When you’re the owner of an MSP, you might have an inbox that’s full of all sorts of random messages from your clients and staff every day. On one hand, your phone is ringing constantly, and on the other, your chat notifications are firing off.
It can be absolute chaos!
To save time, and above all, sanity, you need to put in place an ironclad MSP communication policy. As MSP staffing specialists, we here at Support Adventure have seen that the companies who flourish and scale faster are those who have taken this critical step. Their minds are set at ease by eliminating the constant unnecessary pinging and ringing.
But how can you do that without losing track of what’s happening in your company? Here’s our comprehensive guide to establishing a formidable MSP communication policy!
MSP COMMUNICATION POLICIES MUST CONTAIN SOME NON NEGOTIABLES
MSPs often grow into large organizations without having put in place a communication policy. This creates a disorganized environment which can spell disaster for your business.
Systematized communication guidelines help you prioritize what is and isn’t urgent. They differentiate between the top issues that need to get in front of the right people immediately, and the non-urgent issues that can be visited later in a meeting.
There are many ways to communicate in an MSP environment, but the core should always be the ticketing system. Each ticket keeps a record of events that happened regarding internal and external communication.
If your staff are not using the ticketing system to record such events, then misunderstandings are bound to happen. This leads to client complaints as responsibilities and troubleshooting steps end up getting lost.
It will then be very difficult to figure out the best course of action to take in each particular case, resulting in an enormous loss of time and energy. This directly affects your clients and can break trust, causing them to stop working with you.
So why not take the time to create a communication policy? It will only benefit you in the long run as it will:
- Prevent information from getting lost.
- Categorize issues according to urgency.
- Establish ownership-based accountability.
- Bring peace of mind to you, your managers and your staff.
AN MSP’S COMMUNICATION LIFELINE IS THE TICKETING SYSTEM
Knowing how to utilize the ticketing system is the next step towards order and good communication within your company. Every MSP needs to have a well defined note-taking policy that tells their engineers what needs to be put in the ticketing system and what the policy is for logging any communication outside of it.
We actually have a ticket writing guide that we give to all our new clients for free. You’re welcome to it as well!
You can download it here.
But back to our tips.
A good ticket should be rich in quality, not necessarily quantity. It should contain:
- the troubleshooting process.
- steps taken to solve the issue.
- any outstanding issues or situations.
A key part of the guide is that every case note should end with one of four things:
- Ticket resolved: The case, task or project is resolved and no further actions are required.
- Next Steps: The ticket owner takes responsibility on moving forward with the case, task or project.
- Waiting For: The ticket’s progress requires next steps to be performed by a vendor, third party, client, etc.
- Escalation Required: The worker assigned to the case does not have the time, resources or ability to complete the case, task or project. The ticket should be reassigned by a manager.
In regards to communicating about escalations, your technicians shouldn’t rely on the chat, as that is a recipe for forgotten information and miscommunication.
It’s best to document all the details about a ticket that requires escalation within the ticket itself.
- Write ticket notes about the nature of the issue.
- Document the steps taken prior to escalation.
- Note if there is a need for a call-back.
- Note the client’s expectations regarding their case.
- Finish the ticket with “Escalation required.”
The ticket is then assigned to your manager or helpdesk coordinator if there is one. They will solve the issue or forward it to a senior, more knowledgeable technician to handle it.
However, simply using the ticketing system will not necessarily bring order to your MSP. If your technicians are swamped with incoming calls, emails and chats, the quality of their work and their focus will degrade.
TECHNICIAN RING GROUPS CAN RUIN COMMUNICATION WITHIN YOUR MSP
Before we get into the pitfalls of ring groups, they’re actually not so bad if an MSP has five or less technicians and a relatively calm workflow. However, anything above that number, or handling a greater number of tickets, will make your technicians feel like they’re drowning in work.
Luckily, there are alternatives to this chaotic practice that we’ve witnessed. This includes:
- Hiring a dispatcher.
- Hiring a help desk coordinator.
- Placing a level 1 technician in training to handle the intake of calls.
These steps will strengthen your frontline and hold down the fort while your technicians and managers have the focus they need for their tasks. They will have the breathing room to successfully knock down tickets one-by-one with less stress and distraction.
MSP COMMUNICATION POLICIES MUST CLEARLY DEFINE URGENT THRESHOLDS
What happens if something really urgent occurs? Your MSP communication policy must define what is urgent and what the threshold should be.
Situations like the following can be considered urgent:
- A whole network goes down.
- A major data breach.
- Major data loss.
- VIP user issues.
When situations like these arise, you should define who will be alerted first.
If you are a service manager and want to be notified every time there’s a complaint about a technician, put that in your communication policy.
Be detailed and specific about what you want sent to you and whether or not it should be sent via email, a phone call,an assigned ticket, a chat message or a combination of the above.
Rather than relying on word-of-mouth, provide solid documentation where you lay out the procedures you want to be followed. Here are some dos and don’ts to consider.
|Define when to be contacted.||Stress over non-urgent matters.|
|Define the way you are contacted.||Communicate about escalation everywhere but the ticketing system.|
|Define the type of information you want.||Allow urgent or time-sensitive information to be lost in long chat or email threads.|
|Keep documentation of everything.||Use word of mouth.|
ESCALATIONs FOR EMERGENCY SITUATIONS WITHIN AN MSP
A strategy that will definitely up your MSP’s communication game is utilizing incident management software like PagerDuty or Opsgenie.
PagerDuty and Opsgenie set up pre-arranged escalation patterns. For instance, an email sent to an inbox dedicated to urgent matters only could then trigger an email notification for the service desk manager. Two minutes later, they can receive a phone call or an SMS. After five minutes, the director of operations can receive the same notification.
You can set up your preferred escalation pattern however you like. Just make sure only real emergencies end up triggering these patterns.
You can also use escalation patterns for after hours support.
For example, if you use an outsourced front line support tech for after hours, and an urgent situation arises that’s outside of their scope, a PagerDuty alert can escalate the issue to a more senior engineer on call.
That engineer can receive a notification that includes all relevant information instead of receiving a phone call without knowing who is calling or what the issue is.
This is also very beneficial for the technician because they can see what the issue is about via message before being thrown into the urgent situation. It helps them to have a couple of minutes to think about what to do before they jump into action.
GET YOUR STAFF CLEAR ON THE BEST WAY TO CONTACT YOU
When AN MSP’s communication isn’t streamlined and efficient, it can waste time and lower productivity.
Getting calls without voicemails could have you wondering what the call was about, and whether or not it needs urgent attention.
Receiving chat messages may distract you, especially if they start with a simple ‘Hi’ as opposed to having the whole issue sent immediately.
Some things are better communicated in a ticket, others in an email; or they could wait until a weekly meeting and be added to the agenda.
We always recommend saving non-urgent issues for a scheduled meeting using Calendly. It’s an efficient way to give focused attention in real time so that people can brainstorm and discuss how to work things out.
It’s also a good idea to create a sheet with all the information and procedures you want your employees to follow when they want to talk to you.
This way, you will be able to digest all the information without being overwhelmed or distracted from your work.
|Chat||Video meeting booked in advance|
|Email with URGENT as a subject||Ticketing system|
HOW TO REACT IN CASES OF MISSING DOCUMENTATION
When documentation procedures are not followed, problems of discontinuity can arise for an MSP’s helpdesk. But this can be dealt with using better communication strategies.
With detailed guidelines and accountability systems in place, things can still go missing. In these cases, you need to define in your communication policy how missing documentation is dealt with.
Here’s an example:
William is a senior technician who was on site last week to set up a printer, but he didn’t leave any ticket notes in the system. He left no details about the IP address of the printer, where to install the drivers, the WIFI network and password, etc. A week later, this is an inconvenience when someone is encountering issues with the printer while preparing some urgent documents to hand out for a meeting. If William is not around, the tech dealing with the situation will have to track William down and get all those details.
One way to prevent this is to insist on having every contact documented, especially the in-person ones. If there still is missing documentation, you want to make sure that the urgency of the issue is dealt with according to the system you’ve established for contacting you.
UTILIZING COMMUNICATION CHANNELS FOR MSP CUSTOMERS
An absolute MUST for great MSP communication is to make your customers feel cared for before they even reach out to you.
One way to do this is by using help center articles.
You can create a section of helpful guides on your website that will empower customers and encourage them to tackle simple issues, cutting their need to ring you up. This material can be used in technician training as well when your staff gets stuck on an issue.
Self-diagnostics is another good practice. Present your clients with a diagnostics sheet where they can choose the severity of an issue they need help with. Of course, this does not work in every scenario, but it is still very beneficial.
Set expectations with your customers regarding the time it will take for the issue to be solved or when they can expect a call back from you. Choosing a communication channel based on that urgency which will prevent push-back.
Here’s an example chart for setting expectations.
|Urgency of the Issue||Best Way to Communicate||Expected Solution Time|
|Blocker or Critical||Phone call||Depending on the issue|
|Not affecting crucial points||Live chat/email||End of the day|
|Trivial, advice, inquiry||Day/Two|
HOLDING REGULAR MEETINGS IMPROVES COMMUNICATION FOR MSPS
Being a good listener and being there for your MSP staff should be a crown you wear proudly on top of your head.
Be it in-person or over Zoom, it can bring your business to the next level! In these meetings you can discuss novelties in your business, exchange ideas and discuss ways communication can be improved.
Staff meetings are awesome because they open space for collaboration and receiving feedback.
Emails bring clarity and communicate ideas directly, but they lack the warmth, complete insight and real time reactions you get from seeing the person. Sometimes, when a team member is feeling lonely or overwhelmed, having face-to-face support is crucial.
Some other benefits of MSPs communicating via meetings are:
- Learning about the personality of your team.
- Discussing their strengths and ways they can improve their weak points.
- Clear out any misunderstandings.
- Build constructive routines.
Utilizing Zoom for virtual team-building can bring more joy and in these uncertain times as well.
NEED HELP ORGANIZING YOUR MSP? WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!
With more than 70 team members, Support Adventure specializes in MSP staffing. We have employees all across the world doing great work while enjoying the remote life, and we can help you with finding the best remote talent!
We’ve helped over 40 MSPs already–be it with consulting about documentation, management or providing staff.
Our technicians are handpicked talented individuals who go through our testing and training program to ensure they are compatible with and can contribute to your MSPs goals. They possess proficient English language social skills and a friendly approach.