Call me a bit nosy, but I like knowing what’s going on in other IT organizations. As someone who’s been in the tech industry for decades, I know what an optimized process and healthy workplace looks like, and I also care that tech teams are functioning at their best – that’s why I started ServiceTree in the first place.
When it comes to a knowledge base (KB) platform, you will find that people belong to one of two groups.
Social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in slapdash transitions to a remote workplace. Naturally, I was curious to see how other MSPs are handling the transition, and I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to MSPs all around the world.
Going from one MSP to another, it’s fascinating to see the similarities and also the differences in how we in the MSP community are delivering very similar services, yet going about it in very different ways.
Which PSA is the best? Perhaps that is a very biased question. For those who are a ConnectWise or Autotask you may say…
Process —ahh, that word again. The word that makes most business owners and entrepreneurs cringe. But why?
ServiceTree will be replacing its full-stack software with a plugin that seamlessly integrates with ConnectWise Manage and Autotask.
One of the questions that invariably pops up when any group of MSP owners are talking is price.
What do you charge? How do you charge? What’s your best margin solution?
My answer to that question is fairly simple: Your services automation tool should answer those questions. You should be able to see the uptime (or downtime) of any solution you deploy with your customers, You should be able to easily see what products are consistently triggering support tickets, and which solutions are sailing along smoothly.
The cost of a solution isn’t its price tag, it’s the cost to your business to keep that solution delivering in your customer’s environment.
Many MSPs struggle with pricing because they don’t have or don’t know how to use the data from their own business. How do I know that? Because, in the early days of our own MSP business, This Solution, we were running blind. We were constantly trying to understand and, in some cases, micromanage our costs. The issue? We weren’t looking at our staff as a cost we could effectively manage. Instead, we were completely focused on what products we could squeeze more money out of. We also weren’t delving into where our products were adding to our costs by routinely demanding technician attention. It’s at the intersection of labor and product where most bad things happen for MPS businesses.
Tried, Tested in a Real MSP Environment
When we invested in the technology that became ServiceTree, we knew that having accurate, real-time data about each solution we deploy, in each customer’s site, was elemental to not only delivering a good customer experience but also pricing our services and offerings correctly to maintain margin.
That’s why our tool’s UI clearly shows data on each solution, its ticketing history and more. With our real-time data, MSPs can see what costs money—wasted tech time, troublesome products, needy customers (come on, we’ve all been there …). After you act to right the ship, you can then easily track the impact of whatever change you make—the data will tell the tale.
Sometimes a troubled business can make one simple change to staffing, to a product line or support level in a contract, and see a tremendous impact on their margins and, ultimately, the bottom line. Learn how our intuitive UI helps you see real-time data from your business and make seeing trends and hiccups easy.
One of the most difficult parts of owning a services business is developing, standardizing and then meeting SLAs. While most MSPs, including our own This Solution, have standard agreement levels with our customers. But even with standardization comes variances and exceptions within those contracts as we tweak for size or geographies, response time tolerance, unique vertical demands, etc.
Keeping tabs on those details can be painstaking and time-consuming. Perhaps more importantly, while executing against those contracts and SLAs is definitely a team effort, managing them is not. Unfortunately, many MSPs leave those details—which customer and project combination is a priority—to their tech team members to determine, which is not only ineffective but can be costly.
Let’s be clear, you hire your techs for their skill with technology, not to be the hallway monitors for your customer contracts. Asking them to do that is simply setting them up for frustration and your business up for potential failure.
Take the Guesswork Out of SLAs
As a manager, I want to have my SLAs integrated into my services automation tool. With ServiceTree, once a contract is in the solution, support tickets are intelligently routed by customer, project, SLA and more to ensure the right ticket is getting to the right tech at the right time. No longer will your techs have to look at a list of tickets from multiple customers and waste time trying to determine the next step.
Why is this important? Not only does our PSA solution enable the manager charged with coordinating your SLAs with a full line of sight into real-time activities tied to each contract, it keeps your technicians from having to look up each contract every time a ticket hits. More effective. More timely. More accurate. That is what a good services automation tool should do for your MSP business.
Want to see how we support SLAs in your business, check out our demo.
Professional Service Automation (PSA) platforms typically include a knowledge base where clients can find answers to basic questions without contacting the help desk. Ironically, the ‘automation’ element is a misnomer (most PSA solutions include little to no automation), and the knowledge base component is usually static in nature. So not much automation going on here…
There’s a much better way to handle both.
A question tree (a.k.a. decision tree) approach to PSA optimizes the knowledge base by automating the answers according to pre-configured rules – which evolve over time. This can serve MSP techs and end-users alike, creating a more interactive system for both.
At its simplest level, chatbots use question tree automation to answer common questions from end-user customers. For example, a site visitor might want to know if the solution provider’s product integrates with a certain piece of software, so they ask the chatbot (pop-up chat window). While this information might be available within a self-help knowledge base article, it’s much easier to ask the chatbot.
Here’s HubSpot’s definition of a decision tree:
“A decision tree is a flowchart-style diagram to help you analyze various courses of action you might take for any given obstacle and the consequences for each. There are three parts to a decision tree: the root node, leaf nodes, and branches. This method can help you weigh risk versus reward, and map out a course of action to follow.”
Question Tree vs. Knowledge Base
MSPs are the outsourced IT departments for modern businesses; their main function is to support their clients IT infrastructure 24/7, or on an as-needed basis. Clients partner with MSPs to gain the knowledge, expertise, and tools to streamline, optimize, and secure their IT systems, in order to deliver quality service to their clients.
That’s why it’s important for MSPs to optimize their knowledge base with a question tree structure. Having a PSA platform with a knowledge base isn’t enough anymore; its lack of interactive functionality fails to solve many of the questions clients have.
A question tree, on the other hand, is interactive, and it can automate an MSP’s help desk and resolve common questions without involving staff. The question tree based PSA platform is an interactive self-help tool, while the knowledge base PSA platform is a static self-help tool.
Question Trees Leverage Automation to Solve IT Issues
Saving labour costs is important to MSPs as it’s typically the largest expense.
Scaling services to meet the needs of modern enterprises means MSPs are often stretched thin when it comes to skilled IT technicians. Question tree based PSA platforms help alleviate the need for technicians to intervene with every question clients may have.
Reducing the number of tickets without reducing the quality of service is what MSPs want from their PSA platform. Question trees can help achieve this goal.
Automating help desk features for clients not only save money, it also improves customer service, too. When clients are able to resolve IT issues themselves with an interactive question tree, they save time and they feel more empowered. After all, submitting a ticket or calling the MSP’s help desk is often the last resort for clients.
Take for instance the results from a recent Zendesk study:
- 75% of survey respondents said self-service is a convenient way to address customer service issues.
- 67% of respondents said they preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative.
- 91% of survey respondents said they would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.
Gartner predicts that by 2020 a customer will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.
This percentage may be lower for MSPs, considering their service relationship needs with clients, yet it still indicates the desire for customers/clients to help themselves with service issues. In other words, the type of issues MSP clients have is more technical and complex in nature than regular consumers buying a product or using a service in other industries. Yet, even with the complexity of IT, MSPs will benefit more than most by resolving them through automation.
Here are some reasons why this is true:
- Most clients aren’t proficient with the complexities of IT systems
- IT issues can bottleneck workflows and stifle productivity
- Staff limitations for MSPs
- SMEs often don’t have IT teams that can understand and resolve common issues
- Modern enterprises are constantly integrating and upgrading systems
- IT issues can happen at any time day or night
- Many common IT issues can be resolved with simple instructions or explanations
The Bottom Line
Question tree based PSA platforms provide more than self-service; they provide intelligent tools that help resolve common IT issues according to past client behaviour and rules-based criterion set by internal users. Both internal teams and clients will benefit by having this type of interactive, intelligent tool to resolve and standardize common issues.
Modern MSPs can reduce help desk ticket volumes without diminishing the quality of their service by adopting question tree based PSA solutions. Enhancing the knowledge base with an interactive question tree tool will expand a client’s ability to help themselves while reducing redundancy with common IT issues.
To learn how ServiceTree has taken PSA and redefined it with powerful question trees and real end-to-end automation, click here.