Guest Column | July 9, 2014

Adding These 3 Services Will Build Stickier Customer Relationships

“Working Hard Or Hardly Networked” Examines Why Most UC And Collaboration Tools Fail

By Larry Nicholson, President, Nicholson Network Services Inc., ASCII Group (Canada) Member Since 2014

One of the toughest things that any business owner will run into is, “How do I give more value and keep my customers coming back for more? What can I do to keep the relationship going?” If you are a large, big box company, you have worked the process to an art form. To a small or medium business owner that sells widgets, the challenge can be tough. How do you add value to the transaction (bigger sale) or add value to the relationship (more purchases more frequently)?

For an IT solutions provider this can be a tall order, but with a little creativity and reviewing your products sold — you will find a little gold. For Nicholson Network Services Inc. it was about adding value to our client’s relationship. That meant looking at what they were buying, how often, and what could we improve or enhance as part of the stickier process; we looked at the main pain point for the business owner. Technology is our area of expertise, so we examined what they did over the course of a week in their office. The answers were typical but it gave us the ability to look at the solution with a “sticky” perspective.

The first and most important component of any business today is Internet connectivity. If a client is down and unable to send or receive email, they may as well close the doors and go home for the day. Network monitoring software comes in many forms. It checks connectivity to a client’s location and sends an alert if there is no response. For a monthly fee, we would add an agent to the client’s network somewhere that would constantly check the connection. If our monitoring server lost touch with the client side agent, it would send an alert. For about a dollar a day we would keep an eye on Internet connections at each client site. If there was a problem, we knew about it and would respond accordingly; calling the client’s office, calling the Internet supplier and in the space of 20 minutes we knew what the issue was and when the connection would be back up. The client is happy, no wandering about the office trying to figure out what the issue is and if it required more work, and the IT support company was already working on the solution.

The second and equally annoying task is the nightly/morning backup task(s). Did the backup complete last night? Did the data get moved off-site? Do we know if the backup is good and we won’t lose any data if we have a power outage or crash today?  There are many backup solutions available that will back up data off-site and will tell you if the backup is complete and working properly. The applications design needs to work with the setup you want.

Ideally, you want your backup program to cover three things:

  1. The backup did complete last night because the agent sent me an email saying the backup completed.
  2. I have physical proof the backup completed because I have a screenshot of the desktop/server login screen as part of the backup process.
  3. The data that was part of that screenshot has been replicated off-site and is also a part of that backup process.

Every weekday the backup process runs in the early evening or sometime overnight, and when the business owner arrives in the morning, they have an email that says, “good morning, just to let you know that the backup completed, the screenshot was taken, and that data that was backed up is now in the cloud protected from your office in case of flood fire or theft.” The business owner is happy, data is protected and, best of all, it is sticky. As long as the backup is working and the data is being transported to safety, the business owner will let it run, daily, weekly, monthly, and on it goes.

The third sticky service you can offer your clients is a disaster planning and network documenting service. Nothing is more important to a business owner than knowing where his data is, where his equipment is, and knowing all details about all of the above. A Visio diagram is a great place to start — then you and the business owner know what all the pieces are, what model and serial numbers they are and how everything connects together. Examples of information to include are: Internet provider phone number, Internet connection service plan, location of network router, type, model, and serial number of router, the server in the office, and on down the line. Having everything documented gives all of those involved, complete peace of mind; everybody knows where everything is, how old it is, and when it needs to be replaced to prevent and outage and downtime.

In addition, having documentation in paper form comes in very handy if there is ever a disaster in the business (flooding is by far the most common problem these days). No server is going to work properly if it is full of water and mud. The same goes for UPSs and desktop PCs. By having all of the company information in your hands, you are able to discuss (in a somewhat composed fashion) what needs to be ordered, what needs to be moved, and what needs to be done to get the business back up and running.

The above situations are examples of sticky solutions that we have deployed to our clients to do three important things: One, solve a business problem; two, keep the business organized and up to date with all technology related components; three, if the worst case scenario happens, you and the business owner will be prepared.

If you listen to your clients and see where they have a need, you too will come up with sticky solutions that will benefit your business and endear you to your client, permanently.