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4 Common Challenges MSPs can Resolve Using Customer Self-Service

by Karen Turtle, on 20-Dec-2019 10:10:37

You are nearly twice as likely to exceed your top business goals by a significant margin if you take a cross-team approach that puts the customer at the center of all of your business initiatives, suggests a report by American software company, Adobe.

Focusing on customer experience through the customer lifecycle is even more vital if you’re competing in a commoditized managed IT services market. IT tools are more advanced than ever, but also cheaper – which means that almost every MSP can sell the same toolset.

Competing with peers based on price and product alone, therefore, is very difficult to do. Instead, it’s about building your brand—are you trusted, liked, and credible? And about having the right combination of MSP tools, people, and processes to deliver tangible results.

Making it easy for your customers to buy, consume, and pay for their products and services is also a critical differentiator—and in the era of cloud software and consumption-based services, not easy for MSPs to manage without a customized solution.

Here, we look at four common MSP challenges that frequently disrupt a seamless customer experience to assess how a customer portal and automation can fix each one.

1. Standard business applications are converting to SaaS packages

This year, every new entrant to the software market and 80% of historical vendors will offer subscription-based business models, reports Gartner. This marks a speedy move away from software ownership and the traditional license and maintenance model, to leasing software on a subscription basis.

Subscriptions shift a greater onus of control onto the customer, enabling them to flex their subscriptions by upgrading, downgrading, renewing, and canceling their services and memberships. As a result, MSPs are contending with two choices. They can make changes on behalf of their customers—which many MSPs do manually using existing business systems. Or, they can offer customers a self-service portal to make the changes themselves.

The manual option usually becomes difficult once MSPs transition more of their customers to the subscription model. Bear in mind that the average subscriber makes around 26 revenue-related transactions during an average subscription lifetime, creating substantial amounts of data.

Entering subscription change requests into a conventional ERP system starts to get messy, customers have to wait longer to see the results of their requested changes, and the process naturally becomes error-prone, especially when billing comes around.

The solution: Purchasing a self-service portal that’s designed to manage subscriptions is always a good beginning. A self-service portal can enable your customers to renew, upgrade, cancel, and make changes to their services in their own time, while your new solution centrally logs and calculates this activity in the background. Account Managers can also make changes on behalf of customers from the same portal. Critically, relevant records of all changes can be automatically segmented and viewed by every user in close to real-time from personalized dashboards.

2. Workloads are moving to a pay-as-you-go consumption model

Not only do MSPs need a system to manage customer requests to flex their subscriptions. They’ve also got to handle different payment frequencies and pricing models, as well. In the MSP sphere, consumption-based billing is soaring in popularity because an ever-higher number of cloud vendors and distributors are advertising it, and customers are eager to consume it too.

However, many MSPs are struggling to support this billing model because of its inherent complexity. Cloud services are often charged per transaction, per plan, per compute hour, and resources used. These charges get recorded in hugely detailed usage and reconciliation files that staff often spend hours—even days—manually unraveling to invoice customers monthly. Errors are common due to the high levels of attention to detail required, which can make it difficult for staff to get invoices out in time.

The solution: Using a self-service portal that has built-in automation to manage the pricing models that vendors and distributors are moving to can put you at a distinct competitive advantage. You want your customers to have the facility to buy from a choice of solutions that aren’t restricted by pricing complexity. Solutions like Cloudmore can set up automation with any vendor or distributor portal to give you and your customers (via their dashboards) a close to real-time read, not only of moves, adds, and changes, but resource usage breakdowns too.

3. Customers want greater cloud billing transparency

According to consulting firm, Ernst & Young, the main reason companies and organizations outsource their IT services is because they want to reduce their operational costs. Because cost efficiency is so critical, customers don’t like to see lump sums for costs that they can’t track, understand, and manage. Instead, they want an obvious breakdown of the value the MSP is bringing to the table. This can be very difficult to do when managing a multitude of variable and sophisticated recurring cloud resources. 

The solution: A customer portal with built-in automation to manage cloud services can make the process of delivering cost transparency extremely simple. Your customers can get a clear view of their historical, monthly, and ongoing spend, enabling them to analyze their costs against budgets. They can see usage and billing breakdowns for all of their services. Plus, you can even set pre-agreed spending limits, and regular notifications to advise your customers how much they’ve spent so that they don't go over-budget.  

4. There’s a common struggle to standardize services for customers

MSPs have almost endless possibilities when it comes to choosing solutions to resolve customer needs, however, most of these solutions offer small margins. The challenge (and goal) for MSPs is to standardize their offer to deliver a centralized inventory of products and services so that teams don’t waste time scurrying between customers and suppliers to custom-define solutions on-the-fly.

The solution: By offering internal teams and the customer online access to a centralized catalog, there is no ambiguity around what solutions the MSP is offering. The sales team can log in with the customer to jointly view and select products and services. Or, the customer can order, add or update their services in their own time. ‘Transparency for all’ means that your business can have a much clearer plan of action when presenting solutions and organizing delivery. Likewise, customers can see that you are upfront about your offer and have a well-implemented system in place that provides a reliable and streamlined service.

Are you thinking of offering your customers a self-service portal? 

 Why not reach out to our team to see how Cloudmore can help? We have over 13 years of experience helping MSPs to streamline the buying, selling, and management of their recurring services. 

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Topics:Managed Service Provider

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