Like any other service-based industry, an MSP is only as good as its people. Yes, tools are important, but unless you plan on hiring robots and AI to do all your support, people will be your special sauce that your customers will appreciate.
Having had an MSP since 2000, I am especially aware that finding the right staff is far from fun. When we think we have found the right person, we add them to our team, and if all goes well after a few months, things are in synergy. Sounds easy, we can just keep doing it to scale. But the truth is that sometimes adding one new person triggers others to leave, so it’s a delicate balancing act. For those who don’t consider the importance of team building and getting the right balance, this will just sound like hot air.
Through the years, we looked at many ways to try and ensure we had the right balance. About six years ago, we started to use DISC profiles, which was a different step in the right direction. And this approach only improved when we came across an online DISC tool that took it one step further by showing how your current team would adapt with the new candidate even before they started! Yes, you might say that’s not possible, but from my previous experience, it was more accurate than anyone would want to believe.
So, once we have our service team up and running, we need to be clear what the after-hours expectations are. We also need to be mindful that these expectations are aligned with a WIN-WIN outcome.
This is very relevant to after-hours support. IT is one of the industries that everyone expects it to always work. People nowadays depend less on IT support thanks to the migration to the cloud, but most MSPs will be offering some level of after-hours support for their customers. What this support looks like, and how its achieved is unfortunately quite often left as an afterthought, though after we have “sold” this to our prospective customers, we hope the chances of them needing it are very, very low.
When the time does come—and we all know it will come when we are least prepared— is our team available to help the customer? How do we expect the customer to contact us? Do they call the normal support number, or is there another after-hours support number? Or would you allow customers to send critical requests via email? And if so, would they expect to be able to do the same after hours?
With support issues being logged via email, I don’t know of many MSPs that treat emails sent from their customers as a high priority. The email technology was never one designed to be dependable as high priority/urgent. The only type of MSPs I have spoken to that allow this practice are small MSPs, generally with less than five employees.
Put yourself into the same position as a consumer because, at the end of the day, we are all consumers. Would you want to email your electric company and tell them that you lost electricity? Do you think this email would be treated as a high priority or get lost among hundreds of others? Even if it returned an auto-acknowledgment email, would it make you feel like, “Great! they know I am in the dark, I am sure someone is looking into it”? or would you pick up the phone and call them to make sure it is being looked into? Will they even accept a critical issue like that via email?
If you do allow customers to log important/high priority requests just via email, what happens after hours? Do you expect your “on-call” tech to listen out for a notification on their mobile and look at their phone every 10 minutes? Would you fire your on-call tech if they didn’t see an email at 7 p.m. on Saturday, or 3 a.m. on Sunday? if you would not fire them, what is the expectation? If you would fire them over this shortcoming, then expect to pay them and be very specific as to their requirements. Otherwise, it becomes the broken-window theory.
Some MSPs who don’t have the size to justify having a 24×7 service desk use an outsourced model to provide coverage outside of business hours. Just keep in mind, that this can work, but you will need to ensure your documentation is very well done; otherwise, you are throwing away money believing that they can be there when your team is offline.
It may, to some, seem like an easy task to put together and offer the service of after-hours support. However, as we have seen, it is extremely important to think through the entire model, requirements, procedures, both internal and external expectations of 24-hour support. It can be a critical and unexpected element that makes or breaks the customer relationship you have fostered and built. In a single occurrence, you can lose a loyal customer due to the lack of preparedness that comes with the seemingly simple offering 24-hour support.