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Do you ever feel like you and your Managed Service Provider (MSP) are pulling in different directions?

Most MSPs want to do what’s best for their customers and even the strongest of partnerships can come under strain. But the business models of MSPs do vary considerably, which can dramatically affect how services are provided to clients.

To put your MSP to the test, consider the following ‘best practice’ scenarios and decide for yourself.


1. Service levels: Is there a Penalty Clause?

Browsing the websites of any selection of MSPs suggests they all provide ‘world class’ customer service. To tell whether your MSP is one who does from those who only promise, check if they have a penalty clause in their support agreements. A penalty clause ensures the MSP has some ‘skin in the game’ and it requires measuring service levels in real-time. In addition to measuring response and resolution times, a great MSP will also be measuring and reporting customer satisfaction.

2. Standardisation: Are your needs being addressed?

Standardising on processes and systems provides a clear benefit within an individual organisation. But when MSPs try to standardise their entire customer base, problems emerge for their clients. Vendors and technologies preferred by the MSP can become standard across all clients, regardless of the needs of individual organisations. MSPs benefit from standardisation because it simplifies support and reduces their costs. If your MSP suggests ‘everyone’ uses similar infrastructure, tools or applications, questions should be raised why.

3. Consulting: Sales in Disguise or Expert Review?

Some MSPs have highly skilled consultants who can add a lot of value by designing technology roadmaps. If all of your MSP’s billable recommendations point to services provided by their firm, the value and impartiality of the advice might be queried. Leading MSPs do provide a wide range of services which address most core IT requirements. However, if issues in specialist areas not offered by your MSP are ignored, you may be a participant in a neatly disguised ‘paid for’ sales process.

4. Sales: Commission or No Commission?

There are two types of IT salespeople; those who earn commission and those who don’t. Popular ‘best practice’ compensation models for MSPs require the salesperson to hit a target before earning a commission. The alternative model is to employ Service Delivery Managers or Technical Account Managers, who earn fixed salaries and are typically incentivised on client retention.

To learn which of the two sales models you are dealing with, it’s fair to ask whether your MSP’s sales and account managers are on commission.

In a trusted partnership you have the right to know. Another strategy is to ask what percentage of the MSP’s revenue is made up of product sales. If product sales make up more than 25% of revenue, it’s likely you are dealing with commissioned reps.

5. Fixed Price: Fixed for MSP and Client?

Fixed price agreements are the basis of managed support. They enable predictable expenditure for clients and offer the IT service provider guaranteed revenue to invest in their support services. Warning bells should ring if your MSP regularly wants to increase the monthly rate due to extra support time being used, without first addressing any underlying issues. Frequent attempts to increase the monthly fee whenever usage is up means the MSP is passing their risk onto you and getting the best of both worlds.

Fairness the key to ‘customer interest’ test

Managed Service Providers intent on building lasting relationships always operate on a principle of fairness. Fairness includes clients having a say in their technology, ensuring agreements balance the benefits for both sides and providing non-commissioned, vendor agnostic sales staff.

How does your MSP measure up?

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