Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do You Survey Your Customers and Prospects for Anything?

By: Len DiCostanzo, SVP and Dean of Autotask Academy

On the road again - here in Orlando, Florida at the MSP University Boot Camp. There are over 125 IT solution providers in attendance who are in various stages of business, running the gamut of industry business models. From box pushers to pure service providers, from break fix to managed service providers and one-stop solution providers. Quite a few are just starting out, some have been in business over 20 years, and everything else in between. And they are all looking to build a managed services practice or validate where their practice or business stands, and discover the next steps they should take to grow their business.

Typically, there are so many great ideas, methodologies and best practices shared during these sessions and between peers that you just don’t know what to do first when you get back to work. Here is a sampling of the questions I’ve heard asked and answered at the event:
  • What products and services should I be delivering?
  • What do my clients expect from us?
  • How do I know my employees are doing a good job?
  • How can I prevent competitors from taking my clients?
  • I thought we were doing great with a client but they just left us, how do I find out why?
  • How do I transition from break-fix to managed services?
It is interesting to see so many questions that can be answered by the most important resources a solution provider has access to – their clients and prospects. But how can you quickly and easily ask them questions and review and use the results? Well, the answer is to survey them to get the information you need and want, so you can make informed decisions that impact your bottom line.

Simply asking for feedback demonstrates your company’s commitment to maintaining high client relations and satisfaction. But there are many benefits to asking your clients and prospects what they think, what they want and what they see. When you have this information, you can make decisions that will take your business to the next level.

Not sure why a client has left you? Are you unaware a client is looking for your replacement? Surveys give your clients an outlet for venting any negative, or positive, feelings – and you gain key data to help correct a bad situation, or recognize something good. Simply knowing what is on your client’s mind gives you an opportunity to react, and right the ship and the relationship.

Not sure how your staff interacts with clients when providing a support service, or executing on a project? By linking your surveys to service tickets or project activities, and collecting that data over time, you can get solid insight into the performance of staff interacting with your clients and prospects. You now have an opportunity to provide soft skills training if it is needed, or reinforcement across the team on what is working. The performance of your staff goes a long way in securing your clients’ business for life.

Not sure what products or services you should be investing in? Do your clients really want a managed service? Adding a new product line or service to your catalog is an investment and it can be a costly one. You need to be sure you are investing in the right opportunity, because it’s hard to sell something your clients do not want or need. What better way to prioritize your product and service development resources than taking a survey of both your customers and prospects? A survey can help you anticipate market needs and shed better light on future service offerings you should consider developing.

Wondering what your competition is up to? Are they trying to win business from your client base or tapping into the same prospect base you are? Simple market surveys can provide true business intelligence about where your company, products and services stand in comparison with your competitors and peers. Armed with this insight, you can make moves to differentiate yourself and win new business.

Most importantly, a client satisfaction survey can give you a more complete picture of your overall service delivery. Surveys can quickly pinpoint the most important issues you and your staff should be focused on – as deemed important by your clients, not just you, your employees and management staff. This also gives you a leg up on the best practice of continual service improvement – a critical component of the concepts and strategies shared in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library ( ITIL).

As an IT solution provider, it is clear that your most important assets include your client base and the prospects you are trying to turn into clients. So, if there is one key take away I tried to share during my keynote and conversations at the conference, it is to survey your clients and prospects and get the information you need to make decisions that impact the growth of your business, and your bottom line.

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