How Does a Service Provider Become a Strategic Leader in 2021?

Written by Richard Thomas

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    While 2021 has seen some service providers enjoying as much as a 300% increase in uptake, the pandemic has caused plenty of whirlwinds within the industry. More than half of MSPs ultimately saw monthly revenues decrease as a result of the shutdown, and more struggled with challenges including a lack of time (54%), changing technologies (32%), cybersecurity threats (26%), and price pressures (21%). 

    But 2021 presents a new opportunity to re-image sales MSP sales strategies, consolidate around success and use connectivity to grow margin, even in an era of IT commoditisation. The MSPs making the most of these growth opportunities are doing so by streamlining their offerings for interconnected, sustainable outcomes that work with, rather than independently from, their client’s internal processes. That means moving away from the “box-of-bits” approach that has long been an industry standard, and focusing on creating unique and value-added experiences for customers. 

    Here at Highlight, we’ve spent more than two decades helping service providers improve customer relationships in order to drive commercial success. Our technology streamlines communication, and enables your commercial teams to harness technical insights for commercial outcomes. For service providers that want to be seen as strategic leaders (by their customers and peers), more effective and value-added communication is key. Here, we are going to explain what this means in practice and layout the different ways that Highlight can help. Let’s get started! 

    Suggested reading: If you want to learn more about how to grow margin in the era of commoditisation, check out our free ebook — Transforming The Value of Networks

    Harnessing technical data using non-technical systems

    Data has always been at the forefront of service provider offerings, but how that data gets used hasn’t always been optimised. Strategic leadership requires effective deployment of data to drive decision-making and improve outcomes. But this won’t be the result of simply capturing more and more information. In 2020, the average person generated 1.7 megabytes of data per second. 

    The future of big data will be defined by accessing actionable insights, not simply reams of technical information. Specifically, you need to simplify data access and provide easy-to-understand, contextualised insights that can lead to benefits such as targeted upselling and prioritised conversations for your clients. 

    On the outset, positive change here in 2021 needs to factor:

    • How you collect data
    • How you present that information
    • How you communicate this with clients
    • How you produce value-driven results

    Each of these focuses allow for the in-house collaboration and improved outcomes that clients need, and will enable you to set yourself apart as a strategic leader. In large part, only the right business support systems can make that possible. Service providers that continue to use overly technical monitoring tools will fail to stand apart or siphon off the data that actually matters to outcomes. 

    Instead, it’s vital to act strategically with customer-facing, value-driven systems that put you in the best possible position to provide the consultative service that the top managed service providers are invariably bringing to the table right now. By deploying service assurance systems that your commercial teams can access themselves, you open the door to effective white space analysis, enabling you to demonstrate your value as a strategic partner while selling additional services.  

    ebook about transforming the value of networks

    Creating holistic customer experiences

    Commoditisation has caused downward price pressure, and encouraged a modular “box-of-bits” mentality among service providers. But this approach only exacerbates the issue of squeezed margins and fleeting customer relationships because modular and interchangeable products are easily compared against other providers. It is possible to differentiate yourself within a commodity market, but it fundamentally requires selling more than a commodity. In this case, it likely means selling an outcome. 

    After all, as remote working causes the majority of workplaces become more fragmented across the board, the services that hold them together need to consolidate to keep the show on the road. Achieving this holistic approach ensures your place as a critical strategic leader within company landscapes, especially if you’re able to implement it without teething issues or technical setbacks. 

    In some ways, the non-technical access to insights that we’ve already discussed can help here as it drives strategic outcomes, but that’s not an answer in and of itself. Ultimately, holistic coverage requires an extensive understanding of each client’s unique journey. Rather than offering blanket solutions (hello commoditisation,) MSPs need to offer:

    • Tailored solutions that account for each client’s unique requirements, including channels, touchpoints and interactions 100% suited to their pain points. 
    • Personalised customer experiences that put communication at the forefront of those solutions, enabling for closer relationships better in-house teams and MSPs, and simplifying integration on the whole. 
    • Value that’s easier to come by with data-driven insights and results or strategies that clients can access at the click of a button. 

    Again, communication is key here and, with real-life meetings far and few between, the right communication and data analysis system is undeniably the right way forward. Customer-facing platforms that let you and clients stay on the same page (literally) can rejuvenate customer relationships and make it far simpler to use insights within those relationships. As well as making sure that you can keep in touch, a well-implemented platform can allow for real-time feedback that sees you addressing every possible issue the moment it arises. Differentiation really doesn’t get better than that. 

    Using technology to become a part of the team

    An ongoing MSP industry trend is the blurring of lines between in-house IT teams and service providers. Customers expect you to operate as part of their business, and effective use of data and communication tools can help you do just that. Adding value in 2021 is all about communication, collaboration and, quite simply, integrating yourself as part of the team.

    A critical component of cementing yourself within your customer’s workflows is providing tools they can use to better engage with their network. Instead of simply providing network services, also provide service to manage and optimise those networks — becoming part of how your customers review your performance. 

    Digital transformation should certainly be at the heart of what you do right now. Specifically, the use of technology will allow you to provide the value we’ve already spoken about through focuses that include:

    • Data capturing
    • Presentation
    • Customisation
    • Communication
    • Value

    But you also need all of these components to work together, and to find ways to demonstrate the value you are adding to your customers. That means having a central system that provides all the benefits we’ve spoken about in a format that your customers can utilise without needing technical expertise. This way, you provide a centralised platform that covers all your bases, cementing your place within your customer’s in-house operation, and ensuring that you most definitely differentiate yourself from the complex processes offered by your competitors. 

    How Highlight can help

    Success in 2021 relies on your ability to integrate with in-house customer teams, and the effective harnessing of data to provide value-added experiences throughout that process. While we didn’t foresee the pandemic here at Highlight (did anyone?) we have spent the last two decades building a system able to deliver the outcomes we’ve discussed here. Using Highlight, you can: 

    1. Provide your commercial teams with access to insights using data visualisation tools that can be understood without technical expertise.
    2. Create shared access with customers to network information, allowing you to stay on the same page as your customer and improve communication. 
    3. Embed yourself within in-house workflows by providing customers with customer-facing systems that they can use to better understand the service you are providing.  

    Improving communication between service providers and their clients is, in large part, what we do. What’s more, our single-pane-of-glass allows you to perfect the all-important holistic approach that offers ease and, just as importantly, quick resolutions no matter where an issue arises. And, of course, our platform will forever ensure that you can offer the insights and differentiated experiences that are guaranteed to see you coming out as a strategic leader rather than just another MSP. Get in touch if you want to learn more

    the future of big data will be defined by accessing actionable insights
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