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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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10 Service Delivery Mistakes that Guarantee Failure for MSPs

Posted May 14, 2015by Mary McCoy

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We all fall into the nasty habit of thinking we have everything figured out, whether internally or with our client relationships. Often, we become complacent and forget to take temperature checks to make sure everything is operating optimally. Have you surrounded yourself with the right employees? Do your customers know how awesome the team you've assembled is? Are you evaluating your company's performance and taking steps to address any underlying weaknesses? These may be concerns that have slipped your radar. 

Last week, the Continuum team flew down to Dallas, Texas for HTG's Q2 Centralized Meeting. The Senior Director of our Help Desk, Jacque Rowden, packed the house as she discussed common managed IT services blunders and how to avoid them. Find out which of these MSP fails may be impeding business growth for you! 


Slide Companion Guide

Fail #1: He Hired the Wrong People

Make sure you have the best, most talented team possible! This all starts with the interviewing process. Have you tried using behavioral interviewing? Applicants' past job behavior can be an excellent predictor of the work ethic, attitude and performance you'll receive upon hiring them. For example, ask them to describe a previous work situation in which they were presented with a problem or blocker. Then, ask how they responded. Their answer can help you gauge whether or not they'll be both self-sufficient and a team player. Answers to practical questions like these will help determine whether applicants are the right fit for your organization. First impressions matter, but they're not everything. Create a standard checklist of questions and calibrate across your interview team. In the end, you'll be able to point to these answers as objective justification for why you did or didn't hire someone.


Fail #2: He Didn't Share His Expectations with his Staff

Your employees can't deliver stellar service if they don't know what that entails. Do your staff know what is expected of them every day? That's the #1 requirement for job success. If not, they won't be able to properly prioritize requests and work efforts. In order to raise the bar, they need to know where it is. Be transparent about your business performance standards, and share expectations for areas like your sales cycle and pipeline. 


Fail #3: He Didn't Market his Team

As an MSP, your products and services will only get you so far. You can't forget about the human element when selling your proactive IT management solution. What can clients expect when they work with you? Is it an unresponsive call center that handles customer requests unprofessionally or doesn't even address their concerns? You've avoided Fail #1 and have assembled the dream team of customer support. That's a huge selling point, and one you should communicate frequently to prospects and your existing client base.

We're proud to offer such a high caliber Help Desk team in Cranberry Township, PA. In order to show our MSP partners the value they can derive from using our smart-sourced 24/7 Help Desk, we created this short video to showcase our team of certified technicians that are on standby whenever you need them. 


Fail #4: He Didn't Focus on Metrics

As Jacque says, "you can't tell how something is doing just by gut feeling, just like you can't "tell" that your blood pressure or cholesterol is on target." You can't manage what you can't measure! Establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are the most important to track for your business growth. Are you using an inhouse help desk to manage customer support? If so, you will want to track KPIs such as average speed to answer (ASA), first contact resolution (FCR) and your net promoter score (NPS). You may find that these numbers are dismal, and it might make sense to smart-source your help desk solution to a provider with higher figures. Either way, you have to pick the right metrics to target. 


Fail #5: Never Mind, He Focused on All the Metrics!

But don't go overboard! It can be very easy to get bogged down by data and catch analysis paralysis. Gathering data is only important if you're doing something with that data. Are you working to change your behavior or business processes based on the few KPIs you're tracking? Here are a few recommendations for profitability KPIs you should be monitoring to get you started! 


Fail #6: He Overpromised and Underdelivered

Be wary of promising your clients or prospects the moon. If you fail to make good on all of your promises, your customers will likely forget all of the good that you've done for them and instead, only remember that you failed to deliver. You can't do everything, and you shouldn't pretend to be able to just to make a sale. It will most definitely backfire. What's an example of something MSPs tend to promise? Compliance. You sell compliant services, but you cannot guarantee that by going into business with you, that one doctor's office will be compliant. Clearly outline what you can and cannot do for your clients in your Service Level Agreement (SLA).


Fail #7: He Never Admitted Mistakes

You may think it makes you look bad to point out your flaws or mistakes, but people respect when you accept accountability for your actions. In fact, when you admit you're wrong, people generally trust you more because you have demonstrated that you don’t hide behind blame or excuses. You also have to accept that you will make mistakes, and that's a good thing! How else will you learn or grow? 

 

Fail #8: He Kept the Bar Low

Are your employees motivated to outperform? Creating lofty goals that your employees can rally around builds team unity! If you expect the bare minimum, that's what you'll get. Not only will production slip, but your staff will become disengaged if they believe that they're not being pushed or that their talent is not fully being leveraged. On her own Help Desk, Jacque has often heard from her staff that they are greatful she didn't let them slide. Maximizing the potential in those you work with or manage keeps your company competitive and revenue-generating. How are you encouraging extra output and productivity from your own employees? Sound off in the comment section below!


Fail #9: He Blamed Everyone Else

No good can come of this approach. Would you want to work with someone like that? It goes hand-in-hand with employee churn and is a bad look for your company. Recall our point about accountability in Fail #7. Don't forget that applies internally. Whether it's with a client or one of your technicians, if you mess up, own it and accept responsibility. 


Fail #10: He Never Celebrated Successes

Do you have a few select superstars that are going above and beyond for your company? People want to be recognized by their employers. Focus your attention, motivation, training dollars and other incentives on your high performers! This positive reinforcement will drive them to excel, to keep improving and to collect those gold stars. Recognition and rewards are two non-monetary compensation strategies you can implement to drive growth. Always celebrate your organization's successes whether it's at the individual or team level. Even something as small as sending your whole company a celebratory meme when you reach your quarterly revenue goal can boost morale and production.

 

How else might you be missing the mark as an IT service provider?

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Meet Mary! Mary McCoy is a Senior Demand Generation Programs Manager at Continuum, where she's worked for over two years. Mary has consulted with hundreds of partners, lending website, blog and social media support. Before that, she graduated from the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!) with a BA in Economics and served as digital marketing intern for Citi Performing Arts Center (Citi Center), spearheading the nonprofit’s #GivingTuesday social media campaign. Like her school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, Mary believes learning never ends. She considers herself a passionate, lifelong student of content creation and inbound marketing.

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