The MSP Difference Maker Series explores how best-in-class managed service providers (MSPs) create differentiation in the market. MSP best practices related to sales, technical support, marketing, operations and leadership are brought to life through workshops, exercises, tools and resources.
As a managed service provider (MSP), a strong relationship with your customers is arguably more critical than ever before. This is driven by a shift towards outcome-based services that are hard to deliver if you don’t understand the challenges and opportunities at hand. A strong relationship can’t be obtained through a focus group or online survey. A true partnership is gained through empathy, understanding and observation.
Given the national and global nature of business today, getting deep access to your customers can be a difficult. How does one get that access? The answer is simple: a Customer in Residence.
In this instance, residency is the act of bringing someone in-house who deeply understands the industry you’re targeting, often from personal experience. This person is someone who can act as a guide for the organization.
A great Customer in Residence has cross-functional understanding of the organizations operating in your target segment. They are great two-way communicators, able to share their knowledge and findings. Finally, this person is relentlessly focused on getting things done, because driving change in organizations can be complicated and frustrating.
What does the Customer in Residence do?
- They provide your organization with visibility
- They interpret market shifts to frame new business opportunities
- They help your team wade through the bureaucracy and noise to design products, services and experiences that exceed the target customer’s needs and expectations
- They test new product and services
Bringing a Customer in Residence onboard isn’t easy. There are some important points to consider before adding a resident to your organization:
Why – The ability to develop a clear understanding of purpose for the Customer in Residence is part of the foundation for success. Clarity around bringing on a Customer in Residence creates trust across your team and provides the ability to focus on the exciting possibilities that can be uncovered by a resident.
Goals – Have a commitment to transparency and goals for the Customer in Residence. The ability to simply state how your team expects the resident to help, and maybe more importantly, how success will be measure is extremely important for all parties involved. A common place to start is by developing a list of three to five measurable objectives that the resident can most directly affect through their efforts.
Access – This isn’t simply an exercise for the sales organization. The Customer in Residence requires access to all departments at all levels. The work done by a resident has the potential to influence all direct or in-direct touch points with your customers. Break down the barriers to entry to get the most out of them.
Open – Are you really ready for the feedback from your Customer in Residence? Not only the owner, but the whole organization needs to be open to the results from the resident’s business assessment. Team members should be aggressive in soliciting access to the resident and their knowledge, and should be inclusion-orientated when working on new projects and initiatives.
When set up correctly, a Customer in Residence can provide an MSP with extensive return on investment. Adding a Customer in Residence can help your organization empathize with existing and potential clients to uncover opportunities for improvement and innovation. It can also help to build solutions and test new offerings, driving explosive growth rates.