I had a real interesting situation come up a couple weeks back. I was visiting a client who we've been servicing since last November. It was a visit that the customer requested when my executive assistant called their office to followup on a service issue. The owner overheard the call and wanted to schedule a meeting to "discuss our contract".
Naturally, my human self-defenses kicked in and I began mentally to defend my company, what we do, why we do it, and all that, in anticipation of a client wanting to exit an agreement prematurely. I had reports, graphs, charts, trends, baselines...I had all my ducks in a row so I could make sure the conversation went the right way. I was fully prepared for anything.
Except what I got. There is conventional wisdom in the military that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, because they don't have the plan. That's what happened here.
My customer sat with me and my top 2 guys and took out his list. "We're concerned that you guys are here an awful lot, and I would have thought that 6 months into this agreement things would be done and you wouldn't have to be here. If I'd known when I sat down to sign that contract that 6 months into it you guys would be around so much still, I would never have signed it. I've never had so many problems in the last 6 months as I've had in the last 6 years since I opened. What's going on with that?" And the message was delivered in quite a challenging and accusatory way.
I was completely dumbfounded. Here is the answer.
I already knew how many times we'd been out there, because I prepared for the meeting. But the irony was that he only had 6 dates in mind from this year.
It occurred to me that he was concerned with what he saw out of us because he had no prior exposure to what an IT company actually does or why. He didn't know what pro-active support was, because he'd never actually seen it. His perception was that when the IT guys are around, that presence = problems. But in our case, presence = pro-activity. He didn't know what good IT service looked like. He didn't know it but he'd never actually seen good support. He didn't know this either, but that's why after so many years of not being totally happy with the other guy, he finally got enough emotion built up to fire them and hire us.
He was failing to think of us as his IT Department. He pays us a small salary to bring our experience, use our tools, and do our thing on a proactive level. He had not fully converted from the school of thought where a business must defend themselves against their IT company because of out-of-control costs and billing. To a school of thought where we are seen as an extension of his company. If we're here and are underfoot, it may be irritating, but it's only because we've found something through our pro-active ways that needed to be addressed.
As a business owner you hire employees, and you rightly expect them to work at all times to further your business goals. If there are no patients, you expect them to clean. To organize. To train. To find ways to make your business better. To find ways to be valuable to you and honor your payroll dollars.
You would never accept it if employees only worked when there were customers nearby. And you want them to know what to do, not waste your time by having to constantly ask for guidance, right? Assuming they are experienced, once they are fully trained...they should just know.
And that's the exact definition of a full-service, managed-services IT company. You pay us every month, the same amount, like a salaried employee: and we do our job. We aren't a company you keep on retainer to get there quick if there is ever a major problem (unless of course that's all you want). We are an extension of your business, that always works for you...not just when something is on fire.
And that means sometimes you'll see us a little more often than usual, or we might show up to do something when you aren't expecting it. In our business that's a reality; sometimes we feel the need to jump into action when we see something worthy of it.
When you use our managed services, that's what you get. You don't have to ask us to keep busy. We'll be watching your systems, developing your roadmap, and keeping your technology prepared and fully optimized to best serve your business.