According to IT leaders who participated in a “Surviving & Thriving” panel at CompTIA’s 2020 EMEA Member Conference and Partner Conference, COVID-19 forced IT companies to rethink how they approach customer engagement, support, and acquisition. The COVID-19 global pandemic caused increased demand for IT solutions and services. However, it also prompted IT companies, according to leaders from the managed service provider (MSP), vendor, and distributor communities. Nancy Hammervik, CompTIA’s executive vice president of industry relations, hosted a “Surviving & Thriving” panel at CompTIA’s 2020 EMEA member and partner conference.
It is important to have a deep understanding of customer needs.
What was the difference between IT companies that survived and those that thrived during the pandemics?
Initial responses by MSPs and solution providers were faster in March and April. David Watts, Tech Data UK’s managing director, stated, “That was really about mobility solutions, classic hardware people running off desktops, people on notebooks,”
Watts says that MSPs who are able to anticipate and respond to customers’ rapidly changing IT needs are the ones that really shine. “Those who understand their customers’ needs best–beyond what they have installed on the hardware–are the ones that work. They are the ones that have survived,” he stated.
Products and Solutions: Changing Demands
Enterprise and small-to-medium business customers (SMB) can regain and maintain business continuity in lockdown. This allows for faster deployment of edge devices, and cloud solutions.
Customers invested in hardware, collaboration, communications and security solutions to support remote workers’ core business functions.
Astra Duke, Logic Monitor’s customer experience director EMEA, shared that “We’ve seen a lot our partners, based upon customer requests, adopt new technologies that would not normally be in their stack.” One of the most important was about video conferencing support. It was not something that our MSPs were able to offer as a service.
Customers also turned to MSPs/solution providers for emerging tech to solve pressing business problems.
Hollie Whittles is the director of Purple Frog Systems Ltd.
Communication Approaches to Adapt
Vendors and distributors changed their communication strategies to reflect new paradigms during a period of severe business disruption.
“Customers must know what to expect of us.” Watts stated that basic clarity was the main focus of our communications.
Distributors ranked it as a top priority to update their partners on their service levels, whether by phone or in virtual conference meetings.
Watts stated that interactive PDFs were created so that Watts’ team could speak with customers about all our service levels, exactly where they were, and give them the reassurance that they needed. This personal touch was returned.”
How giving back attracted new business
New business was awarded to managed service/solution providers who built reputations for thought leadership, giving back to their communities, and were recognized with lockdown.
Whittles stated, “We help deliver training conferences to tech community, facilitate talks on global events, write technical blogs and podcasts, do videos, sponsorships and sponsorships and obviously use social media… Our customers discover us through [these efforts].
Vendors made changes to their invoicing models to help people who are facing financial difficulties as a result of a pandemic.
“We have a tiered billing system. MSPs can propose a more robust solution that is more cost-effective and more appealing to their customers by lowering the price of devices that only require low-level monitoring. Duke suggested that there is a little more pay-as you-use.
MSPs have developed solutions to keep customers’ operations running after layoffs.
Whittles stated that “a lot of clients had difficulty in lockdown, especially in the retail and hospitality sectors.” They have had to reduce staff numbers and head office count. They have often looked to us for solutions to absorb some or all of the work.
Planning for 2021 and Thriving
Vendors and distributors need to plan for 2021 and thrive. This means anticipating the needs of partners and finding solutions.
Watts stated, “[Partners]