MSPs must not be afraid of getting rid of ill-fitting customers, CPI heard at ConnectWise IT Nation 2019 in Orlando, FL.
Brad Bell, lead network service delivery engineer at Sioux Falls, SD-based Workplace IT Management, told CPI that it is all too common for MSPs to allow themselves to be held back by customers that are not good for their business. This can impact not only the MSP's business, but also its other customers' business, Bell said.
"I think what we need to look at as an MSP industry is who are we going to do business with? It's got to be a culture fit because it's a both-win or both-lose opportunity, and when your business is stressed by a customer having a mismatch to your culture and your processes and things like that, nobody's happy."
One of the key issues MSPs are facing when it comes to customers not being a fit is the attitude towards security, according to Bell. For those channel partners struggling to get their customers to commit fully to their security requirements, the risk of exposure can fall too heavily on the partner, which is not something channel players should tolerate, he advised.
"If customers are not willing to share that risk and they want to maybe do risky business, it puts our company at risk, and we would rather not be on the front page of the paper for a breach related to one of our customers. These are clients we just wouldn't be able to work with because they're over here doing risky things, and 80 or 90 percent of our clients are over here doing the right things."
This is where the situation can impact not just the MSP but the MSP's other customers because the difficult customer is taking up so much time from techs and engineers, Bell noted.
"If they have a hugely bad day, now you're ignoring the people who are doing the right thing. And it's unfair," he pointed out
Given this, MSPs need to be mindful not only of customers that they're taking on, but also customers they may have been working with for some time who have perhaps never quite been the right fit.
"I heard another partner say a couple of days ago, ‘We probably held on to that customer way too long'; and we have done the same thing. You hold on to that customer hoping for change, hoping that the culture will change, but culture doesn't change. Once your culture is set, you can tweak little things, but that's it."
As such, Bell advises that if it looks like a new client may be a cultural mismatch, you need to observe it quickly and take decisive action.
"Don't wait, because by waiting as managers and owners, you've already waited too long," he warned.
He notes that it's also important to think about how your staff is feeling. They will service the client because they have to, but "it's amazing to watch" how they react when you finally get rid of a customer that's a bad fit. "They're happy and joyous," he said.
"I suspect any MSP who has fired customers has never regretted it. They're probably more like, ‘I didn't do the right thing [taking that customer on]; I was not paying attention to how important that was'."
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