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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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Why You Need to Offer 24x7x365 IT Support

Posted August 10, 2016by Jaq Baldwin

If you're an MSP and you’re not providing 24x7x365 IT support, you're cheating your clients out of services they really need to keep their businesses afloat and stay productive.

Still, many MSPs only offer 9am-5pm Monday-Friday coverage over round-the-clock managed IT services. Why? More often than not, MSPs favor extending the support window, but simply don’t have the bandwidth or internal resources needed. Rather than stretch yourself and your technicians thin, you’re forced into only providing coverage during normal week day business hours.

But IT demands are constant and ongoing. They don’t follow a set schedule. By not offering 24x7x365 IT support, how will you handle workstations in multiple time zones? What will prevent your clients from seeking the peace of mind afforded by your competitors who safeguard their networks during all hours of the day? Most importantly, how can you truly differentiate your services from those of break/fix providers? You offer managed IT services because you understand the value of proactive IT. Are you not, however, stuck in reactive mode when issues arise during after hours and your team is forced to play catch-up the next day?

Why Move to 24x7x365 Coverage (And How You Can Do It)

Providing 24/7 support isn't that big of a leap, yet many MSPs refuse to transition to a fully-managed 24/7 IT solution because of staffing restrictions and overhead costs. Before I discuss how to get around these barriers, consider costlier problems that can emerge during gaps in your coverage. Downtime, loss of productivity, and lack of readiness can snakebite your client if an outage occurs over the weekend and isn’t identified or acknowledged until Monday morning. Not only that, factor in the additional time your team might waste scrambling to detect and troubleshoot the root issue after it has already snowballed into a larger, more pressing concern that’s directly impeding client productivity. Worse yet, you also run the risk of potentially losing a client if you’re not responsive enough (or at all) in emergency situations. You may not be offering 24x7x365 IT management, but someone else is.

So you know providing round-the-clock support can cut costs and increase client satisfaction, but how do you know how to grow your scope of services without adding headcount and exhausting resources? Managed IT services providers can easily leverage a 24x7x365 IT help desk solution, allowing you to offer continuous, white-labeled support for your clients, day or night. For a fixed monthly cost, these highly certified technicians can field low level customer requests—like password resets—in the name of your business, delivering unparalleled customer service to satisfied clients.

Furthermore, with a proper remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform in place, you can receive the remediation steps, alert notification, and fully-managed support needed to assure your clients that they are protected from unplanned downtime and service disruptions.

At Southern Data Solutions, an MSP business in Atlanta, GA, my team has embraced this IT service delivery model, placing key engineers into rotating on-call blocks that keep us covered 24/7. In relying on Continuum’s IT management platform, we are able to identify and remediate problems before they hit a client's network the next morning. Integrated with Continuum’s intelligent RMM technology, their Network Operations Center (NOC) also provides critical event monitoring and notification, as well as remediation on items we call "Tier 1" problems. Also, by allowing our Continuum RMM agents to run on supported workstations and servers all day and night, pre-built scripts can help us kick off a work flow or solve a problem without even lifting a finger.

How has this helped us grow and scale our MSP business? We’ve found that when we offer 24/7 support to all of our customers (not just the ones that stay open 24/7), we strengthen our client relationships and are able to improve retention rates exponentially. In demonstrating that we are able to identify and solve problems all day every day, our clients tell us they feel so much better knowing they have someone they trust in their corner at all times.

The following business scenario exemplifies why offering 24x7x365 IT support is so crucial…

Tax Season for the CPA

At first, a client of ours didn't see the need for 24/7 monitoring and support. Although as the CPA tax season was highly busy and intense, they wanted to keep costs low and predictable. In spite of our cajoling, they signed an agreement with us to have only the most basic level of support with us. It just so happened that their second month with us fell right into the midst of tax season. Unfortunately they were hit with a server outage that crippled them by the time they showed up for work on Monday morning. They of course gave Southern Data Solutions a call and begged us to be onsite within an hour so they could meet their client demands and restore uptime. Since fixing this problem fell outside of our support agreement, all the work we did to recover the server and get them up and running racked up a rather large hourly bill. The client suffered lost hours of productivity that Monday morning, but was also inconvenienced by the amount of time it took our technicians to understand and act to resolve the problem. Again, had they signed up for 24x7x365 monitoring and management, we would have closed the ticket a lot quicker and with minimal impact to their business operations.

In this case, we went back to the client and reminded them of why a full 24/7 support agreement would be beneficial. Since they were less than 60 days into their agreement with us we credited back the hours of IT maintenance work performed to get their business back online. We then allowed them to sign a retroactive agreement, stipulating that they’d receive 24/7 support so as to mitigate the impact of productivity-stalling issues, should they resurface in the future.

As for the server, 24/7 support gave us another mutual advantage. We were able to spot trends with their server and find out why it had failed. As we were now continuously supporting the client and gathering data, we found ways to help them improve and provide even better 24/7 support. 

As a result, we were able to:

  1. Monitor their key server and applications around the clock and look for common issues.
  2. Document what types of support issues kept occurring and what times of day.
  3. Gradually gather enough information to find see if a replacement was actually necessary.
  4. Determine from round-the-clock monitoring and analyzing data on the server that it was indeed time to replace it.
  5. Provide business case for a cost effective server replacement solution once tax season had cooled off, supporting with data and a quote.

This is just one story about how providing 24/7 support has helped our clients save money and maintain productivity, business goals you should be helping all clients meet. It's been a win-win for us because we maximize their uptime and more quickly identify crucial improvements within their operations. Denying your clients full 24x7x365 support weakens your offering from those of your competitors and prevents you from making insightful recommendations for clients’ IT infrastructure. In the end, delivering nonstop IT support provides the peace of mind clients so desperately demand to remain up, running and profitable.

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Jaq Baldwin is a Sales Professional at Southern Data Solutions in Alpharetta, Georgia. He loves working with his customers to provide IT solutions that reduce risk, cost, and liability while increasing productivity and better use of technology in the business world. He loves running, blogging, and watching terrible Sci-Fi movies late at night. Follow him @JaqTech, visit his blog Marathon Sales, or his company Southern Data Solutions to stay in touch.

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