How do your customers know what services you are providing? What level of detail do your invoices illustrate? These are important questions with a wide range of answers.
What some customers would consider not enough information is too much for others. Striking the right balance for all customers can be a lot of work, and a one-size-fits-all answer is rarely the best. One possible solution is to provide enough detail on invoices to avoid questions and then provide separate reports with more detail as and when required. The point of this method is two-fold. Firstly, it enables you to create accurate but uncomplicated invoices that get you paid quickly. Secondly, it provides enough detail to the customer for them to know their IT systems are being managed properly, as well as ensuring you meet your compliance requirements.
Most RMM and PSA solutions have some facility for automating weekly or monthly reporting. Even if your RMM or PSA does not, compiling these reports should be part of your managed services processes. Therefore, the costs for doing so should be included in your monthly fees. But why should you do them at all if your customers do not ask for them?
This question is most often asked by people who are just getting started in the managed services business. When you did break/fix, your “work product” was easily identified in your billable hours. With managed services, you no longer have that evidence because, in most cases, you are not billing for time. The other, and perhaps more important, reason is compliance and audits. The thing about compliance and audits is that you never know when you might need this data. In addition, but less frequently, certain legal actions may require this information. So your reporting serves as evidence of work product, reporting for compliance, and evidence required for legal discovery when necessary.
I have one further point regarding work product. The better you are as an MSP, the less obvious your work in the background is to the customer. Reporting guarantees that your customer has access to detailed information about what you are doing to make things run so smoothly. This cannot be understated, as it speaks to your value as an MSP and serves to justify the fees you charge. A good MSP has no problem showing the value of their services either through the activity they are doing behind the scenes or the proactive monitoring/management that occurs on behalf of the customer.
Here are some suggestions:
This list is not intended to be exhaustive but just covers the basics. Your customer may have specific requirements. If they do and those reports require manual compilation, then make sure you include the proper costs for pulling those reports together into your pricing calculations.
This depends on your customer. At minimum, it should be your primary contact and whoever pays the invoices. This way, the person most people in their organization will come to has the information. Also, the person who pays the invoices will have access to more detail if they have questions about your invoices without coming to you and possibly delaying payment. In addition, larger organizations may have specific roles that require reporting as well. Some examples are compliance officers, security heads, and IT management personnel.
At the end of the day, reporting is not required for all customers, but it will help you avoid confusion and conversations about proving your value and defending your pricing. The intangible benefits of reporting come down to maintaining a good relationship with your customer through communicating the work and services you are providing on their behalf.
In my experience, most vendor/customer issues (and relationship issues in general) come down to a lack of communication. Reporting helps to maintain effective communication on a consistent basis, and in the worst cases, when your services come into question, provides evidence that you did your job.
Eric Anthony is director of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP.
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