Nothing personal: Persuading your client to use your Service Desk not your cell phone

Richard Tubb

As your IT Solution Provider or Managed Service Provider (MSP) business grows, one challenge you’ll likely come across is that clients get into the habit of calling their favourite engineers directly.

As a former Technician turned business owner, I do understand the fact that it may be you that the client is used to calling to fix their problems, and this can be a hard habit to break clients out of.

The challenge here is that this approach to being a single point of contact isn’t scalable. As your business grows and you add more engineers, incoming support requests need to go through a single Service Desk conduit – so that tickets can be allocated based on skill set, knowledge, and availability.

But what do you do if your clients persist in calling your engineers directly? Here are three tips to help you regain control.

1/ Notify clients in writing

emailThe first step is to notify clients as to how you would like them to log Service Requests going forwards. There can still be options for the client here; you can offer them a single telephone number, a single email address ([email protected]), or dedicated a client portal.

You need to be clear about explaining to the client why *they* will be better off doing things the new way instead of the way they’ve always been used to. Let them know that as your business has grown and you’ve become more busy, you don’t want to take the risk that one of their direct Service Requests could be missed – a voicemail left un-answered while you are busy with another client, or an email left in an inbox while you are off-sick or on holiday. Ensure the client understands this change is to benefit *them*.

Detail these changes in a letter and an email that is distributed not only to the decision maker at your client site, but to everyone! The decision maker will often read the letter or email and discard it rather than distribute it. You can even use this as an opportunity to visit your client and do a floor walk, asking everyone how things are going and handing out printed copies of the letters while you are there to reinforce the email you have sent.

Within my own MSP business clients, we also used to pin a copy of the letter to the clients’ noticeboards and print stickers out to attach to their monitors, workstations and server cabinets. These stickers would say “Need IT Support? Call xxx-xxx-xxx for urgent issues, or email [email protected] for non-urgent issues”.

Slowly, but surely, clients will get used to working with the new system and stop calling you and your engineers directly.

2/ Eliminate voicemail

Look-ForwardStep number two is to eliminate the voicemail service on your and your engineers’ cell phones, and replace it with call-forwarding to the office.

If a client calls you or your engineers directly, then make sure you can re-direct their call to the office where a colleague will answer. If the client asks for you directly, your colleague should advise the client that you are busy on another job, but can they help? By demonstrating that they will still get the same level of service that they did before, the client will stop calling your cell phones directly and start calling the office directly. They’ll realise they get faster service this way.

3/ Dealing with persistent clients

Listen-to-customersBut what if, despite the explanation of the new system, despite the letters, despite the emails and despite the stickers your clients still persistently try to contact you or your engineers directly?

It’s true that some clients will believe they are jumping the queue or gaming the system by calling you directly. They like to feel they are special and that the rules don’t apply to them. In these cases, you need to let the client feel a little bit of pain.

If the client emails you directly with a support request, reply back to the issue with an “Auto Responder” – a template email advising that you are busy on a client site but that their email has been forwarded to [email protected] where one of your colleagues will look into it. The “auto-responder” should also remind the client of the best methods to request support in the future and, again, why this is in *their* best interests. An hour or so later, pick up the telephone and call the client, advising them that you’re still busy with another issue but that you have just seen their email and wanted to make sure they are being looked after by your colleague.

Again, slowly but surely the client will come to realise that they aren’t gaming the system, they aren’t jumping the queue by getting in touch with you directly. They’re actually slowing down the process of getting support.

Conclusion

Helping clients to change how they contact you to request support can be a challenging process, but if you notify clients in writing, if you eliminate voicemail to prevent them from leaving you messages, and if you take subtle but important steps to remind them that the changes you’ve made are for their benefit, then in time clients will stop trying to contact your engineers directly.