Breaking Bad Part 11: Lessons from 2014; Who’s Ready for 2015?


Ray Vrabel HeadshotBy Raymond Vrabel, Director, Technical Account Management, Continuum Managed IT Services

The final installment of a monthly blog series examining tips on how

MSPs can work to break “bad” business habits that they might unknowingly fall into as a result of just wanting to get things done.

Throughout this past year, I’ve discussed many topics in this blog series which I hope you’ve found helpful--getting to know your customers, employee satisfaction, combating business complacency and achieving a healthy work/life balance. As we say goodbye to 2014, I’d like to take a look back and review some lessons that I hope you’ve learned, as well as look ahead to 2015.

1.) Employee Satisfaction. Remember, keeping your employees happy is key to a successful business – so check in on them regularly. Just because they are good at their jobs doesn’t necessarily mean they enjoy doing it daily. Keep your rock-star employees feeling like rock stars. Employee satisfaction also ties directly to customer satisfaction. If your help desk isn’t happy and satisfied, customers can detect that over the phone. Make sure your employees have a good work/life balance. Too often I’ve seen someone get overworked and burnt out, leading to a deterioration in the quality of their work. It can take twice as long for that employee to recover and restore. The key is to get your best people in front of your best opportunities, and keep them happy and producing.

2. Customer Attrition: It’s no secret, but it’s becoming increasingly important that MSPs continually stay in front of their clients. Even though you may be the fastest to answer the phone or email, it doesn’t necessarily translate to giving the customer the best experience possible. Even though you’re very busy, don’t give the impression that you are “rushing them off the phone” so you can attend to other items, making them feel as though their issue is not important. Be sure to survey your clients to check NPS (Net Promoter Score)/CSAT. Are you continually reinforcing your value with MBR (monthly business reviews) or at least face-to-face QBR (quarterly business reviews)? If not, make it a Q1 2015 goal.

Additionally, employee attrition is just as important as customer attrition and can cripple a company. If someone leaves and takes their friends with them, it can be all the more damaging to your business. Hiring great talent is so important when it comes to customer satisfaction. I love the quote, “If you think it’s expensive to hire an all-star, wait until you hire an amateur.”

3. New and Relevant Technologies: In this blog series, I frequently discussed adding technologies to your portfolio that are new and relevant. For instance, MDM and file sync and share are on the rise as we continue to sort out the balance between personal and corporate data. Re-evaluate the tools employees are allowed to use, and what apps they are using to store corporate files. Many times, it’s the same place they keep their wedding photos. Review termination policies and what happens when someone quits or is let go from their position. On the MDM front, being able to manage these devices is becoming more important. The laptop isn’t going away anytime soon, but SMBs are moving further into mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.

In 2014, security was, and continues to be, a hot topic. With large companies reporting data compromises, stolen credit card information and ransomware like cryptolocker becoming rampant, it is important that your cilents have updated spam filters and anti-virus and malware scanning tools. In addition, employee training for safe Internet habits needs to be the norm, especially if they are participating in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

When it comes to how the cloud fared in 2014, hosted email such as Office 365 saw a huge up-swing with small and large companies as Exchange Servers were being replaced. Amazon, Google and Microsoft continue to refine their cloud strategy and make it easier and more cost effective to move to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Servers, which once sat in a closet at the client’s location collecting dust, are now being replaced by virtual servers on Amazon’s EC2 or Azure. MSPs also continued to build their value stack, causing some to move to a price-per-user model, which continues to be the fastest-growing model when compared with per-device or a-la-carte.

This year was great for managed services and IT in general. While technology was and continues to be important, the satisfaction of clients and your employees is the end-all when it comes to growing your business. As technology continues to evolve and become faster, more intelligent, and easier to access, 2015 is also setting up to be a great year with accelerated growth as more MSPs are becoming more proactive with both their own and their clients’ businesses. As we close out the year, I also close out this blog series that I hope in some small way contributed to your MSP moving forward positively and successfully. For continued ideas, follow me on Twitter @rayvrabel. Wishing you all luck and prosperity in 2015!

Raymond Vrabel is Continuum's Director of Technical Account Management and participates in product and service growth initiatives. He manages Continuum's Technical Account Management team which supports over 3,500 partners worldwide. Vrabel has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in managed IT services, disaster recovery and cloud solutions. Follow him on Twitter: @rayvrabel.