This last week we attended the Level Platforms' annual MSP Community Event where I was one of the panelists speaking on the future of technology and how we as IT Service Providers need to prepare for the changes we're in the midst of - things like the cloud, mobile device management, virtualization, and the impact from the slowdown of PC sales.
After the presentation, and during the rest of the show it was like I was an IT rock star. Everywhere I went guys were coming up to me, introducing themselves, and asking to pick my brain on how we did things - from how we run our NOC to how we go about marketing and positioning ourselves to what Anti-virus we use. It was pretty cool sharing what we've learned over the last 20+ years.
While most in the audience were companies smaller than us (most in our space are well south of 10 staff), what I was most taken by was one repetitive theme I kept hearing through all of their questions - "how do we become more of a trusted advisor?" I'd hear things like, "We're battling with our customers over upgrading, or why things cost so much, or why do we have to upgrade, or just getting them to do maintenance. How do you guys get past this constant pushback?"
Over and over again, we discussed issues where they were having the hardest time getting their "customers" to buy in (conceptually) to things they wanted them to do. "First", I told them, "you need to stop referring to them as "customers". You really need to use the word "clients" so that you think of them as partners". Customers are people you sell stuff to; Clients are people you have relationships with.
It may seem like symantecs, but it really goes to the core of how you think and act every day. This goes to the core of the relationship. And this is the foundation for everything we do at FPA. And BTW, this (customers vs. clients) is a real nagging issue I see our industry needs to fix. Clients, clients, clients. Stop using the word Customer!
Sorry. I digress. Again, the issue is how does one become more of a trusted advisor. The answer my friend, simply put, is in the relationship. Primarily, it's in sharing, communicating, and educating. At FPA, we really take a proactive approach in everything we do to educate our clients. From simply how to do a particular task to providing options during a strategic fork in the road.
We constantly involve our clients in the process and hope to further their understanding of the technology landscape. The more that we can educate our clients, the more successful we can be, and hence the more we become their trusted advisor. We really believe that, at the core of it all, we're in a partnership with our clients, acting as their advocate on a daily basis, looking out for their best interest.
I saw a great quote the other day, "Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair." This really sums up how difficult it is to truly be a trusted advisor and yet why, when you are able to build it up, how successful you and your clients can become because of it.
Ultimately, this was my message to all of those IT rock star wannabees at the show. It's all about the relationship and it's all about trust.