As an MSP, you’re going to have moments when you mess up. There will be times when you forget a project or miss a deadline. Have you built up enough goodwill with your clients that in these instances, they’re going to tell you that it’s okay?
Let’s paint the picture using chips. Your client has a bag that, anytime you do something nice for them or perform a favor, a chip gets placed in the bag. Eventually, you’re going to withdraw chips from that bag when you need a favor of your own - but what happens when there are no chips in that bag? Well, the bag is likely to be thrown at you.
There are some people that are constantly doing nice things for other people, though they never spend the chips they earn by asking for favors of their own. They’ve built their business and are unaware of how to ask for help due to being too independent. It’s important to not only collect chips, but to spend them, as well. You must have a flow of exchange in order to develop a mature and productive relationship with your client.
This is where the little things come into play.
To build this relationship with your client, you have to remember the little things. For example, if your client has a sticky mouse, replacing it with a new one may mean more to them than the hours upon hours you spent replacing their entire server farm. Though the server farm was a much more difficult project and far more beneficial for the business as a whole, the replacement of the mouse is something that they will think about every time they sit at their desk and use it. Your client will remember this little thing you did for them that left a big impact on their daily work routine, and it will leave a lasting impression.
Sometimes, the little things might not make sense to you. You might not understand what these little things mean to your client or even appreciate the value they place on them. Though it seems minor to you, it is a big, meaningful deal to your client.
Your knowledge as an engineer can also help you place importance on the little things. You know about thousands and thousands of different technologies. Which one of those technologies would make the biggest impact on your client? They could be curious about NFTs, the VR world, inventory management, fleet management…the list goes on of various technologies that would change your client’s world if you shared your knowledge with them. Let’s take, for example, product release dates. You have these launch dates memorized, but your client doesn’t. They mention that they want to purchase an iPad, and you inform them that they should hold off until October when Apple releases the newest version of the iPad. The cost of older generations will go down, and your client will be able to save some money on a new iPad. This little piece of advice means the world to them, and by proving that you are listening and you want to help them out for the better, it will take your relationship to the next level.
You also don’t want to make assumptions. Perhaps your client is someone who wants the newest, greatest product out there. They’re not going to want to be advised to wait until October to buy an older generation after it’s discounted; they’re going to want to be told to wait until October when the newest iPad is launched, so that they can have the most current product in their hands.
Try thinking of things in your own life. Someone cleans your entire home - except the kitchen. When you come home, the huge mess in the kitchen is the first thing you see, and it immediately upsets you. The same can be said for your clients. There are things that they care about - that may be little to you - that, if not done, will upset them no matter what other work you complete. This is why it’s important to get to know your client and learn what these little things are. It may even be something as simple as vacuuming when you’ve finished your work.
Something may happen that causes you to drop the ball on a client’s project. If you have a strong relationship with your client already built, then they’re more likely to forgive the mistake - in other words, take a chip out of the bag. On the contrary, if you have a client that you know would be incredibly displeased with this mistake, it’s an indicator that you have a relationship that needs some work, and it all starts with the little things.
This is a good time of year to talk about the little things. As we near the end of Q3, businesses are discussing budget planning, year-end projects, and strategic focus. Make sure you have a good relationship with your clients to really close out Q4 strong with the bigger things that you need to be tackling. If you’re short on the little things, then the bigger things are going to be hard.
Replacing your client’s sticky mouse can be a bigger chip in the bag than the 16-hour project. It may not be something you care about, but the little things that your client cares about are the little things that matter.
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