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SolarWinds MSP’s David Weeks: Customer Experience Defines An MSP

‘The motion of customer experience [is changing] in regards to the way that some partners are starting to look at the way they run their sales motions and the way that they interact with their customers,’ says David Weeks, SolarWinds MSP director of sales.

Building a good customer experience is a critical component for businesses looking to interact better with their customers, and MSPs have a vital part to play in making that happen.

That’s the word from David Weeks, director of sales at SolarWinds MSP, who Thursday told attendees of the virtual NexGen+ 2020 conference that it is absolutely critical that businesses look at how they interact with customers.

NexGen+ 2020 is being held by CRN parent The Channel Company.

[Related: Telecom Channel Chiefs On Why Customer Experience Hinges On Putting Partners First]

“The motion of customer experience [is changing] in regards to the way that some partners are starting to look at the way they run their sales motions and the way that they interact with their customers,” Weeks said

There are several key elements that are important to customer experience.

The first is the interactions one has with his or her customer base and the various mediums that can be utilize, and the second is the component of “why,” Weeks said.

“Why are you engaging with them?” he said. “It’s always bringing value to them in every one of those engagements that you do.”

The third is meeting customers’ expectations. “Understanding how their expectations not only sit today, but how those change over time, how the market drives new expectations [for] your customers,” he said.

Understanding the above three lead to the fourth key, which is to foster really exciting relationships, Weeks said.

“Those relationships create stickiness,” he said. “And stickiness is what we’re all looking for when we think about the retention of our customer base. And we think about the expansion opportunities we have in both an up-sell and a cross-sell scenario.”

The idea of “customer experience” is not a solution provider talking about the good thing it does for its customers, Weeks said.

“It’s about your customers talking about you,” he said. “We all rely on referrals. [But] interestingly, there’s a component where we don’t control our referrals. And customer experience gives us the [control]. If we’re not managing at that level, referrals are actually very subjective. ... Being able to control that message and the way that you interact with your base and the way that you educate them will allow you to control those referrals.”

Customer experience is also built on every interaction a customer has from the initial call through the sales process to being on-boarded and off-boarded, as well as billing and invoicing, Weeks said.

“All of those are critical components to an experience somebody has with your organization,” he said. “And is everything perfect today? I’m sure that it’s not. ... But it’s always something you always have to have an investment in and continue to grow from.”

Weeks, citing various sources, said that 84 percent of consumers feel that their experiences are just as important as the actual products and services provided, and that 82 percent of businesses will pay more for a great experience.

“This is a key component I talk a lot about, which is selling on value,” he said. “It can’t just be a pricing game in the marketplace. That’s a race to zero, and the worst part of that is being the person that wins.”

Bringing good value and experience to customers lets a business become a premium player, Weeks said.

“And it’s OK to be a premium player,” he said. “Does that mean you’re going to fit every potential prospect and customer who comes in the door for you? No. And if you don’t, then move on. That’s OK.”

Poor customer experience, on the other hand, can have significant negative effects. Weeks said, again citing various sources, that 57 percent of consumers have stopped buying from a company because competitors provide better experience, and 32 percent of consumers will stop doing business with a brand after only one bad experience.

“It doesn’t mean that you won’t make mistakes,” he said. “It’s how you deal with that mistake. Admitting fault, finding a way to fix the issue, things along those lines are all components of the CX.”

A company looking to redefine its customer experience can take a number of steps, Weeks said.

The first is to call unhappy customers from the last six to 12 months and find out what went wrong. “And every time you lose a customer, have the exit interview,” he said. “It’s absolutely critical to the way that you’re going to manage your experience motion moving forward.”

The next step is the ensure employees are on-board with what the expected customer experience is. This could include such things as recognizing an employee for providing an outstanding customer experience, invest in education across individuals and teams, create opportunities for advancement within the company, and communicate openly about the business, he said.

It is also important to be talking about the customer and not about one’s self. “Remember, they’re already doing business with you for a reason or are interested in doing business with you because of a component or recognition that you already have,” he said.

Tips to improve customer personalization include developing more relations with people in a prospective customer organization other than the business owner, customize the proposal for a specific customer, understand the evolution and history of relationships with the customer, and send anniversary gifts to customers to say “thank you,” Weeks said.

“Remember, they’re entrepreneurs just like you,” he said.

A very critical component of customer experience is trust, because consumers will buy from people they know, like, and trust, Weeks said Customers who trust a business will also naturally give that business the benefit of the doubt, and will share private information about their business and their plans, he said.

Tips for building trust include accepting responsibility for mistakes and issues, seek and act on customer feedback quickly, demonstrate customer appreciation, and show confidence but not arrogance, Weeks said.

“And you have to make sure your employees are on the exact same page as well,” he said.

Solution providers have to look at customer experience in two different ways, but they are both similar in their business impact, said Michael Goldstein, president of LAN Infotech, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based managed service provider.

The first is how the solution provider perceives the customer experience provided by its vendor partners, Goldstein told CRN. The second is how the end-user clients perceive the customer experience provided by solution providers.

Goldstein said one key to his success is to treat clients just like he expects to be treated, and that is reflected in the kind of customer experience his company provides and expects to receive.

“We want to be accessible and leading-edge, and provide the best value for the dollar,” he said. “And it’s important to provide a great customer experience.”

One difficulty in providing customer experience is the difference in customers, some of who are very tech savvy and some of who are novices to the technology, Goldstein said.

“People need complete answers to their requirements,” he said. “The customer is always right, and we have to treat them with respect. The techie knows everything, and so calls us for help, and we have to be patient. For the non-techie, it’s even more important to be patient as possible. I also expect the same customer experience from my vendors.”

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