3 ways channel partners and VARs can get ahead – and stay ahead – in 2022

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By Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK.

The past 18 months have proved a roller coaster for channel partners associated with vendors operating in the cloud and data centre sectors. The fast-paced digitalisation of businesses large and small in the face of the pandemic has seen demand for storage and scaling services soar as organisations shifted at speed to utilise the services of cloud ‘hyperscalers’ such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

In parallel, the pandemic has triggered a seismic change in what customers now expect from vendors and suppliers, and as a consequence are redefining what good service looks like from their perspective. So much so that customer experience is increasingly becoming a key differentiator for customers when choosing a technology, service provider and channel partner.

As supply chain and digitalisation challenges engendered by the pandemic continue to reshape the market, VARs and MSPs are having to rethink their strategies with long term customer retention and upsell opportunities in mind.

With all to play for, let’s take a look at the key trends and opportunities that channel partners will need to be on board with in 2022:

1. Delivering exceptional - and personalised - service

Exceptional customer service is now part and parcel of what today’s customers expect. For them, every interaction between themselves and any business in any industry represents a gauge of good service, and they won’t hesitate to move on if their needs aren’t recognised or supported.

Providing tailored, relevant and easy to navigate service resources will be the key to winning customers’ hearts and minds, and those providers that have a deep customer knowledge will be well prepared to adapt their business models fast to give customers what they want.

Addressing the customer experience and personalisation challenge depends on engaging in deeper and more meaningful conversations and assessing the right customer data and metrics to identify evolving needs and upsell/cross sell opportunities. 

Through ongoing conversations, providers can become fully conversant with the granular expectations and needs their customers expect them to fulfil. 

After which they can create accurate cost estimates and SLAs that will get to the core of customers’ needs.

Finally, in the data industry, customers are increasingly aware that any reputable provider will put in time and effort to get to grips with the in’s and out’s of their business, including expected data usage and maintenance. More and more, customers are taking note of which providers will demonstrate this level of attention.

2. Empowering customers through automated self-service

The changing nature of the business-to-customer relationship means more and more services are now being driven by the end-user. In response, successful vendors and their channel partners are being forced to adapt their services and products to suit these new demands. As a result, giving customers greater choice and control through automated and self-service tools that deliver immediate results and make it easy for customers to personalise their service is fast becoming a ‘must have’. 

Indeed, Gartner predicts that by 2025, 60% of organisations will be using infrastructure automation tools. All of which is spurring customers to push for self-serve options that enable them to get things done on their own timescales.

As demands from business customers for enhanced flexibility and transparency look set to increase yet further, providers and channel partners will need to cooperate and collaborate deeply to ensure they’re able to optimise the controlled infrastructure environments that will enable customers to self-serve everything from monitoring and remote management to keeping track of data usage via automated applications.

3. Cultivating cloud services that deliver clarity, certainty and value-add outcomes

With the cloud now such an integral element of any infrastructure solution, supporting customers to switch to service models tailored to their exact business goals is a key opportunity for channel partners to add value.

Having experienced the challenges of trying to scale infrastructure, applications and data within public cloud environments, many savvy customers are considering how to initiate a hybrid cloud strategy that will provide a more cost-effective and agile answer to their needs. Indeed, Gartner predicts that by 2025, 85% of infrastructure strategies will integrate on-premises, colocation, cloud and edge delivery options, compared with 20% in 2020.

To manage a successful shift to hybrid, customers will need help to determine the best solution mix of public, private, and on-premises usage options that will be needed to reduce latency times and associated costs. Service providers will also need to help customers understand TCO calculations, put in place tracking and monitoring services for cloud resources, and implement the back-end IT management controls to ensure a customer’s systems run like clockwork. After which, it's a case of ensuring that the whole integrated ecosystem is appropriately secured against cyber threats and that the environment is fully monitored 24/7.

Finally, in today’s fast moving world of business, service providers need to ensure that regular cloud management optimisation reviews are carried out to ensure evolving customer business needs can be accommodated and that the right capacity is always available at the right time.

Final thoughts – it pays to talk

With customers prioritising a great service experience, channel partners will need to go all out to deliver against expectations. By engaging in open dialogue with customers and treating them as valued partners, providers will be best positioned to adapt their business practices to deliver against identified needs. That includes uncovering new niche service opportunities that will bind customers for longer and prioritising self-serve options.

As customers start to ask bigger questions about the cost, efficiency, flexibility and user experience relating to their current cloud strategies, there will be significant opportunities for those channel partners that are able to provide trusted insights and specialist services that will support a smooth transition to hybrid cloud environments. As value-add partners, they will be able to help companies avoid unnecessary costs, keep track of data usage via automated apps and achieve a successful migration to a cloud-powered IT infrastructure.

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