Managed services is no longer a new concept to our industry. Dealers have invested tremendous amounts of time and money in managed services software, staff and training. Yet when you look at most dealerships, you’ll find that the percentage of their customers engaged in managed services agreements is still relatively small.
Why aren’t more current customers signing up for managed services agreements? As managed services has moved from the early-adopter phase of the product life cycle to the mainstream, I believe there are three factors that play an integral role in converting current customers into managed services clients. Like legs of a stool, each of these three factors — awareness, understanding and trust — needs to be in place, or the stool will collapse.
Awareness: Do your customers know you are in the managed services business?
This one should be a no-brainer. However, if you asked your current clients if they knew about your managed services offerings today, what would the response be? Just because you have invested money in software, sent your sales reps to training and harped on managed services at your sales meetings doesn’t mean that your customer base knows you are in the managed services business.
You have likely established a solid position in your clients’ minds. They may know you as a hardware provider. They may know you as their supplies vendor. When they think of you, they think of the things you have traditionally provided to them. This has been etched into their minds over time. It takes time to change this perception.
The key to awareness is repetition. Find as many opportunities as possible to let current customers know you are in the managed services business. Find as many different ways to say it as you can.
Think about the different ways your customers engage with your business. Every time they interact with your company, they should hear about your managed services offerings. This starts with the place they go to make service calls, order supplies and enter meter readings. Your website should have clear messaging about managed services — especially in the support areas/pages. Your on-hold message should clearly communicate managed services. During a service call, your service staff should send a thank-you card or service report that has a message about how you are able to service their printers and network. After a service call, the follow-up email should include messaging about your managed services program and how your customers could benefit from it.
There are many other ways you can communicate the managed services message. Include invoice stuffers that promote managed services. When you send out a newsletter, make sure to feature managed services. Put information on the back of your business cards about managed services. Put it on your service technicians’ shirts. Every time someone sees your company name, they should think of your services offerings.
When you tell your clients about managed services, make sure to include a call to action. Make it easy for them to request more information. Give them an incentive to reach out to you about it.
Understanding: Do your customers know how they can benefit?
The next leg of the stool is understanding. Your clients need to know how they can benefit from your managed services offering. Simply stating that you’re in the managed services business is not enough. If it was, current clients who know about your managed services program would have already enrolled.
Most managed services marketing materials outline what the dealer will do for the client. Where they miss the mark is including an area that clearly explains how the customer will benefit. What’s in this for your customer? Why would they want to make the effort to sign up for managed services with you? The benefits of managed services need to be clearly communicated in all of your marketing materials. Everything needs to be boiled down to simple bulleted points and backed up with proof.
Next, you’ll want to consider what customers’ biggest obstacles to saying “yes” to your program might be. What are their unspoken fears? These need to be addressed and proactively handled.
Here’s a great exercise for your next sales or management meeting: Ask why one of your clients would sign up for your program. What are the main benefits to them? What’s holding them back? And don’t give the easy answers. Don’t think from your perspective. Think from your clients’ perspective. The answers to these questions should form the basis of your marketing and sales message.
Trust: Do your clients trust you to be their virtual IT department?
The final (and most important) leg of the stool is trust. This is especially true if you are entering the managed network services business. It’s an inconvenience if a copier or printer is out of service, but it’s a major issue if the computer network is down.
Your customers have seen you as their copier, printer or supplies provider. They may love you for these services but still not trust you when it comes to their network. This objection will be unspoken most of the time, but it is a show-stopper. Therefore, you need to do everything you can to build clients’ confidence in your ability to support their network.
There are many ways to build trust. One is by simply looking credible. Make sure your company looks like an IT services provider. Your website and branding should present your company as an IT business that provides help desk service, proactive monitoring, hardware upgrades and technology consulting. You can enhance this image by providing fresh, relevant information on your site related to networking issues.
Another way to build trust is by providing references and case studies. Leverage your current managed services customers to give testimonies detailing your ability to deliver. Tell the story about how they have benefited. Get two-sentence quotes. Get two-page case studies. Make two-minute videos. Put these testimonies everywhere — on your website, on the walls of your office and in your sales literature. The more you have, the better.
Growing your managed services base
As you move into the mainstream part of the product life cycle of managed services, you’ll find that clients tend to be more skeptical. They want things clearly spelled out. They want to feel confident that other businesses are using your services and that you are a safe choice.
Ask yourself what you can do to create awareness, develop understanding and build trust with your current customer base. The action you put forth to achieve these three things will form a solid foundation for your managed services program and ultimately pay big dividends.