Despite the calendar saying the year is only half over, before you know it 2019 will be upon us. But between now and then lies a tremendous, once-per-year opportunity that often sneaks up on us and gets missed without adequate planning.
What is this annual event that MSPs should be thinking about months in advance? It’s the December holiday season! But this doesn’t just mean getting your gift shopping done early or planning your holiday travel before all the good plane tickets are taken.
December represents two key types of client events that MSPs should be thinking about right now, even if they’d rather focus on their summer vacations: holiday-related business surges for seasonal businesses and upgrade/downtime opportunities for non-seasonal clients.
Shoring things up for the busy season
If you have customers that see a spike in traffic, transactions or demand during the holiday season, now is the time to figure out how you can prepare their infrastructure to survive and thrive during the crush of usage that will be headed their way during the fourth quarter.
Start by looking back at what happened the previous fourth quarter: Who experienced capacity issues? Who had performance complaints? Who was dangerously close to outages and sales impact? Who generated the most support tickets during the holiday rush?
This gives you a starting point for coming up with a priority list of customers and projects to beef up performance. The next step is to talk to your customers with seasonal surges and see if they’re predicting significant year-over-year increases in traffic and transactions. If so, you can get proactive by assessing what can be done between now and then to prepare their infrastructure for a spike in business.
Finally, you can assess which of your customers experienced “bend-but-not-break” situations where their sites and services didn’t actually break down or exceed their capacity, but their performance was pushing the limits. These may be ripe candidates for upgrades or increasing computing power and storage. You can also use this as an opportunity to see if more favorable pricing makes sense to they’re not getting crushed with one-time “a la carte” cloud purchases that weren’t in the budget.
Regardless of what camp your seasonal customers may be in, now is the time to approach them with proposals and plans to prepare them for the holiday season. They’re already starting to think about staffing and inventory and marketing initiatives; IT won’t get a lot of attention come October, plus by then it might be too late to shore up their systems before they lock things down for shopping season.
Their time off is your time to get things done
For non-seasonal businesses, the holiday season represents a completely different opportunity – the chance to work on critical systems without disrupting business.
During the rest of the year, there’s only so much that can be done on a weekend or after hours. This makes it pretty hard to find a chunk of time when you can take a major business function offline to perform critical maintenance, replace hardware or migrate to a new platform without potentially making it difficult for your customers to do their jobs.
But once a year many businesses either shut down completely or scale back to a skeleton crew. This winter break is the perfect time to undertake larger maintenance and upgrade projects that would ordinarily be very problematic for customers.
However, you can’t wait until November or early December to spring this idea on your clients; instead you need to start now to get these critical tasks scheduled well in advance, especially since your clients will want to be sure they won’t be returning from their winter vacations to a non-functioning disaster.
To make the most of the December opportunity you will want to:
- Identify critical which projects for each customer are most disruptive
- Rank them in terms of priority
- Assess how much your team can realistically accomplish during that time (especially since some of your own employees might want to take time off)
- Begin sequentially approaching clients now to start scheduling this important work
This ensures you get the biggest return from seasonal downtime without overcommitting or stretching your team too far. While you won’t be able to get every downtime-creating item crossed off your list, making a big dent while not impacting client operations is a win-win result for everyone.
Make your list and check it twice
With so much at stake during the Q4 window, MSPs have no excuse not to be planning ahead now while you still have a chance to act strategically instead of just putting out fires. Leverage your tools and last year’s performance to create data-driven business cases for clients and prioritize which initiatives will have the greatest ROI for your customers and your own operations.
Getting ahead of the holiday season can be the difference between a happy customer base and a stress-free December and a lot of late nights and frantic support scrambles when you’d rather be sipping eggnog by the fire.