In the first part of this series of articles (10 Things to Consider When Writing MSP Contracts) we presented an overview of some of the types of things you need to include in your managed services contracts. In the second part, we will go a little deeper into those topics. Again, keep in mind that these are generalizations and you should always seek the advice of legal counsel because laws vary by jurisdiction and depend on your specific circumstances.
One of the first things you should define in your contract is who is involved. Of course you will have your Managed Service Provider (MSP) business and the client, but also consider that you might want to include text to specify that you may use subcontractors from time to time. One of the most important functions of a contract is to set expectations.
By stating up-front that some of the work may be undertaken by contractors, you are setting that expectation from the start of your relationship. Likewise, your client may have other vendors they expect you to work with. This should also be spelled out as accurately as possible—some examples would include software, phone and alarm/access vendors.
The most important section of the contract for setting expectations is the “What”. This is the section that describes what you are actually going to deliver to your customer. What services are you providing? What devices are covered? Remember that just as important as what you ARE covering is what you ARE NOT covering. This should be listed as completely as possible to avoid confusion later.
There should be lists of the existing equipment and what will and will not be covered listed in an appendix to the contract. Likewise for software, you should list what is supported by you and what must have a current support contract from the vendor. If the customer refuses to have a support contract for an uncommon piece of software, you need to make sure your contract excludes support for that software or includes provision for additional billing if you have to support that software.
With today’s mobile workforce and work-from-home culture, it is important to spell out where your services are to be rendered. This one is personal for me since I spent a fair amount of time arguing with a client that signed a contract with me and then expected me to cover home offices of his employees that were up to two hours away. This would have been solved if I had set expectations and included wording that specified what locations were covered. It is important to list the addresses in a separate appendix so that they can’t add a home office in another state and expect on-site visits to be included.
Even more common than arguments about “where” services should be rendered is “when”. I believe that charging extra for after-hours support is acceptable (and necessary if you want to remain married). In addition to standard vs. overtime hours, you should also include response times, SLAs, and any other time-based expectations. While we are talking about time, we should also mention the term or length of the contract, as well as the conditions and steps required for the contract to be cancelled by either party.
The final section for this post is “How”. The most important “How”, is how customers submit an issue or ticket to your company. Is it by email? Do you have a web portal? Phone? How can they expect to receive confirmation back from you? Updates? How do they escalate an issue? This section in particular can curb a lot of frustrations in advance by setting expectations at the beginning of the relationship.
If you have more questions than answers after reading this article, that is by design. Now take those questions to your attorney. It will give him or her a great place to start in creating your new managed services contract.
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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This document is provided for general guidance and informational purposes only. It is not and shall not constitute legal advice. Information and views expressed in this document may change and/or may not be applicable to you. SolarWinds MSP makes no warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information contained herein. If you have any questions in regard to the applicability of any law or regulation discussed herein to you or your organization, we encourage you to work with a legally qualified professional.
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