What’s the difference between an Account Manager and a salesperson? Unlike with a typical sales role where customer interaction is handed off to operations once the ink is dried on a new contract, the Account Manager is there for the long haul. Here are five reasons why that’s a good thing:
1. Sometimes you just need a point person.
When you don’t want to navigate through an IVR system and guess what prompts apply to your particular issue, it’s great to know there is a single point of contact for answers. The AM serves as the department of “who handles this?” when new support requests fall between the ownership cracks. Customers rely on the Account Manager to follow up on support requests that fall outside the IT professionals’ purview. Likewise, they depend on Account Managers as an escalation point for open issues whether they’re pending approval or merely in the queue for assignment. An effective AM reassures clients by acknowledging urgency and getting answers when standard SLAs don’t apply.
2. Customer retention is their job.
Speaking to a salesperson who is accountable to 100% customer retention means you’re getting their best effort after the initial contract is signed. A valuable Account Manager is available for every issue that arises throughout the length of a managed services contract. An effective AM doesn’t just show up a month before the renewal period. They’re there when you need them even outside of normal business hours.
Usually, the first 90 days are the most crucial as the customer and Managed Service Provider relationship evolve. The service moves from concept to reality. At this point, the Account Manager typically fields questions related to customer expectations and perceptions. The AM works with customer management wherever there may be misalignment between how the service was initially conceived and what’s happening post implementation. An AM understands the contracted scope of services and can confirm deliverables with the operations team wherever necessary and promote a smooth transition. Especially in the first weeks of a new contract when the relationship is most fragile, it’s important to still have a salesperson with “skin in the game” and motivated to ensure satisfaction going forward.
3. Relaying performance feedback and managing customer perceptions.
As companies grow, roles tend to get more compartmentalized. And not every support position proactively shares critical customer feedback. In fact, if performance related feedback always had a direct line to the MSP’s executive team there would be no such thing as a CSAT survey. Especially in the help desk business, one negative end user experience can permanently damage the MSP’s reputation. And a less than reputable help desk is an underutilized help desk. The adverse impacts can have a ripple effect. If the end user population decides it’s better off resolving technical issues themselves, they can double or triple IT costs. In such an instance, customers aren’t just paying for the MSP’s support. They’re also paying to pull internal resources and/or extending the end user’s downtime with a DIY approach.
An AM has to be diligent in the role of reputation monitor. It’s in the client management team’s mutual interests to ensure the service works as intended. Clients elect an outsourced solution in order to shift the burden of managing IT away from its internal employees. That way their employees can focus on the best use of their skill set and maximize productivity. So if the MSP is not doing its job or perceived as not doing its job, the AM must see through the chatter without ignoring it. This means tracking down the factual (i.e. ticket data, emails, recorded calls) and comparing with the anecdotal comments. The AM offers value as a sounding board and communication conduit for all client feedback. Whatever remediation may be required, the AM can deliver the unfiltered message to the operations team.
4. Big picture over tunnel vision.
A good AM understands the full context of why their IT services solution was implemented. They see how it aligns with the customer’s business goals, and how the customer’s IT environment has evolved over the length of the contract. During operational review, the Account Manager has a seat at the customer’s table. They’re also part of the strategic planning process or at least informed about it. So if there are any major organizational changes that may impact IT service delivery, an Account manager can help prepare their support staff. Since an AM is in abreast of all IT related activities, they can provide consultative input that is consistent with the customer’s direction within the IT roadmap.
5. Addresses problems or out of scope requests, recommends service additions, and special projects.
Process oriented people are valuable for maintaining smooth and efficient services. But sometimes you need to rope in someone open to change when warranted. As a day-to-day point of contact and part of the monthly operational review, the AM can identify service add-ons or special projects. Certainly, field services techs are familiar with recurring issues in the customer’s IT environment. However, they’re more likely to deal with workarounds versus recommend permanent at the executive level. Tipping off an Account Manager when legacy hardware frequently fails or if the network becomes vulnerable to new cybersecurity attacks, means those issues will be raised at the decision maker level.
Every scope of services requires some customization. Nothing is one size fits all. This means MSPs need to assign a point person who is well versed in the list of ongoing deliverables. The AM reinforces constructive communication between their organization and the customer. That means understanding the customer’s goals, having a firm grasp of all contractual commitments, and determining the best strategy to meet customer objectives. No matter what the service, developing and maintaining strong, mutually beneficial relationships at all levels should be the primary growth strategy for the MSP and the customer.