Customer Service and The Seesaw Effect

In today’s post, Paul Azad, the founder of ServiceTree talks about a few elements of an MSP and the job is going to be related to the customer, ensuring that we can achieve customer satisfaction, and also ensure that our customers are sticking around for the right reason.


Why an SLA is a powerful way to ensure you have a clear objective?

So the first part of this is SLAs. Now, it’s interesting enough that I hear many times that MSPs don’t have an SLA, which I find really surprising. The first part of it is, if you don’t have an SLA, then how are your customers measuring you? And how are they measuring if you’re achieving what you’re supposed to be doing?  A lot of MSPs are in the reactive position where they do things like have quarterly business reviews to ensure that the customer is communicated and get feedback from the customer. But a lot of those times these QBRs are just really talking about the statistics of what you guys have done as an MSP. 

What isn’t generally covered is SLAs. And that’s because a lot of MSPs don’t have estimated SLAs in place. And if they do, the SLAs in place, they actually not measuring them in our quantifiable way. 

The reason why an SLA is really, really important is that when push comes to shove, unfortunately, a lot of times a consumer is going to go and look at price to define if the relationship or the product or service is a value. I’m not going to talk about value today, I’ve already covered it in another post. But in simple terms, if you’re only being able to be judged based on pricing, then it’s really, really easy for another MSP to come in and undercut you. And all of a sudden, all that hard effort you’ve put into place and all that hard work you’ve done goes out the door. 

Therefore, an SLA is a really, really powerful way to ensure that you have a clear objective of what you’re going to try to achieve and that from a customer’s point of view, they know what your goals are. This isn’t an exit out of jail car, just because you got an SLA it doesn’t mean that you’re all good to go. What I mean by that is, having an SLA is actually holding you accountable in your organization just as much as it’s holding the MSPs customer accountable for what they’re supposed to be doing for you to achieve, your targets. 

What are the areas that an SLA covers? Well, I’ll show that, as it becomes quite powerful is how you’re able to ensure that the customer is doing what they need to be doing as part of the relationship. A perfect example is tickets that go on hold because of the customer. It’s really interesting because a lot of business owners don’t really think that their staff put a ticket on hold or their staff put a ticket into a position that the MSP cannot help them. I can tell you from my MSP tickets that generally dragged on the post, 24 or 48 hours, was generally because the customer didn’t really care enough about the ticket. And might have been a case that a staff member had an issue with a device, you asked him to do something as simple as reboot the machine, and then they never got back to you. 


The equation

Now, if you don’t have an SLA in place, and there are later covered things, our SLO will stop when we require the customer to do something, and until they’ve done that, we really can’t help you, then it becomes very gray. Because when things don’t work, and that team member of your customer complaints are for example – I’ve had this issue with my device, MSPs now helping us, they’re really bad. It’s really gray as to whose fault it is. And it’s very easy for the business owner or your customer to turn around and, put your whole relationship in jeopardy just because of that. So that’s one part of the actual equation. 

The second part of it is from the clarity of your team. They should also have objectives and goals as to what your team should be doing. Internally, you should actually be working towards overlays and not SLAs. An SLA is a service level agreement, which is generally what’s going to be communicated between the customer and yourself. And the overlay is generally going to be used internally within the organization being the MSP. And that stands for an operational-level agreement. So an overlay is, has to be achieved internally for you to be able to achieve your SLA. In simple terms, if you’ve got an SLA of eight hours to resolve, let’s just say password reset (that’s a really long time, but just so I can use it for something simple) then, I might be one hour to get the ticket allocated, two hours to get the ticket worked on, three hours buffer, so that way, it’s made sure it’s been resolved. So outlay is just as important. And that’s another the figures or the statistics that you internally should be measuring within your team. 


The Seesaw Effect

The second element I wanted to talk about was the seesaw effect. When I talk to businesses, and I will talk more about my MSP side of what I do, I always talk about the seesaw, when I talk about something that might mean the customer has a different view of what I see, or maybe in some times, the customer has received other information from another source or maybe from another vendor. I’ve been in many situations where I’ve got a customer in play, or maybe even, it’s a new opportunity, and I will look at the actual requirements of what the customer is trying to achieve. Based on that, I will say, this is what we should be doing. 


Another organization’s two cents in the picture.

Now, it’s not uncommon that another person, another organization, has put their two cents into the picture, and maybe they’ve bid for the project. Or maybe they’ve just had a conversation. And I’ve seen it many times where you look at what’s been proposed, and you realize – This is a bit overkill for what we really need to do –  I actually had this happen in the last 24 hours with one of our prospects in my MSP, they had another organization that was trying to put wireless access points into this business, and they wanted an engineer to come out and do a site survey for wireless access points. Yes, a site survey by an engineer. Now, this wasn’t a complicated building, this is an office space, that was about 30 feet by 120 feet, it was nothing, I would have thought a 15-year-old kid could work this one out. And I said – This is what we’re gonna do. This is where the access points should go – And he said, – We had another organization that came out and suggested that they should do a site survey and network survey of the environment. Why wouldn’t you do that? – And my simple answer was – We can do that. But why do you need that? – When I looked at the environment, I can, and this is an example to say so,  this other organization, was going to put a lot of time energy and effort, and money into it. The seesaw, the cost was really high. And I could have imagined without even saying what the results were going to be, the whole project to put two simple wireless access points was going to be very high. The other side of the seesaw was that the output would have been 100%, the best that could be, because they would have had the access points designed specked out exactly where it would be for the best coverage; maybe not two access points, there might have even made a three or four. 

The seesaw down the bottom part of it was the risk or the possibility of things didn’t work exactly the plan. In that example, the seesaw the cost time edge is very high, and the risk is very low. And that same seesaw effect can work with just about anything. 


What’s the cheapest thing you’ve got?

When you think of an insurance policy for a vehicle, you can get cheap insurance policies, and you can have very expensive insurance policies, you can have even travel insurance right. I’m going to a use travel insurance example because it might be the simpler one to use. If you’ve got a travel policy that is to go into Europe, you might have to find the difference between a basic one and a very expensive one is generally going to be two or three times as expensive. Now, again, if you look at the policy, the most expensive one covers everything. It would more than likely cover if your wife broke their fingernail, but the cost is extremely high. But the chances of something not being covered are extremely low. On the other extreme, you might go to a totally really, really cheap entry-level policy and that policy cost is really low because it covers very, very little. And there are as many loopholes in the actual policy, as you’ve got availability of utilizing the policy. Therefore, the cost is very low, but the risk or the chances of something not working is very high. 

It’s not always going to be the best idea to go for the most expensive and therefore the lowest risk. But, it’s almost always not a good idea to go for the cheapest way and the highest risk. So, when I talk about the seesaw, it really goes back down to that. 

And with the prospective customer that I spoke to, in the last 24 hours, I said to him, I said – Listen, I can put two access points in here, based on we’ve done wireless access once before, it’s not something that’s very hard in this environment, I can put one over here, one over here, the cost is x, and will be done and dusted. And you can go down the other route, I don’t even know what the other guys are going to charge you. But I can imagine that it’s going to cost a lot more. – So as I said to the guys, I could realistically if we needed to do a network survey and all that kind of stuff, but the cost would outweigh the benefit. Likewise, the reason why we were actually doing that was at the moment, they were using the Wi-Fi built into their router, and the router was in one corner of the building, and down the other side of the building, they really had very poor coverage. And I said to him, that’s exactly back to the seesaw effect, that is the cheapest thing you’ve got.

The cheapest thing is to spend no money, so the seesaw is down. The chances of things going wrong are quite high because your coverage is going to be quite limited, and it’s exactly what they were experiencing. Sometimes throughout the buildings, they would have no wireless coverage, they could be in a meeting, the middle of a team’s meeting, or a video call and drop out. That is where the seesaw cost is down the risk is high. 

The other extreme is what the other organization was suggesting that they do, the cost was going to be high, and the risk was going to be very low. And that’s when I said to him that what I would do, I’d put two access points in there, we’re going to use quality network access points that are designed to be fully managed. Without even knowing what the other organization was doing, the chances are the cost is going to be in between doing nothing and the other organization. 


The Seesaw Effect and Why it’s Useful.

That seesaw effect is quite useful. And what I find is when I’m that open and communicate it to the customer, they very much appreciate it.

This organization hasn’t chosen an MSP yet, they haven’t had an MSP, they had an internal staff member doing their own stuff. But they came across us through one of our customers. And I just laid it out the line, because they were currently doing nothing. This is the effect you’ve got, you can go with the high-end version, which is a full network audit done, a site survey, and all that kind of stuff. Or you can do the middle of the road. And it was really encouraging because at the end of it, he said – Thank you that gave me a lot of comfort about how you guys do what you do. Because you’re not just trying to take all my money and spend it. – And for me, it’s more important that I spend your money like my money. 

In everything I do, I always look for the seesaw effect. I’m not going to go for the most expensive of something just because it’s the most expensive, I will generally not go for the cheapest or something. Unless it’s something for personal use that didn’t really matter if it worked or not worked, I’m somebody that always looks at their balance of it. Where’s the highest value of what I’m going to achieve? 


Why do we need to be able to educate our customers?

Why do our customers stick around? This one’s really linked back to the first two. We need to be able to educate our customers. No from a tech point. I totally believe we shouldn’t be trying to educate our customers from a tech point. We need to be able to educate our customers as to why they should utilize us and what value we’re going to bring to the table. It is really important for our customers to understand why we should be there and why they should utilize our services. 

An easy way to do that is, as I mentioned, to educate them as to the value proposition and what you do, what’s good and what’s not good. But please don’t go in there and expect them to spend a lot of money with you unless you’ve actually got integrity in what you’re saying and what you do. 

For me, the biggest part of that is to do what you say you’ll do, practice what you preach, and more importantly, show them that you do want to see everything that you do as valuable to them. As I said before, I wouldn’t offer our customers something that I wouldn’t do myself, I put my money where my mouth is at the same time. And I’m always spending my customer’s money like it’s my own. 

That is a really powerful message to convey to your customers. Now those messages are not about talking. You can say that stuff and not deliver, and it gets burnt very quickly, your integrity goes out the door. People will not will not be impressed when you try to get them to do something, the way you want to do it. For those kinds of things, the value you’re showing to your customer is a lot more compelling when you’re able to show that message through your actions. 

For me, I enjoy what I do, I enjoy my MSP side of the business as well as ServiceTree. In the same way, I liked showing our customers that we’re there for them, we’re there to empower them, and we’re there to show them value. And realistically, when we’re not I would walk away from an opportunity. 

I was being to an IT department yesterday, and within the first few minutes, it was very evident that ServiceTree wasn’t the right product for them. And I didn’t even try to sell it to him, I said – Listen, I’m not even gonna show you the product because it’s not the right product. The problem that you’re trying to solve, we don’t solve because that is not in our wheelhouse. – But I spent the next 15, to 20 minutes talking about, trying to understand why he left his previous PSA, which wasn’t a PSA, and why he moved to his current one. And now why he was trying to do all these add-ons to get his new one to know what his old tool was doing? And I said to him – Listen, as much as you’re doing what you’re doing, it’s not actually achieving your goals, I would cut your losses and go back to what you’re doing. Because the problem that you’re trying to solve is not a problem that any of these tools you’re planning on using is going to help you and ServiceTree is not the right product for you anyway. 

At the end of the call, he was very appreciative. I gave him the knowledge to help him. But the chances of him being a customer of ServiceTree in the next five years is extremely low while he’s working in that company, but for me, it was being able to give this guy some value in his time, on my time, and give him a position that he’s now a bit more educated to know what he needs to do. What goes around comes around. And I think that’s another way of sort of demonstrating how you’re able to add value to your customer and achieve mutual success.

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