Many MSPs start out break-fix, as the person at the end of the phone when something goes wrong, being called in to fix an IT problem. But as your business grows, this isn’t the best route to success for you or for your client. If you’re looking to make that shift from break-fix to managed services, here’s your ultimate guide to making it happen smoothly and with best practices in mind. 

Why would I want to move from break-fix to MSP? 

If you’re still not sold on the benefits of managed services over break-fix, let’s break them down for you. In a break-fix model, you’re completely reactive. Something goes amiss, and you get a call to come fix the problem. You have no way to plan ahead for how much work you’re going to have each month, and no visibility or control into the customer’s infrastructure or technology. For example, your clients could be running all end of life software or have badly managed hardware, and the chances are you wouldn’t even know about it. On the customer’s side, the deal’s not great either. They have no stability in their monthly IT costs, and don’t get the value of your expertise helping them make smart proactive choices for their IT environment. Whenever something goes wrong, you’re both in crisis mode, while business is being compromised and downtime is causing panic. The true potential of your relationship is lost. 

In contrast, with a managed services approach, your customer pays a certain amount every month, adding transparency to their bottom line as a business, and consistency to yours as a provider. You start the relationship with a deep dive into their entire infrastructure, from hardware and software, to third-party vendors and more, and set policies and an SLA that works for you both. Moving forward, you can be proactive rather than reactive, fixing issues ahead of time, before the point that they would usually pick up the phone to call you. With a huge reduction in those crisis moments, you become a valued consultant into how they run the IT side of their business, rather than the fix-it guy that they only ever see when there’s a problem. 

We’ve done it, you’re convinced! If you’re ready to make the change, here’s what you need to do, in three key areas –  the people, the technology, and the processes. 

Consider existing clients as well as new customers

With new clients, you may be able to transition directly to managed services, using a lot of the best practices that we outline below. However, your existing customers might not be so easy to convince. They’re used to holding a lot of the control over their IT environment, including what to buy, when to ask for help, and the type of fixes they want to pay for. Handing that over to you as an MSP can be a big change. 

One useful step could be to find a halfway house, and offer blocks of time that they can pay for in advance, or specific services that you can manage before moving over to completely managed services. Let’s say you present the idea of managing cybersecurity for example. Most customers will understand the concept of a subscription-model for security, and it’s also easy to prove your worth by reporting back on the malware you’ve prevented, or the web security protection you’ve achieved. With blocks of time, you can encourage your customer to pay for 10 hours for example, and give them a list of the kinds of consulting and support they can ask for, even when nothing is currently going wrong or causing alarm. 

Whatever approach you take, have your conversation ready in advance, and lay out the pros clearly for the customer. They’ll be getting better support, proactive maintenance, the benefit of your expertise, and a consistent bill at the end of each month. Remember, they might still want to stay Break-Fix, especially if you’ve been offering some of those value-adds as part of the Break-Fix package, a mistake that a lot of MSPs make at the start. Remember that not all clients are good clients, and in some cases, you might find that it’s time to move on. 

Get your tech stack in order

In order to be an MSP, you need to have the right technology in place to serve clients with everything they need. Think about both network infrastructure, and software, too. In terms of hardware, consider firewalls, networking such as WAPs, switches, and servers. You may also decide that you want to offer cloud-first MSP services, especially if your target customers are smaller companies. 

For software, the core of your provision will be your Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software, that will allow you to keep a proactive view of the whole environment. The best options come all-in-one with other essential software, such as Professional Services Automation (PSA) which is your helpdesk and ticketing solution, as well as Accounting integration for easy billing, security and backups, remote-access, and even documentation and warranty support. Remember, if you can achieve a single streamlined cost for this software, you can pass that on to your own customer with transparency and ease, rather than complicating the monthly invoice with a whole lot of line items that could change at the whim of each vendor. 

Think about the operational side

Technology is important, but don’t forget to think about the operational side of being an MSP, too. As a break-fix business, you may have a strong tech background, but without thinking about marketing and sales, and business development – you’re going to have a much harder time making a success of managed services. 

Start with getting your processes in order. How will you onboard a new client, what are your default contract and SLA going to include, and what is going to be your approach for upselling, reporting, or making a profit? Make sure to put limitations in place that explain what you are NOT responsible for, or managed services can seem like an all-you-can-eat buffet in the eyes of the client. 

Automation can help here. If you can continue to charge for line items that can be easily handled behind the scenes, or in a single click, you’re finding ways to work smarter, not harder. Some of the most popular automations at Atera include patch management, software installation and update, auto-healing, and network discovery, where you can see a full list of available upsell opportunities per client, including financial value. 

Be more than just a commodity

The MSP world is competitive, and one important piece of advice is to look for ways to differentiate yourself. This could be finding yourself a niche, aligning yourself with a particular technology trend, such as cloud or IoT for example, or offering specialized services that do more than the main remote monitoring and management that many customers are familiar with. 

Aligning yourself with a smart and robust MSP software vendor that’s ahead of the game is a great USP. It shows your customers that you’re investing in the best technology, backed by a strong community and ready to support their growth as they scale. 

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