Attendees at Business Solutions magazine’s Channel Transitions Conference October 7 in Philadelphia, had the opportunity to ask VAR/MSP panelists questions about making the transition to providing managed services. Panelists were Hunter Allen, CEO and president of Cervion Systems; Brian Doyle, VP of IT and Data Center Services for PCNet; Bruce Nelson, president of Vertical Solutions; Steve Rutkovitz, CEO of Choice Technologies; Todd Schorle president of TS TECH; Jay Steinmetz, CEO of Barcoding Inc.; and Dale Walls, owner and president of Corsica Technologies.
Q: Are some customers too small for the as-a-Service model?
Rutkovitz: I don’t look at how large or how small they are. I look at whether they see IT as strategic and they value it or they don’t.
Schorle: It’s not a minimum customer size. It’s a minimum deal size. Ask what your cost is and are they willing to value it. There’s no limit to it. Just your limit to conceptualize what that person might need.
Q: Does geography affect whether you take on a customer in the as-a-Service model?
Walls: About 85 percent of our service remote. If it’s a customer we want, we will work with them. We find a way to leverage a local resource if we need to.
Doyle: Look in your backyard before you branch out. For customers located further away, GoToMeeting (online conferencing) saves travel time and keeps costs low.
Steinmetz: We provide the solution and then visit periodically. If you are exactly what they need, you can fulfill the contract from your headquarters.
Q: How often do you revisit contracts and add on?
Nelson: About every six months. We look for solutions that don’t require adding personnel.
Rutkovitz: We all need to increase the number of products we manage. You should widen your scope, leverage cloud-based products, and leverage your relationships.
Q: How do you reduce risk in this model?
Schorle: We replace just about all the IT of a new customer. It greatly reduces our risk. Device management can detect issues with devices, and your PSA tool can tell you when warranties expire and when you should replace hardware.
Q: How do you deal with a customer that demands a lot of your time and resources?
Nelson: We “define the edges” in the contract. If they request more than the scope of the contract — more service calls, more support — we charge more. We have quarterly business reviews, and get out in front of it early. It is harder to deal with it later.
Walls: We perform quarterly reviews, and look at why they are calling. If the calls are because they are still running Windows 2000, we need to replace it. Use the information in reviews to drive more project work. Don’t be afraid to let the customer know.
Q: How do you deal with competition?
Doyle: We have large competitors. We have to differentiate ourselves through our service.
Walls: Luckily, there’s more than enough business out there for everyone. Provide the services you say you are going to provide. Almost every account we pick up is because someone else dropped the ball.
Channel Transitions is sponsored by: AVG Managed Workplace, Mercury, OKI Data Americas, GFI MAX, ModernOffice Suite, and Harbortouch with industry association partners The ASCII Group, CompTIA, and the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA).