Last week we finally launched the Altaro MSP Dojo, and to accompany its launch, we invited one of our Dojo authors, MSP Owner John Hey of the Trivalent Group, to host a webinar entitled 4 Important Lessons for MSPs from My Worst Customer Incidents. The webinar was well attended and the focus of the conversation was centered around 4 things that John has learned over the years with specific examples of dealing with ugly customer incidents. As we all know, there is hardly a substitute for real-world experience, and when it comes to dealing with hairy issues, and difficult customers for your MSP, that real-world experience really comes in handy and John, with almost 30 years worth of experience in the MSP industry, has had his fair share!

As a result of the webinar, it became clear that there were some common questions being asked by multiple MSPs in attendance. What we’ve done below, is we’ve compiled some of those questions, alongside the answers from John’s presentation, into a list our readers can use for ongoing reference and learning.

Of course, every customer is different and every MSP is unique so these answers won’t always be an exact fit for your circumstances. Similarly, it’s important that your MSP establishes its own identity and deliver consistent messages to your customers. However, these answers are based on a considerable number of customer interactions spanning nearly 3 decades and should help guide you to improving your customer satisfaction and ultimately improving your bottom line.

The Questions

Q: How do you handle in-house IT at a customer that sees you (the MSP) as a rival instead of a partner?

A: The answer really comes down to the individual situation. If the ownership has brought you in the replace the IT dept., then your interaction with them is going to be limited. However, there are situations where you end up working together with an in-house IT dept. Those situations include cases where the MSP will do the “grunt work” so the IT dept. can be more strategic, and cases where the in-house IT would handle desktops, while the MSP handles the servers (or vice-versa).

Q: When onboarding a new customer, what are 1 or 2 pieces of criteria used to determine whether they are a good customer or not?

A: One metric to take a close look at is Tickets or Incidents per node/endpoint per month. Ideally, you want no more than 1 incident per endpoint. Another good metric to look at is your effective rate for that customer. Look at how many hours per month are being billed to the managed services agreement and if the rate per hour is looking better than your T&M rate, then you’re doing well with that customer.

Q: How do you get a customer to care about IT and make it a priority?

A: There are no magic words that will make someone care about something. You ultimately have to reach the customer at a level that is meaningful for them. Is that the fear and uncertainty angle? This works for some organizations because it’s difficult for them to see what the potential impacts of not caring about IT are to their business. Additionally, some organizations have compliance and legal implications that they need to be concerned about as well that may ultimately help sway them. Again, you have to reach them at a level they understand and can quantify.

Q: When considering an RMM platform for our MSP, would you pass the added cost for that onto the end customers with the idea that you’ll be providing better support, or do you eat that cost for the sake of efficiency?

A: The short answer would be to not eat the cost. Ultimately your services will improve and you will be able to better serve said customers, and as such, those are costs that should get passed on.

Q: How do you handle a customer that is consistently late paying invoices citing “times are tough”, but immediately want support when requested?

A: One thing that helps is trying to determine if the customer really is in dire straits if fiscally it’s apparent they aren’t then are they being mismanaged? Are they a good customer in all other regards? These are all questions that will help you handle this. If the industry is suffering and you expect them to get better as the economy improves, and they are good in all other regards, then you can easily ride that out for 6 to 12 months. However, if after 6 to 12 months, and you are still in the same boat, it may be time to consider parting ways.

Q: What do you find the standard price to be for managed services per workstation?

A: The only standard here is that there is no standard. There are several different models. 1 of which is per device. Another is per user and their associated devices. Geography will play a role as well. The prices in metropolitan areas are usually higher than those in rural areas. Some wide ranges to consider are $90 – $150 per user per month. For a per device model, you can look at something more along the lines of $40 – $80 per workstation/laptop per month and $100 – $300 per server per month. Also, keep in mind that these prices assume you are also wrapping in end-user support into these costs as well.

Watch the Webinar

The answered gathered in this article were posed to us during our MSP webinar: 4 Important Lessons for MSPs from My Worst Customer Incidents. Click the link below to watch the full webinar recording for free!

Watch the webinar 4 important lessons for msps from my worst customer incidents

Need some advice?

While it’s clear there are many more questions out there centered on this topic, these were simply the ones that came up consistently during our webinar. If one of these questions and its associated answer didn’t sate your appetite take a look at the comments form below this post. We will be delighted to help you out with a tricky customer experience you’re currently going through or even a past case you’re wondering if you dealt with in the right way. Hypothetical questions are also welcome or if you’re just “asking for a friend” 😉

Thanks for reading and as always, feedback is much appreciated!

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Andy Syrewicze (Chief Editor)

I currently have the distinct pleasure of acting as a Technical Evangelist for Altaro Software, makers of Altaro VM Backup. I’m heavily involved in IT community, on Altaro’s behalf, in a number of different ways, including, podcasts, webinars, blogging, public speaking, and acting as the chief editor of all Altaro blog platforms.

Prior to that, I spent the last 15+ years providing technology solutions across several industry verticals working for MSPs and Internal IT Departments.

My areas of focus include, Virtualization, Cloud Services, VMware and the Microsoft Server Stack, with an emphasis on Hyper-V and Clustering.

Outside of my day job, I spend a great deal of time working with the IT community, I’m a published author, and I’ve had the great honor of being named a Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP by Microsoft.

I have a passion for technology and always enjoy talking about tech with peers, customers and IT pros over a cup of coffee or a cold beer.