An Interview with Three MSP Vendors
Richard talks to Andrew Wallace, MD of SmileBack, Jason Kemsley, Technical Director of UpTime Solutions, and Tim Swainson, Sales Manager of Kemp Tech, about being a customer-focused vendor and what that looks like in practice.
Who are the Customer-Focused Vendors?
In this podcast, I talked to three people I feel best represent a new breed of vendors, which I’ve termed ‘customer-focused vendors.’ My guests for the show were: Andrew Wallace, Managing Director and Chief Product Officer of SmileBack, a customer satisfaction platform for managed service providers; Jason Kemsley, Technical Director of UpTime Solutions, a NOC, SOC and helpdesk provider based in the UK and New Zealand, and Tim Swainson, Sales Manager of Kemp Technologies, a provider of cloud-native, virtual and hardware-based load balancers.
Oh, and if you’re not sure what a vendor is, this Wikipedia article might help! It’s good to understand all of these IT terms I use!
How SmileBack Avoid Machines Making Mistakes
Many businesses now rely on automation and software to send out billing and other information, which can sometimes lead to mistakes. Andrew Wallace explains that SmileBack work hard to prevent this for their own clients.
“At first, we tried to anticipate how much to bill the customer, and monitored when the number of agents they had increased or decreased. However, to be truly customer-focused, it’s up to us to identify the trigger but we always reach out to the customer first, and have a conversation with them.”
He adds that they look at each situation as it arises, and consider whether it’s appropriate for the machine to make the decision, or if it’s better for the customer service team to call up first. This is particularly important when it comes to billing.
How Empowering SmileBack Staff Improves Customer Service
Andrew says that it’s important for him to keep in touch with his customers, but they don’t always need to speak to him to have a problem resolved: “My team is also empowered to make decisions, they know the product and they understand our customers.”
“We’re committed to promoting the team. Our customer lead, Eben Marks, is known and trusted by the community, and we make sure he attends events. Clients get to know staff by name and ask for them specifically. The team know they can bring me in on any call, but only if it’s for my expertise, not because I’m the MD.”
Why Uptime Solutions are Customer Focused
Jason Kemsley says that he and the MD of the business, Brad Munday, made the decision several years ago to find something that would make them stand out, and looked for a feature of the IT industry that they could improve and deliver better than anyone else.
“We’re both techies operating in an outsourcing world, and we realised that most of those in the industry operate with a ‘money-first’ mindset. We thought that if we put the customer and their tech needs first, the books would look after themselves.”
Jason says that there are lots of good vendors in the space, but some are making mistakes, so UpTime Solutions wants to capitalise on that by being a new breed of vendor, and hopefully the go-to company when people need IT support.
The Uptime Approach to Customer Focused Contracts
Jason explains that when talking to MSP clients, he says, “The reason I want you to stay is because of the service we’re delivering not because you’re contractually bound. Because that’s no good for you. It’s no good for me, it’s no good for anyone to be just waiting for that timer to come to the end”.
Rather than giving customers great service at the beginning and end of the contract and dropping away in the middle, UpTime offer 30-day contracts and work proactively to resolve issues as soon as they arise, and MSPs value their support more.
You might also enjoy my earlier interview with Jason and his business partner, Brad Munday, on outsourcing your NOC, SOC and helpdesk.
How Kemp Have Radically Overhauled Licencing
Tim Swainson explains that Kemp realised that their clients wanted flexibility, particularly when using the cloud: “People wanted the ability to switch on and switch off, grow and expand and be flexible. They wanted to take a license with them wherever it is that they need to go.’
With the introduction of SPLA (service provider licence agreement) and metered licences they were able to meet that requirement, but over the last year there’s been an increase in numbers and types of demands, along with a need for good security.
Tim explains that they introduced a ‘pot of throughput’ system, where clients choose where to deploy the throughput themselves and pay for it no matter where they use it, and renew when the pot runs out.
How Kemp Pivoted Their Training Offerings
Kemp have been providing one-day, face to face training to engineers and MSP staff for some time. Tim explains that attendees complete four modules and sit an exam at the end of the day.
However, they realised that businesses aren’t always able to release staff for a full day, and it’s also an intensive way to learn. And as the Covid pandemic has made face to face events impossible, they’ve separated out each module and put them online. Employees are now able to take a couple of hours out of their day and complete one at a time.
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