In yet another demonstration of where some in the SMB space believe that IT Managed Services can be commoditized, Staples has jumped into the game. Staples publicly announced their new Staples Network Services by Thrive, a three tier offering that includes an assortment of SaaS, remote support desk and onsite tech support. Their goal sounds somewhat similar to the slogans many MSPs display on their marketing material with the following from Small Business Digest.
Jim Lippie, president of Staples Networks Services by Thrive, added, “We’re in the business of providing great customer service and with more than 300 clients, we understand what our clients want. They want us to take ownership of all the headaches, mysteries, and risk associated with maintaining a company’s IT infrastructure, and make it so they never have to think about them again. In a nutshell, they want us to make their IT problems go away, and that’s exactly what we do.”
My opinion? I’ve got good news and bad news for Mr. Lippie. Good news is that they understand what small business owners want. They do want IT issues to just go away or be somebody else’s problems so they can focus on making widgets. The problem is that a large portion of the serious issues faced in managing a small businesses IT infrastructure are not the result of the user or even the technology itself but a result of PPP (that is Piss Poor Planning). When a starry-eyed new business owner walks into the big-box store and asks the sales associate wearing a blue shirt and a yellow name tag, whom uses a MAC to update his MySpace but is too young to vote for Obama high school student what kind of server solution he needs to fit his business, the odds are he is not going to get the one thing he really really needs at this point. He is not going to get the guidance of a caring trusted advisor. He is about to become a number in a cash register transaction that may has as well occurred on the phone with Dell Direct or at Wal-Mart.
Choosing the right solution/technology for the right business reason is critical. Without making the right choice some businesses are destined to face a future of technology failures that go beyond printer jams. Getting multiple technologies working in harmony to achieve a process to support business goals takes more than just a script for off-shore support operators or training on how to make french fries.
I don’t fault Staples for offering these services. In fact I think they should. I just wish they would have kept to offering the commodities such as paper clips and hosted software and left the IT guidance part to trained professionals such as Microsoft SBSC Partners. Staples will probably succeed as well at this as they do offering printing services. I’ve gotten copies made at Staples before but who do you know has hired them to design an print marketing campaign? Get the point? You see, companies like Staples are designed to make money on volume sales by minimally trained employees of commodities like Mc Donald’s does on french fries. Their ability to nurture and manage a trusted advisory relationship with small business is just not in their DNA. It is like asking your dog to hold a bottle of beer in one paw. Without opposable thumbs it’s just not going to work and the beer suffers as a result. My hope is that not too many business owners, in financial desperation, buy into a technology services relationship based on price as the primary reason. That is a business failure waiting to happen.
If you are an SBSC or just an IT VAR / MSP in the small business space you should see this as yet another of countless wake up calls to sell trust and NOT technology. You have one thing Microsoft, Staple, Dell and the rest can never have. You have the ability to maintain a persona to person or business owner to business owner relationship with your small business customers. Cherish it! And as I’ve said in several prior post, keep your eye on the ball! Your customer is the ball…