South African small businesses are being taken advantage of by their current managed service providers. They’re paying exorbitant fees for solutions that don’t solve their problems and don’t meet their digital infrastructure requirements. What’s more, they get shocking support – or no support at all – and issues are only addressed as they arise.
It’s sad that during a major economic downturn these service providers continue to deceive their customers.
Wolf in sheep’s clothing — just as fake news manipulates language to deliberately confuse people, appealing to their emotions of fear of losing out to make them think or act a certain way.
Managed service providers use similar methodologies and schemes on small and medium-sized businesses – and it has become the status quo.
Just about every business we consult with is paying for solutions they don’t need, don’t use or that don’t advance their digital transformation.
Small and medium-sized businesses – the backbone of our economy – are being taken advantage of, and since the leaders of these businesses aren’t necessarily ICT experts, they don’t know that they’ve been sold a mountain when they only needed a molehill.
Time to push back
It makes me mad: It is time to push back against this behaviour. To free businesses from the clutches of unscrupulous managed service providers that make their customers believe that, just because they meet their service-level agreement, they’ve done their job. Not even close!
So, they use “fake news” techniques to persuade you to invest in technology that does little to help you achieve your business outcomes or deliver in-the-moment experiences to customers.
Allow me to elaborate.
Tactic 1: Vague language
Service-level agreements aren’t there to protect you, the customer. They’re there to protect the service provider and to manage your perceptions of the work they do, the value they add, and to clarify your obligations and expectations about what good looks like.
The thing is, customers expect near-100% uptime; this should be a given. But uptime doesn’t translate into business outcomes. Service providers should be measured not only on availability but also on the extent to which their services enable your business to achieve tangible results. Yet service-level agreements still focus heavily on uptime and response times, without considering the impact of delays in the moments that they occur.
As clearly and cleverly crafted terms of engagement, service-level agreements are often confusing, complicated documents that don’t adequately protect clients when things go wrong. These generic, one-size-fits-all contracts fail to consider your business’s specific requirements. They don’t provide the necessary assurances and have unclear accountability frameworks and penalty clauses, especially when it comes to ensuring your new tech works seamlessly with – and enhances – what you already have.
Once you’ve signed on the dotted line, however, things start to annoy you, like slow response times, support people with insufficient technical knowledge to answer your questions, complicated escalation processes, and automated responses.
Tactic 2: Take advantage of limited technology knowledge
With so many solutions on the market, it’s hard to know which is best for your business. If technology is not your core offering, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a thorough understanding of the services your managed service provider offers or the technologies they deploy.
You’ll trust that they’ve given you the best solutions. You’ll assume that they can solve your problem – because your managed service provider talks a big game – but how do you know for sure, especially if success is measured in uptime?
Challenge your service provider to switch to a service-level agreement that focuses on real, tangible business outcomes, like serving your customers faster, removing friction in your operations, or reducing operational costs. If they refuse, then switch to a digital business infrastructure operations (DBIO) provider, like three6five.
We tie our performance directly to your business outcomes and support your needs along a value chain that reaches every digital touchpoint across your core, security, network, and edge operations. With clear-cut, unambiguous yardsticks against which to measure success, if our digital solutions and consultancy don’t produce tangible results for your business, then we have failed you as a service provider.
Tactic 3: Intentionally complicate information
Ever tried to change banks or insurance or Internet service provider? Then you’ll know how frustrating it can be to deal with the admin of signing up with and getting used to a new service provider. Not only that, you also have to deal with the customer retention team who will try everything to keep your business.
At the end of the day, most of us stick with the devil we know because we don’t have the energy or stamina to see through the change. Your service provider knows this. So, they coat their nefarious intentions in complicated terms and conditions, meaningless service-level agreements and wordy clauses that confuse more than they reassure.
They also use bandwagon advertising to make you feel like you’re missing out on something that everyone else has. What everyone else doesn’t know, however, is that these solutions don’t meet their needs, and don’t consider their digital business strategy or the best solutions to support this. But hey, what do you know? And once you’re hooked, I guarantee you’ll wonder what all the hype was about.
The only news you should believe
So, what is the type of news you can believe when it comes to IT managed services? Here’s what I mean – in plain language: You should take advantage of scaled IT services and solutions to save costs; you shouldn’t waste money on technology you might as well throw away, and you should recycle your existing IT investments while bolstering them with digital solutions.
Join the pushback
Your incumbent managed service provider has effectively trapped you in a web of words and ambiguity. Now that you’re onto them, you can beat them at their own game. Here’s how:
- Do proper diligence: This is crucial when making IT buying decisions;
- Get comparative pricing: Compare oranges with oranges. Don’t only focus on the big and familiar names. Look at the smaller guys, even managed service providers you’ve never heard of — give them the opportunity to see your business through your eyes. Since they’re small businesses themselves, they’re more in touch with what other small businesses need. Be open to other solutions and approaches and, most importantly, don’t believe everything they tell you.
- Choose a consultant over a service provider: Consultation plays a critical role in reverse engineering business challenges to identify the best technology to prevent challenges from recurring.
- Opt for digital business infrastructure operations over traditional managed services.
While still relevant, traditional IT managed services were not created for the digital age. They’re still deployed in silos, which adds unnecessary complexity to your architecture, especially when you try to integrate them into your existing platforms or applications. DBIO engages business challenges on a different level. Instead of starting with the problem you need to solve – as in the traditional IT managed services model – DBIO starts with the business outcome you want to achieve.
Three6five acknowledges that business happens moment by moment. We use DBIO to manage and optimise the traditional infrastructure that supports your digital business solutions and business transformation. But we go a step further by combining this infrastructure with digital technologies and their related managed services to empower you to deliver in-the-moment experiences to customers.
Yet few managed service providers can do digital business infrastructure operations well, if at all.
The right digital infrastructure partner can enable a level of agility that empowers you to respond with real-time relevance and create moments that stick.
If it’s time to move away from a static, unscalable and problem-focused approach to a holistic, elastic and outcomes-focused approach, then it’s time to speak to three6five.
- Tyrone Carroll is CEO at three6five
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