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This is the fifth blog of an eight-part series intended to help small and midsize organizations understand what they should expect from their Managed IT Service Provider (MSP), recognize signs that it may be time to switch, and what they should look for in their next MSP.

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The partnership between your organization and a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) is a relationship. And like any other relationship, it’s based on trust. In the case of you and your MSP, you’re trusting that they will always act in your best interest, focus on the success of your business and:

  • minimize downtime of your business-critical systems
  • protect your data
  • provide strategic IT guidance

Many organizations find that their MSP does an ok job covering the basics and reacting to problems, but it just doesn’t feel like they’re proactive and fully committed to your success. Perhaps it’s a lack of urgency, professionalism, consistency – or something that you just can’t put your finger on – but you know the relationship is strained, and your trust in them is fading or completely gone.

So, why has the trust diminished?

Here are 4 common reasons organizations lose trust in their Managed IT Service Provider:

  1. No Confidence in Their Abilities – Your MSP has sold you on their services. The standard is set; they are your IT department, so everything technology-related (that falls under the scope of your Service Level Agreement (SLA) is their responsibility. But, if you’re finding they’re not able to resolve issues on a timely basis, you lose confidence as to whether they can continue to take care of your IT needs. The right MSP should be not just meeting your expectations, but continually reaffirming that your IT is in the right hands.
  2. They Won’t Go the Extra Mile – Sure, you’ve agreed to an SLA that scopes out the services they provide and associated response timeframes. But this is a long-term relationship. It’s reasonable to assume that your MSP is going to not just do the job they’re contracted to do, but to also go a bit farther and put in the effort to ensure your operations are productive and that you are very happy with the result. If your MSPs’ service coordinators and techs are doing the bare minimum, they are more concerned with their bottom line than yours.
  3. Not Responsive and Inconsistent Service Delivery – Responsiveness matters. When you have an issue that’s impacting your business, you want – you need – your MSP to engage quickly and be “on it”.  Providing responsive and consistent service is a clear indicator that your MSP has your back. Your MSP should have a dedicated team that is familiar with your environment and should not have any “single points of failure” (e.g. your “guy” is on vacation and you’re left high and dry).  Lack of responsiveness, inability to fix problems the first time, and poor status communication are all issues that undercut trust.
  4. They Don’t Invest in Your Success – This is really important. The right MSP for you is the one that’s in business to see you succeed.  They are in it for the long term and are willing to invest in the relationship to ensure your success.  It means they “look over the horizon” and anticipate issues and technology trends that you need to plan for.  They actively seek to understand your business objectives and budget realities and develop IT plans that work for you.  MSPs that don’t take this approach will never feel like a true partner nor earn your trust.

At a minimum, whatever services and service levels have been agreed upon between you and your MSP need to be consistently delivered. But, ideally, you should expect your Managed IT Service Provider to be laser focused on finding ways to make your business more productive, secure, and profitable. 

So, how can you tell if your lack of trust in your MSP is well-founded?

Use the following questions to better understand whether your current MSP is truly behaving as your trusted IT ally:

  • Is my MSP consistently responding to and remediating issues? Addressing issues cannot be “hit or miss.” Consistency in service equates to predictability which, in turn, breeds profitability for your business.
  • Does my MSP use the latest self-healing automation technology?  Many problems can be avoided in the first place through self-healing automation.
  • What tools does my MSP use to audit and reconcile service delivery to ensure services are being delivered according to my contract?  Many MSPs rely on periodic (monthly or quarterly) manual audits to ensure services like backups, patch management and monitoring are being delivered as contracted. This approach creates risk and leaves huge time periods where services you are paying for are not actually being delivered.
  • Is my MSP truly “owning” my businesses’ IT or merely maintaining it? The right MSP wants to see your business grow and does their part by managing and evolving your technology strategy.
  • Do I feel like my MSP is “my” IT department? A simple litmus test – if you feel like you’re just another customer and not their sole focus when they deliver services, you haven’t found a true partner.
  • Would I hire my MSP to be my internal IT department? There should be no hesitation to your answer to this question.  If your answer is not an immediate and enthusiastic YES, you’re using the wrong MSP.

Questions to Ask About Your Next MSP

When you are looking for a new MSP to with the right focus and investment in your business – one you can truly trust – you need to look past the promises and sales pitches and go directly to those who know best. Ask the MSP for at least three customer references and ask those customers the following questions to help identify an MSP that’s willing to run through brick walls for you and truly be a trusted IT ally:

  • Do they take ownership of all IT issues big or small?
  • How responsive are they when problems occur?
  • Do you feel “nickel and dimed” for services?
  • How consistent are they in fixing the problems you experience?
  • Do you feel like they are investing in your success or just fixing your IT issues?
  • Do you believe they see your business with them as a partnership?

The right partner is one values you as a customer and sees your long-term success as the key to theirs. 

In our next article, we’ll look at what happens when your MSP is addressing tactical issues but has no ability to provide vision and strategy.

There's a difference between a managed service provider and the right MSP