Is customer choice necessary for a Service Provider?

Michelin Star or Philly Cheese Steak?

When I travel I like to sample some of the local cuisine. Recently I was visiting the Philadelphia area on business and decided to fuel up with a Philly Cheese Steak. For those of you yet to sample this delicious treat, it is a sandwich made from thinly sliced pieces of beefsteak and melted cheese in a long hoagie roll. As the name suggests, it is a popular lunchtime food in Philadelphia; I found a restaurant on South Street which fitted the bill. The food was good.  It wasn’t exactly Michelin star dining, but the business operation behind the production and serving of my sandwich was impressive. It got me thinking about the way service delivery is changing.

The business was a carefully considered operation, serving many customers quickly, with no degradation to the product or service. To facilitate this, I was led to an entrance line, then to a simple menu – a choice of 3 kinds of cheese. Finally, I was led to pay, cash only, and out of the establishment via a different exit. Despite the long lines of customers, I was in and out in less than 30 minutes.

Technology choice

How much choice should you offer your customers? Are 3 kinds of cheese enough? The traditional VAR didn’t need to answer this question. The VAR supplied the technology, with some additional project services, but it was the customer’s responsibility to configure and manage the solution.

The benefits of this approach included;

  • the customer had a truly customised solution
  • the VAR could invoice the customer up front
  • the VAR could quickly move on to the next project

But the implementation could take so long that the ROI was poor and there was often a part of the project which was never completed. Even if the solution was properly installed, it would degrade over its lifetime because upgrades were time consuming, resource heavy and expensive.

The current climate

  1. The cloud has changed how customers consume IT infrastructure. Whether on or off-premise; simpler, faster to deploy solutions are required to deliver the ROI that customers demand from their IT investment. If necessary, they are willing to sacrifice some customisation in return for reduced administration and future proofing.
  2. Take an MSP’s Backup-as-a-service (BaaS) offering. It would be extremely customer friendly to offer a Michelin Star style choice of configuration, but is it realistic? When the responsibility and associated risk of running the service falls to you, the MSP, how will you cope with the complexity? Too many options confuse not just your front-line service engineers but also the back-office finance and renewals team. As for the salespeople, they hate complexity!
  3. Cloud-like SaaS solutions are growing rapidly where traditional outsourcing is currently in decline. HP recently sold off its outsourcing business to form DXC. IBM, the biggest of them all, is shedding staff as it shifts its operations to automated cloud. Contrast this to the performance of SaaS providers like Salesforce, Hubspot and Workday who offer solutions which are faster to on-board and simpler to run.

Your options

As a data protection service provider, you have the advantage of cross-industry experience. If you’ve been in the business a while, then that experience should lead your customers too. Like my cheese steak restaurant, your BaaS portfolio should consist of no more than 3 or 4 offerings. The restricted choice must be off-set by faster time to value through quick on-boarding and Michelin star customer care.

Your MSP platform should allow you to build a service catalogue which provides extra customisation on top of the basic service offerings. This gives you the best of both worlds – profitability for the MSP – and for the customer, greater choice.

Slowing user growth at Facebook and Twitter suggests that nothing ever saturates; there will never be just one dominant IT consumption model. We think the successful channel partners of the future will offer Michelin star style technology delivery and SaaS. This transition will be difficult, causing much angst in the channel. But that’s what makes this period of transformation so interesting.

To talk about ideas on transforming your business just get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. Our contact page has the details – Predatar Contact

Coming soon: the “technology consumption gap” – what is it and how the smart MSP can close it?