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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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Did You Sign Your Clients' Mid-Yearbook?

Posted June 30, 2015by Lily Teplow

 

Semi-annual-Quarterly-Business-Reviews-Mid-yearbook.png

 

As an MSP, you should aspire to not only be the “IT guy” for your clients, but also a trusted business partner. Your clients look to you to provide reliable IT services, but you should also be someone they can rely on for advice and be actively involved in their business plan. One of the most effective methods for achieving this goal is conducting a semi-annual or quarterly business review, which brings us to the next item on our summer buckIT list: know how to perform a proper business review with your clients, and be even more prepared for your next meeting!

Taking time to meet with your clients face-to-face and review the previous period's progress is important for all MSPs. The month of June provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on the job you have done so far, and also plan out where your clients want to head in the coming months. Growing up, the end of June always meant the end of the school year, which was cemented in that archive of scholastic and extracurricular milestones known as a yearbook. Reflecting back on the highlights of the year with your classmates was always a special time, which is why you should show your clients that same appreciation. With today being the last day of the quarter, you should have already met with your clients and held a semi-annual or quarterly business review. In this post, we will cover the items you should have reviewed with your clients so that you're properly prepared for your next meeting. It will be here sooner than you think! In case you didn’t accomplish all of these to-dos, we’ve suggested some bare minimum things you can do in the meantime to further solidify your contracts with clients!

 

Reflect with your mid-yearbook!

Back in the good ol' days, students took part in the annual June ritual of buying yearbooks, sifting through their contents for photos of friends, and passing them around to be signed by as many people as possible. It's always rewarding reflecting back on previous accomplishments and growth. Who you were when you posed for that class picture was not who you were when you packed up your desk after mastering a year's worth of algebra and social studies.

Semi-annual or quarterly business reviews are the MSP equivalent! Reflecting on your year, half-year, or quarter can help you and your clients identify and fix any current issues or inefficiencies. Similarly, performing business reviews can help you establish new goals and create a road map to help your clients achieve their core business objectives. When you check-in mid-year with your clients, it’s like signing their mid-yearbook. To be the best adviser to your clients, you should not only be a provider of IT services, but also offer guidance for their business growth.

In the technology industry, there’s a concept called vCIO (virtual Chief Information Officer). Every MSP should adopt this role so that they can help implement IT solutions and provide guidance for clients' IT teams. As your clients' vCIO, you should already be looking at their overall company growth, current employee capacity and expected growth, and operational efficiency, providing thoughtful IT recommendations based on this data. Business reviews provide the perfect opportunity to act as a vCIO for your clients. Don't just be the kid that writes "HAGS: Have a good summer." Your clients will appreciate your attention to detail and careful analysis of their operations. Performing business reviews will help reinforce the value you add to your clients’ business, thus making your relationship stronger and your services “stickier."

 

What you should have reviewed with your clients:

Since it’s about the end of Q2, you should have already met with your clients and conducted your semi-annual or quarterly business review. When you sign your clients’ mid-yearbook it’s important to make an impression! You need to show them that you are more than just a provider, you are also an adviser. Meeting with your clients will allow you to improve your relationship and ensure that they notice the behind-the-scenes, remote, work you are doing. Each MSP-client relationship is different, but here are some key things you should have covered in your review.

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

SLAs are designed to ensure that both you and your client understand what is expected from the relationship. If, for instance, your SLA includes a description of the products and services you are offering, it is important to look over those with your client to confirm that they are satisfied. Are you meeting the response time you established with them previously? By reviewing your SLA with your client, you can reflect on what you have both agreed upon, ensure that you are fulfilling your commitments, and also adjust any expectations accordingly.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are used to measure the success and performance of various aspects of your client's business. They can differ from business to business, so it’s important to map them out with each client. Backing those SLAs with key data for the KPIs is a good way to make sure you’re supporting your clients and helping them stay profitable. This is also a good opportunity to reinforce the current KPIs you're already overseeing for your client, or come up with new ones to track.

Looking forward

You should never be afraid to ask your clients questions. Understanding their short-term and long-term key goals and what direction they want to go in can only strengthen the relationship. After reflecting on your job so far, tackle the future. Once they've shared their IT priorities, together you can create a blueprint and budget for how they'll get there. If they're planning on upgrading or introducing any major infrastructure changes down the line, it's better to account for these enhancements months or even a full year before undergoing them. Once you've determined which products and services they'll need for the coming period, give your clients a printed purchase order for their records. And as always, remember to consider how you'll measure success when developing future plans with your customer base. 

 

What can you do in the meantime?

If you missed out on doing a semi-annual or quarterly business review, don’t fret. It’s never too late to check-in with your clients. Here are some tips to help you be better prepared for your next meeting!

Set a calendar reminder for late November to help you get the ball rolling on your next review. Don't just wait until your next review for a temperature check. Maintain regular communication with your clients, and be sure to check-in on their progress. If you want to be a trusted adviser, a true vCIO, you have to reach out to them.

If you did do a full business review with your clients and discussed upcoming products and services, send a follow-up email to them describing those again. Joy Beland of LA IT Girl, one of our beloved partners and speaker at Navigate 2014, agrees that it’s important to both discuss the customer’s needs and suggest new technologies and products. Keeping your clients in the loop, and also making an effort to check-in with them is like signing a whole page in their mid-yearbook, it shows them that you care and that they're not just a service agreement to you. 

The bottom line is that you want to be more than just a name in your clients’ mid-yearbook. By performing these semi-annual business reviews and taking time to reflect on your business year, you will ensure that your relationship stays strong and that your clients will see you as someone they can go to for advice and guidance.


MSP Class Superlatives 

One of my favorite parts about those yearbooks was looking at the superlatives we gave to our classmates. At Continuum, we're close with our partners and decided that our mid-yearbook wouldn’t be complete without some partner superlatives! Take a look at the ones below and submit which partner you think best fits each superlative!

Create your own user feedback survey

 

MSP Guide to Managed Services SLAs  [white paper]

Meet Lily Teplow! After majoring in Communications and French, Lily graduated from South Carolina's Furman University and now takes on her new role as Content Marketing Associate and Blog Manager at Continuum. In her spare time, Lily enjoys singing, traveling, and cheering on her favorite Boston sports teams!

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