected’ elements that will differentiate your service and “delight” your customers.

If you offload the day-to-day grind to your partner, you can free up your team to focus on higher value consultancy and developing the customer relationship – safe in the knowledge that your clients’ networks and first line support are being managed by experts.


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