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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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Want More Free Time? Explore the Benefits of Smart-Sourced Solutions

Posted August 20, 2014by Ben Barker

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image source: http://sahapedia.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/124/

An MSP’s world can be a hectic one. If you’re constantly training new technicians and fielding calls from end users, you probably don’t even know the meaning of the word “down time,” unless of course you’re talking about networks and servers. IT issues don’t rest, so if you’re trying to handle all of your clients’ issues in-house, neither do you. 

Think of it this way; if you’re the parent of a small child, you need to provide constant supervision. You never know when you’re going to be needed, so you’re “on call” at all times. There’s no spare time for going out with friends, taking a vacation, or even sneaking in a quick nap. That is, of course, unless you have some help.

Babysitters, nannies, and daycare services provide parents with the opportunity to get things done. Whether it is for work or leisure, everyone needs some personal time now and then.

Hiring a babysitter may not be the best idea for your managed services business, but there is a substitute: a smart-sourced solution!

 

Smart-Sourcing

What is a smart-sourced solution, you ask? Maybe you're wary of outsourcing because you don't want to relinquish control of your business to foreign parties. While we understand this concern, there are aspects of your business that are just too costly to manage completely in-house.

Smart-sourcing is a more effective allocation of your limited resources. Smart-sourcing projects or support activities to an IT help desk or Network Operations Center (NOC) allows MSPs to invest in growing their business. An integrated IT platform is a way to take advantage of multiple services all from one solution. But perhaps its biggest benefit is that it saves you time.


The Down Time That You Actually Want

Take advantage of an integrated platform that streamlines problem resolution by transferring your clients’ technical issues to an off-site IT help desk and/or Network Operations Center (NOC). Why waste time fielding calls and sifting through tickets? With Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) backed up by a NOC, issues that require immediate action are taken care of ASAP.

Here are five time-sucking and budget-draining tasks you can avoid by leveraging a smart-sourced IT help desk and NOC.

 

#1 - IT Technician Churn

Employee morale suffers when your techs waste time and energy on mundane IT tasks. You run the risk of your highly-skilled staff churning because work isn’t rewarding. Not only are you forced to sacrifice needle-moving objectives and customer relationship-building to accommodate the many MSP business demands, but you then face losing valuable, intelligent workers when those demands become too extensive.

When you smart-source and leverage a NOC, you get the support of an extended IT team, without the risk of employee churn. Meanwhile, your techs focus on more gratifying project work, which helps your business to retain and grow its clientele. 

 

#2 - Field emergency calls at 2 am

A good night’s sleep is hard to come by when you’re constantly fielding calls from your clients. There’s no telling when a server is going to crash, so you’ve got to be ready to get your clients’ network back up and running at all times. The luxury of an smart-sourced service desk is a 24/7/365 resource that can provide support to your clients at all hours. You can rest easy knowing that your clients are in good hands while you’re catching some Z’s.

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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/zooboing/ 

 

#3 - Staff Unnecessary & Costly Overnight Shifts

Not only will you not have to worry about getting an impromptu wake-up call, you won’t have to pay to staff an employee through the night. If issues arise after business hours, RMM and NOC integration detects and resolves the threat, often times before you even wake up! Having to staff a technician overnight is costly, and with the unpredictability of alerts, may not even yield any return. Rest easy and cheaply. Leave the after-work issues to someone else!

 

#4 - Filter Through Tickets

Gone are the days of filtering through tickets to identify IT issues that need immediate attention. The integrated platform automatically categorizes the tickets and takes care of the most urgent issues first. Additionally, an integrated platform will consolidate all issues that occurred for the same reason and deliver them in one ticket. This smart-sourced solution saves you a ton of time because you’ll no longer have to deal with repeat issues stemming from the same core cause.

 

#5 -  Build, staff and maintain in-house facilities

When you have the luxury of coupling your IT help desk with a NOC in one unified platform, you’ll never have to worry about the time and expenses that come along with building and sustaining these services in-house. The time, money, and space that you’ll save by using a smart-sourced solution will allow you ample opportunity to grow your business by investing in other areas.


What Do I Do with My Newfound Spare Time?

There are plenty of things you can do to improve your business when you find yourself with some free time. When you’re not constantly running around putting out fires, you’re able to grow your MSP practice in areas that you otherwise wouldn’t have the time or resources to invest in.

Here are a few suggestions on what to do with that elusive spare time.

 

#1 - Build stronger relationships with your clients

It never hurts to spend a little time with your clients. Make some visits and get some face time with the businesses that trust you with their IT strategy. The better the relationship you have with a client, the more likely they are to continue to pay for your service and purchase additional services. It’s much harder for someone to discontinue working with someone that they know on a personal level. If you have weak client relationships, you’re more likely to experience high levels of churn, which is one of the largest costs most MSPs don’t notice. 

Lock those clients down and work on building strong relationships!

 

#2 - Attend industry events

Attend conferences or events that are relevant to your business. There’s no better way to gain knowledge on the industry than by listening to IT professionals with valuable experience. Find out what did/didn’t work for other MSPs and guide your decisions based on what you learned. Help other MSPs by sharing your own experience. It always feels good to help others! Finally, you can take the opportunity to attend events in your target vertical and generate some leads. 

 

#3 - Host a company outing

Keeping your staff happy is important. Let them know you value their hard work by hosting a fun event for your employees and their families. Some positive office morale can go a long way in making sure you’re getting the most out of the people that work for you. Taking your team out for dinner is a good way to show your employees that their work isn’t going unnoticed. 

 

#4 - Focus on under-utilized departments

Spend time with your sales and marketing departments. Understand what their challenges are, what’s being done well and how you can contribute to their success as their leader. Perhaps spending more on your marketing budget will actually help you generate more leads, and perhaps hiring another sales rep will help you close those leads. If you don’t have to spend time seeking out skilled technicians, you’ll be able to make hires in departments that could really help to grow your revenue stream.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/54706868@N06/

 

#5 - Take a vacation 

In fact, a recent study found that sunburn rates are up among MSP employees! Ok, so we doctored that, but more MSPs could take some time off by exploring the benefits of smart-sourced solutions.
When you have peace of mind and assurance that your clients are in good hands, you can take some time off to clear your mind. You may find that you come back to work refreshed and more productive than ever. Don’t forget to reward your employees with some vacation time as well! All of the most successful IT solutions providers are doing it.

 


Conclusion

It can be hard to imagine your business experiencing some of the luxuries discussed in the above text. However, if you run a cost/benefit analysis, you may be surprised to find that they’re more feasible than you’d imagined.

The opportunity to increase productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction is a rare one. Trying to do everything on your own is only going to create more problems for yourself and your MSP business. 

Take help when it's offered. Explore the benefits of working with an integrated IT platform and prepare to see your schedule open up! 


But what should you look for in your third-party RMM solution?...

RMM 101: Must-haves for Your IT Management Solution

Ben is a member of Continuum's marketing team. He specializes in blog content as well as video production. Ben is a graduate of Emerson College and a huge Boston sports fan.

RMM 101: Must-haves for Your IT Management Solution
MSP Guide to Managed Services SLAs  [white paper]
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