Blog

4 Lessons I Learned as a Managed IT Services Mystery Shopper

Managed IT Services Mystery ShopperA Managed IT Services client of mine recently asked me to be their ‘mystery shopper’ and call all their competitors to ask for pricing and a formal proposal. They wanted to review their pricing and offers to ensure they aligned with current customer and market expectations in a relatively small geography. What an eye-opening experience for me and my client!

These are great lessons for any technology company looking to beat the competition.

Here was my mystery shopper company persona:

A 10-person professional services firm looking to open up in the given geography. Small brick and mortar footprint with 7-8 employees working virtually. The company has relatively simple IT needs and was looking for a managed services company who could take care of all their IT, provide anti-virus/malware protection and potentially QuickBooks Online or Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Armed with a list of 8 companies to call, I presented all of them with the same scenario. Not surprisingly, the pricing was all across the board. One company flatly refused to provide pricing unless they could do an onsite visit. Another large company was completely unresponsive to my request for more than 2 weeks (despite 3 phone calls with messages from me). I guess that company doesn’t want or need more customers.

Once I gathered all the information, my client and I walked through the results.

4 surprising lessons learned as a mystery shopper for managed #IT services: Click To Tweet

Four things were blatantly clear.

1. First Impressions Count!

For me, the first impression really started with a visit to the website to find the email address or phone number I was to call. Being a small town, with a seeming overabundance of managed service providers in it, my website experience was varied. From very sophisticated to wondering whether I was calling the local contractor to fix my plumbing. I didn’t have a great comfort level with the latter and was already wondering whether I could trust my 10-person company to them.

With some of the companies, I started by emailing via the website. I came away with the impression that very few companies respond in a timely fashion to inbound leads from websites, and it makes me wonder why they even put an email address on it if no one responds.

My experience with the first phone call was more interesting. The person who answered the phone at one of my target companies had absolutely no clue what I was talking about and insisted on putting me through to the Business Concierge (this is the same company that took more than 2 weeks to respond to my 3 phone calls and 3 voice mails). I crossed them off my list.

Another company insisted that I make an appointment with the sales person to talk through my IT requirements. At the time, I was somewhat irritated by this as I had to wait 4 days for the appointment, but when he explained WHY they operate that way, my confidence level went WAY up.

I spoke to some really delightful sales people—chatty, cheerful people make great first impressions. In some cases they could help, in others they had to engage internal parties to help. No surprises there.

2. Customer Experience is Critical

The customer experience a company provides makes all the difference. At the end of the day, I was less focused on price and costs, and more focused on emotion and the connection I made with each company. Those connections make lasting impressions.

Who did I have the greatest level of confidence in? Who responded quickly to my many questions? Who did I feel would be really vested in seeing my company succeed? I cannot state strongly enough that every part of the customer experience needs to be frictionless if you want to beat your competitors every time—and you need to have the right people and processes in place to make that happen.

Just one bad experience with your company can lose a sale or a loyal customer.

For example, if you are..

  • not replying to inbound queries from your website,
  • not enabling front office people with skills and tools to do their job,
  • not responding in a timely fashion,
  • or not empowering people within your organization to make decisions in a timely fashion

…that prospect or customer is going straight to your competition! And speaking of your competitors—it’s really poor form to throw them under the bus with your prospects. Don’t do it!

3. Elegant, Yet Simple, Proposals Matter

Another interesting observation I made was in the various proposals I received. Very few looked professional. They appeared thrown together somewhat at the last minute with poor formatting and lack of explanation. While I appreciate the fact everyone really wanted to meet in person to finalize the proposal to me, the ball park proposals were filled with jargon and too complicated for a small company or non-technology person to understand.

4. Focus On Value, Not Technology

My final reflection on this project really highlighted the fact that technology companies lean on their technical expertise when responding to customers and providing quotes—as though they’re conversing with the IT department every time. They didn’t take the time to explain the technology, what I would ‘get’ for my money, or how frequently and how they would work with me.

Out of these 8 companies, only one specifically kept the discussion focused on value. Their proposal clearly indicated they knew their market well and how to develop messaging for it. Great marketing!

So, who was the winner? The one who had the lowest price, the highest price, somewhere in the middle? No, it was the company I mentioned previously who:

  • made the appointment at the first phone call
  • called me back when they said they would
  • provided me with the most professional looking quote
  • understood what my company needed
  • made it ‘hassle free’ for me to sign on the dotted line

Were they the cheapest? Absolutely not. But if I were a small business looking for a managed service provider, they are the one I’d lay my bet on.

This was a very interesting exercise and one I hope you will consider at your own company. Products and pricing alone are no longer guiding buying decisions for any industry, but particularly in the IT and technology sector. Competition is fierce and when you are offering similar “goods”—your service and customer experience better stand above the rest or you will not survive.

Written by: Cheryl Salazar, The Partner Marketing Group

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts
23 Jun 2017

How to Use a ‘Pain Chain’ to Add Customer Value

A ‘Pain Chain’ is a powerful visual map first introduced by Keith M. Eades in his book, The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Process That is Changing the Way People Sell. Software and technology providers can use the Pain Chain to help determine the source of pain for customers and discuss, with the right people,

Latest Posts
20 Jun 2017

Why B2B Marketing Isn’t Working

Businesses don’t talk to each other. They don’t form relationships. They don’t feel stress or long for more time with family. They can’t engage and, oh yeah, they don’t buy technology. Nope. No wonder why B2B marketing isn’t working for so many software and technology companies!
The lines are more blurred than ever in marketing

Latest Posts
02 Jun 2017

4 Lessons I Learned as a Managed IT Services Mystery Shopper

A Managed IT Services client of mine recently asked me to be their ‘mystery shopper’ and call all their competitors to ask for pricing and a formal proposal. They wanted to review their pricing and offers to ensure they aligned with current customer and market expectations in a relatively small geography. What an eye-opening experience

Latest Posts
01 Jun 2017

Thinking of Buying an Email List?

Almost everything you read by B2B marketing experts on buying an email list reaches the same conclusion: “Don’t do it.” The reasons range from compliance with anti-SPAM laws (such as CAN-SPAM and CASL) to results (most purchased lists simply don’t perform that well).
Is building a list organically ALWAYS a better option?
For the most

Latest Posts
22 May 2017

How Busy B2B Buyers Want Content

Being in the content business, we’re always keeping pulse on what buyers want from the content we create for our clients. I recently read a report that drove home one of the biggest considerations for today’s content strategies—B2B buyers want you to get to the point. And fast.
The report I’m referring to is, Time-Starved