From supplier to partner

In our earlier report ‘Security is a team sport’, we explored whether organisations have the necessary expertise or headcount to deal with all IT and IT security needs in-house. Almost half (46%) of the Vanson Bourne Community members we surveyed were using the services of a Managed Services/Security Services Provider [MSP/MSSP] to support IT needs, and specifically to access their IT security expertise. 

Whether it is direct assistance from IT security vendors or from a MSP/MSSP, end-user organisations may well be open to help in terms of managing the risks posed by hybrid working, BYOD and Shadow IT. On the whole, IT budgets would appear to be holding up sufficiently to finance such additional support, with over a third (35%) stating that their 2023 IT budget will see an increase, with a further third (32%) believing it will remain stable. 

Getting on the supplier radar

To be in with a chance of securing any additional IT support work generated through hybrid working and the challenges it brings, IT vendors and MSP/MSSPs must first be on the radar of the end-user organisations as a potential supplier. 

Almost all of our audience access additional information about their role and/or industry (96%), most commonly to understand new technologies (82%) and/or to further their skillset (71%). Half are looking to understand the latest threats (51%).

Given the focus on ‘understanding’, it is unsurprising that online articles and publications capture the largest share of voice, being accessed most (69%), and most frequently (87% of those reading, do so at least monthly). 

Newsletters and online forums also feature strongly with almost 1 in 2 using, most commonly on a weekly basis. Although not accessed as regularly, webinars and online courses prove popular, no doubt reflecting the ‘new normal’ of online working following the pandemic. 

If wanting to engage customers directly, IT vendors need very visible online content providing in-depth insights into new technologies and threats, and if appropriate, to be offering relevant interactive sessions/training through forums, webinars and courses. 

In using vendor websites, our decision-maker audience are laser-focused on the information and functionality that will facilitate a quick and easy purchase: access to prices (68%), easy navigation (57%) and multiple contact points (50%). Clear messaging is also important for almost half (46%), with the potential for this to key into the essential supplier traits of availability, flexibility, and consistency – as well as demonstrating sector expertise (as outlined in the following section).

Making the leap from Supplier to Partner

Having established a presence, and so hopefully a foot in the door, the aim must surely be to move from one of many providers to a trusted and integral business partner. Our audience identify availability of support, flexibility and consistency as essential if a supplier is to stand out from the pack – to move out of the friend-zone to be truly ‘loved’.

‘Understanding the client’s target audience’ is also of importance, with over 1 in 10 (13%) selecting it as the supplier trait that they love the most. 

Excelling as an IT Vendor Support Team

Despite living with Zoom, MS Teams et al for over two years, customer preference for communicating with a vendor support team is a live telephone chat with an agent – over a quarter (27%) select this is their first-choice touchpoint, and over half (59%) select it within their top three. Reality is not too far removed from this, with over half (55%) currently interacting with vendor support teams via telephone chats, although email is the touchpoint used most commonly (74%).

There is an apparent mismatch with self-service portals, more experience this in reality than would select it as a preferred option (47% vs. 36%), whilst the inverse is true of a live online typed chat with an agent (32% vs. 41%). Reflecting the preferred characteristics of ‘loved’ suppliers already identified, availability of support is most likely driving this, with the immediacy of a live chat answering this need.  

Indeed, when asked for the most important characteristics of an effective IT vendor support team ‘responsiveness’ is cited by 8 in 10. Proactive problem solving (70%) and knowledge & training (66%) are also key, whilst clients appear to be relatively less concerned about the operational nuts & bolts of the support team, such as offering automated solutions (15%) or having few unopened tickets (25%). 

Thriving in our hybrid world…

Hybrid working brings real challenges to end-user organisations in terms of their IT infrastructure and services, there is a growing need for IT vendors and MSP/MSSPs to: 

  • Provide guidance through online articles, insight and training to highlight the pros & cons, particularly the potential threats associated with hybrid working, BYOD and Shadow IT
  • Potentially offer services to help develop viable company-wide BYOD policies, which can be easily monitored and audited
  • Similarly, audits of existing Shadow IT use may be of value to end-user organisations, including risk assessments of the apps, software and hardware being used, and recommendations on approved tools to adopt in order to fill any existing gaps in employee needs.

In offering such services, to be a true partner and not just a provider, IT vendors must focus on availability of support, flexibility, and consistency of service – ideally delivered via a one-to-one ‘real-time’ support channel. 

 

The survey findings are based on quantitative interviews conducted in December 2022 with 226 Vanson Bourne Community members. All respondents are UK based, representing a range of commercial sectors.

As a member of the Vanson Bourne Community you’ll gain access exclusive to a variety of insights reports just like this one, based on research with our members. 

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