Traditionally, MSPs were IT guys, who would come in, fix a problem, and get out of there. Today, as the business world has evolved, and managed services has become more of a bespoke service, there is a lot more client management involved, especially if you’re looking to create a proactive environment that acts ahead of time, rather than follow a reactive break/fix model. (and who isn’t?)
However, not all client relationships are easy, and some customers will show a lot more resistance to your advice than others. Here’s what to do when things get complicated.
Consider the Client’s Point of View Fully. Can You Get on Board?
Not all client requests are created equally. While some might be harmless in the long run, like feeling wedded to a specific Antivirus solution, others are much more dangerous to both their own infrastructure and all your other clients’, too. Examples of this include businesses that refuse to update legacy operating systems that no longer receive security updates, a hot topic with Microsoft recently taking away support for Windows 7.
While you can jump through hoops for the latter category, creating secure environments by air-gapping, using VLANs or other segmentation methods, or isolating these machines, you probably know deep down that this is far from best-practice. You’re going to offer the best services if you can create a consistent environment and bring your whole client-base to the same high standard. You’re also not doing the client any favours in the long run by saying yes to a bad idea. If placating the client is going against your gut feeling, here’s how to get them to listen.
Acknowledge and Validate
First, make sure that your client knows that they are being listened to. It can help to repeat back the language that they used, simply and without any additions. “I can hear that you feel comfortable using Windows 7, and that the cost of upgrading associated hardware is too much for you right now.”
Next, don’t jump straight in and tell them what a bad idea this is! You don’t have to totally agree with their decision-making process, and certainly you might have a strongly negative feeling about the underlying choice, but this isn’t going to get you anywhere. Think of a situation where their choice is going to make their life easier, and repeat this to the client, anything from reduced costs to support for specific business applications. It might feel like you’re encouraging them to dig deeper on their resistance, but you’ve paving the way for them to listen and really hear you.
Set the Stage to Make Your Claim
Try to avoid using the word ‘but’ or its favourite cousin ‘however’! Instead, tell your client that it would be helpful if you could ask them some questions to support them with their situation. Asking for help is a great way to get someone to listen and to get them on your side. You can also use these questions to see what’s the best next steps are for you.
Here are some examples of some great open-ended questions that can give you more insight and better leverage to move forward.
- What’s your top priority from your MSP?
- What (if anything) are you willing to accept a certain amount of risk for? This could be anything from reduced cost, to ease of use and beyond.
- What’s your ideal IT situation? How much involvement do you want to have in this process?
Say your Piece and Hold Firm to your Decision
At this point, you’ve laid enough groundwork. Thank the client for their answers, and now ask them if they would like to hear your advice.
Make your case gently and clearly, using their own answers to support your feelings on the subject. In this extended example, you could explain how an upgrade to Windows 10 will allow you to support them better, and by staying on Windows 7, they are adding unnecessary risk to their environment. If there is another option, in this case, an Extended Software Update licence for example, suggest it and explain the pros and cons of this, and how this will only buy them some time. You can then upsell a consultancy to work alongside the business to upgrade their machines by 2023, when the support runs out.
At this point, it’s time to play hard ball. If the client is still resistant to your advice, and it’s a topic that you cannot compromise on, stick to your guns. It’s not worth adding risk or complexity to your own business for a client that doesn’t respect your advice or your service model. If you need to part ways, you’ll know that you did everything that you could to make it work.
Let’s recap! Here’s what to do if your client is resisting your advice:
- Make sure that you’re certain you can’t get on board with their perspective
- Repeat what they’ve said to make the client feel heard
- Validate their opinion, even if you disagree
- Ask them questions that will help you to frame your point of view
- Be clear about what you can and can’t do, and don’t be afraid to sever ties if it isn’t going to work
Ending client relationships make you feel like a failure as an MSP? Don’t worry, failure is the route to success! Read our blog on the topic to make yourself feel a whole lot better!