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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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10 Mistakes to Avoid with Your MSP Service Delivery

Posted June 30, 2016by Charles Love


When it comes to IT service delivery there is a lot that can either go right or wrong. An optimal client experience can increase retention rates and the average lifetime value of a customer. One single negative client experience, however, can send customers into the arms of your fiercest competitor. So how can we prevent this from happening? How can you create a culture of client satisfaction for your whole MSP operation and enhance service delivery? Eschewing these 10 common pitfalls is a start...

 

1. Not Requiring Customer Reviews or Quarterly Business Reviews

Customer reviews are very important and, in some cases, required by the terms of your Services Agreement. I am personally in favor of face-to-face meetings, or as a backup plan, will leverage video chat systems to hold client meetings. Treat customer reviews as a time to find out what you are doing well and what needs to be improved. Please keep in mind that these check-ins are not meant to regurgitate your stats and tell clients how awesome you are. The purpose of quarterly business reviews (QBRs) is not even to try to upsell customers on your new offerings or widgets, but rather to gauge the current level of client satisfaction. You can uncover problems you didn't know existed or new opportunities to demonstrate your value during these meetings. Sure, you can go ahead and talk to them about ditching that ol’ tape backup in favor of cloud backup - but save it for the end. Keep the meeting personal and informal, and remember: let them talk. All you have to do is listen.


2. Not Reviewing Agreements Yearly

It's necessary to have an “all hands” operational internal audit process each year to verify your agreements and solutions, and see how they are working out for you. Are they profitable? Do they get the job done? Come up with a checklist of all of your offerings, and make sure that everyone who should have them does have them. It's also a good time to ask your vendors if there are new pricing agreements and to ensure that what is being covered is properly accounted for in your system. Review your managed IT services agreements to verify that you are charging clients the right amount. Very often you will find that you are overcharging a customer, or more commonly, undercharging them. Many MSPs do à la carte or fixed pricing, where it’s a single cost for “all services,” but customer growth or attrition can sneak up on you. MSP agreements need to be able to flex both ways with the customer. If a given client had one server and 25 users last year, how do you handle growth now that they have three servers and 66 users? Auditing yourself and your process should be a priority for your team.

 

3. Not Going the Extra Mile

This mistake is far more common than I would like. As mentioned in my previous article explaining how to go the extra mile with service delivery, it is very important to do more than what is asked of you when supporting your customers. Practicing common courtesy, like asking if there are any other issues that you can help with – goes a very long way.

4. Doing Project Work That Is out of Your Wheelhouse

In some cases, a customer will ask you to work on something that is not a part of your core service offering. Don't take on tasks you are not equipped to complete successfully just to avoid disappointing clients. And if you don't have the bandwidth or skillset required, request support to ensure that your client receives the best service delivery. I often use Continuum’s Tech Advantage team to help with gaps in my team’s core expertise. Even if the technology you may need assistance with is not on the price list, there's no harm in asking about it - chances are someone on the team has done it! The worst thing you can do is try to launch a new offering with no testing, no major footing and no business plan.


5. Assuming That Your Customer Is a Raving Fan

Another issue we come across is when an MSP assumes all is well with a client because they have no known complaints. Investing in a survey tool is a great way to increase your customer satisfaction index! Make it quick and easy - a simple three option survey is a great way to ask your users how they feel about your service. Include a follow up question to ask them why they feel the way that they do. It is amazing what can come out of these quick surveys!


6. Using Email as Your Primary Contact Mechanism

How many emails have you deleted in the last four hours? Chances are, there have been a lot, and I'm not just talking spam. While email is a powerful marketing channel all businesses should be leveraging, the key is to do so sparingly. Daily email noise can distract customers from your messaging. Techs and admins tend to hide behind ticket status, but many people don’t always read every message delivered to their inbox. I recently did business with another MSP and kept receiving ticket status updates - any time someone touched the ticket, I was notified. It diluted the messaging, and chances are your customers will get sick of it and head for the delete key. They likely assume that if it’s important enough, you will call. In my opinion, calling is the best way to update clients on ticket progress. Update your tickets for record keeping, but don’t ask customers to call you back via email – it's impersonal. Just pick up the phone and close the loop.


7. Telling a Customer You Are Busy with Another Customer

When dealing with your customers, they need your attention. Your full attention. Stay off of your mobile phone and give them the attention that they deserve. If they are looking for one of your team members, never say that they are with another customer. Just tell the client that the team member is unavailable. Treat every customer like they are your only customer. Remember, business is all about feelings and personal connections. In most cases, people do business with people, not with part numbers and prices. By doing all of this, we can exceed our customers’ expectations and create loyal fans of our brand, products and services.

 

8. Not Practicing Common Professional Etiquette

When conversing with your customers and your peers, be sure to use proper etiquette. It's easy to forget this in the digital age of short attention spans and clipped exchanges! It always strikes me as odd when I see two people talking on the phone in a television show and one just hangs up – there is never any closure! This may seem like common sense, but I have been in a similar situation in which I had no idea that the person hung up on me. It is common courtesy to not only properly greet someone on the phone, but also to formally end the conversation. When it comes to greeting someone on a phone call, a professional way to answer the phone is to state your name and company - answering the phone with “yeah” or “what” (believe me, it happens!) is not a respectful way to answer the phone, especially in a professional setting. Avoid answering the phone with an informal “hello." It creates the sense that the client has called a residential number. Finally, when starting your call, always ask the person if it is a good time to talk. If they have a meeting in 10 minutes, they will certainly let you know! Asking this sets a verbal contract and ensures that you are not disrupting your client's day.

 

9. Going “Rogue” on Procedure

You likely have standard procedures for almost every scenario that you may come across, along with a set of protocols you follow in order to best support your customers. It is very important that the support experience with your users is consistent. Be sure your team knows the boundaries of what they can and can’t do. The Internet is full of great tools, but make sure to ask yourself if what you are using is acceptable for a business setting. Sure, there may be hundreds of articles telling you to use this tool to solve your problem, but legally can you? Very often I find when we acquire a new customer, the previous IT Team used free versions of anti-malware or antivirus software. Free versions of software are not for business use, and using them as such typically violates license agreements. Luckily for us, Continuum bundles Malwarebytes Pro into their IT management platform. Read the license of any tool you are considering before implementing it for commercial use. Then double check that everyone on your team understands what is and isn't acceptable so you are all on the same page. 

 

10. Using the Same Password

It still amazes me to this day that people do not treat passwords like social security cards. Would you put your SSN Card under your keyboard? How about a sticky note? One of the biggest mistakes you can make is setting the same password for multiple accounts. Think about how frequently you hear stories about data breaches and password hackings. Twitter, LinkedIn - you name it. Just recently it was revealed that millions of passwords were stolen from Twitter! Most people use the same password for Linkedin, Twitter, Google, iTunes and others, and just one stolen password can become a huge hassle. As service providers, we have an obligation to teach our customers the do’s and don’ts of IT Security. This means we must lead by example. When your tech sends a customer a password how is it sent? Is it via a one-time note destroy? Is it a text, maybe a call? Password management is a key part in our business model. Just as you should teach your clients to never use a password that is easy to guess, and to never use the same password for more than one account, reinforce these principles with your team. If you set a basic password, and a system is compromised, who takes the blame? Password management solutions and password generators are must have’s in this new world of constant cyber threats.

 

If you avoid these mistakes, you can ensure that both you and your customers get all that you can out of your MSP service delivery. So buckle down and make sure to treat your customers well, stay up to date on your service agreements, follow procedures and avoid making careless mistakes or errors in judgment! If you follow these best practices, you will surely create the best possible experience for both you and your customers.

Improve-MSP-SLAs

Charles Love has been working in the IT Support and Consulting field since 1997. Before IT, Charles was working on his FAA A&P Airline Mechanic Certification. Throughout his career he has provided valuable consulting to various types of customers and technologies throughout North America. Charles’ role includes developing new and streamlined processes for all of Untangled Solutions’s offerings and solutions. Charles’ daily focus is the operational duties mostly revolving around back end systems that our customers use. These systems include our HelpDesk, NOC Services, RMM Tools, Billing Systems, Backup Systems, Cloud Farm, and various other customer facing cloud based products. In 2014 Charles was voted into the CompTIA Managed Services Executive Council. The goal of the Managed Services Community is to advance the managed IT services industry through the promotion of best practices, the development of tools and templates and the refining of educational tracks for other solution providers. Charles has also been invited to be a speaker for many industry events. You can often find him at Managed Services Trade-shows participating on panels, or being involved in interactive sessions. With a passion for customer support, you can count on Charles for caring about your infrastructure from the desktop to the cloud. Most people know Charles as the brains behind some of our latest technology solutions but what most people don’t know is that he moonlights as a Cub Scout Cub Master and a Boy Scouts Assistant Scout Master.

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