Being an MSP isn’t really a complicated business, but most of us find ways to complicate it. Time and time again you see a simple MSP business model become overly complex. The MSP owner doesn’t do this to create excitement in their life – more often then not it’s the single cause that prevents the owner from having any work/life balance.
I can put my hand up and honestly say I was one of these owners, mistakenly thinking it would increase sales and attract new prospective clients. Just as the fast food industry makes a new burger out of nearly all the same ingredients used in other burgers, as MSP can do the same – slice and dice product offerings to attract new customers that have a specific need.
The problem is that while the changes you make mightn’t be complicated, you’ll need to communicate the change/s to your whole team, and they’ll need to adjust accordingly. Sound easy? More often then not, what makes sense to you makes no sense – and is therefore complicated – to those around you.
The good news is, when you craft up a ‘new plan’, it generally revolves around these three points:
1. Unit pricing
2. What’s included in the price
3. The SLA
After all, what else can you change when your an MSP? All we’re doing is reselling human resources (expertise and labour). We buy it (pay our staff), package it (apply policies/process/procedures and knowledge), and sell it. So how can we become a really smart IT MSP, and stop over complicating things? Here are a few key points.
The Smart IT MSP Playbook
Knowledge is KING, so make sure it stays in your business and not in your tech’s head. The last thing you need is for your knowledge to go on vacation for four weeks. Or worse, go and work for your competition.
Ensure you’re using a powerful PSA (Professional Services Automation) platform – not just a ticketing system or scripting automation for your servers. This is where you can automate your company’s processes and ensure that every one of your techs follows the same process and procedure to aid your customers. This is the single most powerful way to ensure that as an MSP, you’re delivering excellent customer service to all your customers all the time.
You achieve this in three ways:
Consistency – Your team will deliver consistently great customer service. Don’t underestimate how important consistency is. Think about why you go back to the same restaurant or grab a coffee from the same coffee shop. It isn’t because they gave you one great experience – it’s because they’ve done it consistently.
Metrics – Ensuring everyone follows the same process also allows you to look at metrics and compare tickets or technicians and make important business decisions.
Knowledge Stays Put – Keeping the knowledge within your business is critical to your success, and it’s an essential component to scaling. If you need to know something basic, you can Google it, but experience-based knowledge is much harder to come by. It’s the secret ingredient that differentiates your business. Automate the processes your technicians follow. Look at everything they do more then once and see how – not if – you can automate them. By automating repetitive, mundane tasks, they’ll have more time to deliver excellent, consistent customer service.
Let’s look at this in more detail, because it’s one of the most effective ways to increase profits. Automation can help an MSP to increase profits in many ways, including:
- Ticketing – Allow your customers to create their own tickets.
- Make sure your PSA has a good customer portal so the users can log their own tickets, and see their open tickets.
- Don’t reply to their emails as soon as they send them to your service desk.
- Ask your customers to only call if it’s a P1 issue. Consider the likes of Cisco – the only tickets you can log with them over the phone are P1s; the rest must go through their online portal.
- Self-Serve – Invest in a PSA that offers true ‘self-serve’ for your customers. In doing so, you’ll provide a win-win experience, where your techs won’t need to work on the tickets that bore them (ones that customers can self-resolve). You should deliver a financial incentive to customers for doing this, too.
- Ticket Allocation – Techs waste a lot of time deciding which tickets to work on. They also tend to cherry pick the ones that want to do in deference to SLAs or the delivery of consistent service levels. Hiring a dispatcher can address these two issues, but at a financial impost on your bottom line. Also, dispatchers aren’t cheap, and tickets will still be coming through when they have lunch or they’re on vacation.
- Technical Automation – Now comes the techie part of automation. Here are 3 points on how you can benefit from technical automation.
- CMDB (Configuration Management Database) – If you don’t know exactly what you have out there, what you’re supporting, and how it’s set up, you’re operating blindfolded. It’s critical as an MSP to have this information documented, as it reduces the time your techs waste trying to work out what’s what. It’s also essential to have this in place before you can automate anything. The last thing you need is to remotely restart a server running a critical application during the customer’s business hours, simply because you didn’t know what applications it was running.
- Remote Execution – Yes RDP, TeamViewer and many other similar applications are great when you have to see what your customer is seeing, but many of the functions you must perform on your customers’ servers or workstations can be done remotely. This reduces the time it takes to get it done and mitigates the need to take over their session and interrupt what they’re doing. Nowadays, thanks to Powershell, the Linux gurus using SSH are no longer the only ones who get this benefit.
- Remote Deployment – This is an incredible waste of time, watching the progress bar slowly etch its way to 100%, and in most cases whatever you install on one device, you’ll need to install on others. Use tools that let you remotely install applications; there are some that also handle the MSP world pretty nicely, too.
- Invoicing – Generate and submit your invoices to your customers as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is one of the top issues MSPs face today, and it starts from techs not filling out their job sheets properly (or on time), and it goes all the way through to billing for all the work your team does at the appropriate rates.
There’s plenty to work on, here. And all of it will improve the automation within your MSP and increase your profits. If you’re scratching your head and don’t know where to start, I suggest you look at ServiceTree. As an MSP ourselves, we faced all the same challenges you’re facing, and so we built a solution to manage every aspect of our operation. It delivers everything we’ve talked about here (and quite a bit more). And just like it did for us, it’ll completely transform your business.
If you’d like to see how ServiceTree turns average MSPs into smart IT MSPs, reach out today.