Three ways to reduce costs of supporting your clients

Richard Tubb

One of the fundamental tenets of offering managed services is efficiency. As a Managed Service Provider (MSP) serving small businesses, your business is going to be creating a managed service offering at a price that is attractive to clients, but is also efficient enough in its delivery to be profitable for you.

I see many growing MSPs that have the first part of this equation down, and are offering their managed service at a price that is attractive to clients. However, once they have won the business they struggle with the second part of the equation – delivering an efficient service profitably.

Profitability in managed services can often be boiled down to the amount of time your engineers spend servicing client problems. If your engineers are wasting too much time dealing ineffectively with client support requests, then you’re going to make less profit from your managed service agreements.

With that in mind, here are three simple steps that you can immediately take to help your engineers reduce costs of supporting your clients.

Create a Support folder

DVDsFirstly, ensure each client has a plastic wallet or folder where all their printed licenses, software and hardware manuals, and installation DVDs are stored. Mark this folder as “IT only” and place it safely away from the inquisitive fingers of end-users.

Ensure your engineers know that if they install any new equipment or software that comes with manuals or installation DVDs, these items are appropriately marked up with identifiers (to stop you ending up with 20 identical Windows 8 DVDs and licenses) and are then stored away in the support folder. Ensure that this media is not left with the end-user – or they will inevitably become lost when you need them most!

Next, on each client's file server or cloud file system, create a file folder. Call it “IT”, [email protected] or “!Tech”. Whatever you call it, make this naming standard uniform across all your clients.

Within this folder, create three subfolders. “Utilities”, “Drivers” and “Software Installs”.

Populate the Utilities folders with your recommended support tools - ZIP software (I recommend 7ZIP), Malware Scanners (such as MalwareBytes or HiJackThis!), ISO Burners, Memory Checkers and so on. Any tools that your engineers routinely and commonly use to service clients. The next time your engineer needs one of these tools, he’ll be able to find it easily – cutting down on any wasted time and effort searching for them.

In the Drivers folder encourage your engineers to drop any system specific drivers for workstations or servers they work on. Remember those installation DVDs from earlier? They should be copied into this folder. That means even if, for whatever reason, the installation DVD gets lost, you still have the software drivers to hand when they need re-installing.

The same goes for the Software Installs folder. Copy installation files from DVDs across, or create .ISO images and drop them in the Software Installs folder. DVDs get lost. Electronic copies can be backed up and secured much more easily.

You may think that in the world of high-speed Broadband access and fast Google searches that you no longer have a need to locally store drivers, utilities or software installation DVDs – that everything can be downloaded on-demand. This may be true to a degree, but hours and even days can be wasted trying to track down the right software for the right machine. Do yourself a favour and keep this software to hand so you don’t have to go searching for it.

Capture Documentation

dvdWith software captured, the second step to efficiency of servicing clients is to capture documentation.

If an engineer installs a new PC, he makes a note of the make/model, serial number and Windows CD-key. This info is stored centrally within your PSA or Helpdesk system.

If an engineer installs a new piece of commercial software, he makes a note of the license key used and stores it centrally within your PSA or Helpdesk system.

If an engineer installs a new printer or plotter, they make a note of the make/model and serial number. This info is stored centrally within your PSA or Helpdesk system.

Whatever the equipment or software, capture as much documentation about it as possible. It will save you hours of time trying to ascertain those same details in the future.

Label Everything

labeleverythingEnsure each of your engineers has a label printer. Ask them to firstly label their label printer with their own name. The label printer is now theirs, and they are responsible for it.

Every time your engineer touches a computer, server, printer, laptop, power cable, UPS, router or switch at a client site, they should label it.

For computers, label with the workstation name. This helps end-users quickly identify PCs when they next require remote support over the telephone.

For servers, label with the server name and static IP address(es). This enables you to quickly talk end-users through powering off the correct equipment over a telephone.

For printers, label with the server queue name and static IP address. This enables you to quickly establish which printer the user says doesn’t work rather than just saying “the printer in the corner".

For routers and switches, label with the internal and/or external IP address(es). Label with the default gateway. This enables your engineers to quickly do ping and TraceRoute checks when there are connectivity problems.

For power cables, label with what the power cable is powering. If it’s a printer, label that cable with the printer name. If it’s a desktop, label with the desktop name. If it’s a monitor, label it as a monitor. The next time your engineer needs to find a power socket in a hurry, he can choose to yank a monitor cable rather than accidentally power down somebody's PC and risk corrupting it.

Labelling everything might seem like a time-consuming chore. But it demonstrates to the client you’re in control of their infrastructure, and it allows you to quickly and accurately find the right equipment when you need to.

Conclusion

If you or your engineers are spending time looking up the same information or software required to service client support requests, again and again, then you are acting inefficiently and ultimately losing profit.

Many MSPs struggle with effectively capturing the information needed to service client requests efficiently. It doesn’t have to be difficult!

Here I’ve shared three easy steps that are painless, and help you reduce the time and cost of supporting your clients. They may not seem very radical ideas, but they all save minutes here and there.

As your MSP business grows, all those minutes here and there soon add up and can make the difference between being profitable and unprofitable.