people in the office, standing, crowd, ring groups for msp

Guess what made our top 6 list of MSP worst practices?

That’s right, technician ring groups! 

Relying on this support strategy can have a negative impact on your business. We’ve seen this all too often here at Support Adventure with MSP clients we have consulted or provided outsourced staff for. 

We understand that you want your clients to have the best, most immediate service possible. But ring groups in MSPs really wear on your team. They are a constant momentum killer for technicians, leading to more turnover and an inconsistent quality of customer support. 

Here are six ways you can improve the ring group method, or just do away with it all together for an even better system.

1. MSP Ring Groups Will Always Fail without Setting Expectations

two people with headphones sitting in office, working on laptops, technicians, msp

Your clients need to know what they are signing up for before they decide to hire you, which is why the inconsistency of who is answering the phone can complicate things. 

Before setting up a ring group system for customer service, first ask yourself these two important questions:

  1. What kind of service am I providing to my customers? 
  2. What kind of environment are my staff working in?

What kind of service am I providing to my customers?

When we consult the MSPs we work with, we always advise them to look at things from the perspective of the client. They want to feel acknowledged and cared for. 

They need to be sure that they can trust you at any time and with any problem they encounter.

Using ring groups might seem like it will accomplish that, however it can actually be a recipe for disaster. Even the simple act of having a phone line sets an expectation that your customers will get instant service. 

For example, imagine an anxious and frustrated client calls. They need urgent help with a problem, but they have to wait 40 seconds for someone to pick-up. 


In this scenario, the client might have expected a faster solution from someone who is polite and  ready to focus solely on their issue. 

What the client doesn’t know is that the technician who answered the phone had to drop another ticket he was working on that was super critical. For that reason, he informs the customer that he cannot help them right away because they are already busy with something. 


The client might perceive this as the company saying to them, “You are not as important as the other clients we take care of. It doesn’t matter that you’ve called us expecting urgent help. Our phone lines don’t always result in us resolving your urgent problems.”

So you see, ring groups can have a negative effect. They can make your business more chaotic by creating inconsistency around who is answering the phone and dealing with what problem.


To avoid this, you need to make sure that your customers are aware of the procedures in which their problem will be acknowledged, triaged and solved.

2. MSP Ring Groups Flourish Only When the MSP Environment Flourishes

Your staff is the most important wheel in your machinery. They are the building blocks of your services and the essence of your company’s invaluable offerings.

The top technicians, especially those dealing with escalations and projects, are aware of their value. They will, in most cases, prefer to work in a structured, well-organized environment. And believe it or not, they’ll choose a lower salary at a company who has their stuff together over a chaotic workplace any day.

The best technicians want to know they are respected in every aspect, from having their ideas acknowledged to you not watching over them like a hawk in regards to time tracking. They need a positive, nurturing environment to grow. 

Don’t push these people away by having them answer random phone calls at random times about random problems. This only disrupts their productivity and focus. 

To drive this point home, let’s go back to the previous example of that frantic caller. Let’s say it’s one of your level three engineers that picked up that call.  Before answering, that technician was working on a critical ticket for an important client. But after hearing the phone ring and seeing that nobody else picked up, they had no other choice but to drop what they were doing and answer the call. 

And what was this call they dropped everything for? 

…A lowly password reset. 


Even if they only needed 15 minutes to solve this, they would naturally be very distracted, frustrated even! To think they had to stop some critical migration or whatever other huge project for something a triage technician should be doing.

 
To make matters worse, the customer could pick up on the tech’s contempt over the situation. They felt like a bother and like they should hesitate before reaching out again.

This is exactly why you need a well-organized environment with clear management and firm structures. Create an atmosphere where techs will have as few distractions as possible.

Below are some good practices that fulfill the expectations of your clients and your staff:


Clients
AccountabilityConsistencyAcknowledgementClear communicationRespect for the set deadlineRespect for their urgency

Staff
Distraction-free environmentRealistically assigned rolesGood organisation and structureRespect for their limitationsEncouragement to grow

3. Frontliners, Dispatchers and Triage Techs > Ring Groups

big table, dispatcher, technician, desk manager

A great way to protect senior engineers in your MSP from low level tasks is to implement better workflows and escalation policies using dispatchers, triage techs and service desk managers. 


Hiring a dispatcher particularly makes the handling of calls and assignment of tickets so much more organized. The dispatcher can:

  • Answer most calls
  • Create and assign tickets
  • Enter new clients’ information or look up that of existing clients 
  • Create a summary of the issues
  • Provide screenshots 
  • Detail steps taken prior to the problem occurring
  • Write expected vs. actual results 

When the dispatcher does all of these things, the techs can just focus on completing their tasks. 

It’s a win for everyone!

You can also hire a service desk manager. They’ll really dig into devices, get valuable information, probe and ask questions, etc. Because of this, they’ll know how to set a realistic timeframe, not only for a potential call-back, but also for the completion of the whole issue.

Sounds much better already, doesn’t it? 

What we’ve seen as a great solution as well is hiring an energetic and sociable technician in training. They will be happy to talk to customers as well as be able to solve straightforward issues on the spot. This alone gives an impression that you’re dedicated to the customer.


Now, if the issue is complicated and requires someone of a higher level of knowledge, the dispatcher will take the information needed, open a ticket and give feedback to the client about a realistic timeframe for a call-back or a solution.

In this case, it is important that your triage technician knows how to escalate the ticket well.

If the issue is more straightforward, your dispatcher, or technician in training, will be able to solve the issue by themselves. If it’s a simple fix, they can solve it there on the spot while on the phone. If it’s outside of their scope of skills, then it can be escalated to a more qualified engineer to work on it.

Another way of creating more space for your technicians is to encourage your customers to write an email first to explain their issue, which automatically creates a ticket. This way, the ticket will already be opened with the client’s information. 

The technician won’t waste valuable time getting all the information from the customer, logging it in, researching the problem, etc. They will have most of the things they need ready before them, making it easier to confront the issue and give the best service! You can also educate your clients on how to make the easy fixes themselves with guidance from Help Center articles. 

Here’s a summary of the main benefits of each of the roles mentioned above.

DispatcherService Desk ManagerTechnician in TrainingTriage Agent
Escalates client issues Creates and manages the service desk systems and proceduresWorks in the service desk systemGets information from clients and their computers
Checks on the status of the issuesAnalyzes the work done by techniciansSolves straightforward tasksWrites tickets to help technicians solve issues faster
Enforces system proceduresCreates solutions to potential issues in the systemEscalates tickets when necessaryExplores the issue further with the information they’ve gained

It is never a bad idea to over staff people on the frontline!

4. Don’t Forget to Take Job Distribution into Account

empty crossroads, forest, pipeline, staff management

You might be wondering why we just said that it is never a bad idea to over staff on dispatchers or hire someone who has a lower level of knowledge. 


That’s because when they are not taking calls, they can be handling other housekeeping tasks. This way, your senior engineers can focus on their massive projects while your lower or entry level techs can deal with the more mundane responsibilities.

You can make a list full of auxiliary tasks for the lower level techs to work on in their idle time,  such as updating logins and passwords or the auditing of documentation for a shared Google doc.

Some auxiliary tasks might include:

  • Documentation auditing
  • Testing out new systems and features
  • Updating role sheets and checklists with new responsibilities
  • Making sure credentials are up-to-date

It is important for your technicians to be aware of what their role in your MSP is so that they can be more efficient and less distracted when doing their work.

5. How to Scale with a Ring Group

woman holding golden coins, scaling business

Now, everything we talked about before was for MSPs looking to scale while handling more than 10 tickets a day. 

But if your MSP is dealing with fewer tickets, a ring group will suffice as long as there is a firm system and clear procedures for tickets.

Write a clear rulebook on:

1. How tickets are managed.

2. What the escalation process is.

3. How long a technician will spend on an issue before escalating the ticket.

4. How to record documentation properly.

5. Educating your staff on how to triage issues in the most efficient way.

If you are having trouble with creating an automated system that runs your help desk and ticketing system like clockwork, click here to receive consultation from us!

6. Consistency Will Lead You Down the Path of Success

handshake, the path to success, consistency

Finally, we’ve come to the main takeaway from this article, which is that the success or failure of your MSP hinges on whether or not you have created consistency.

So, you’ve set the right expectations for your clients and your staff. You’ve opted for a dispatcher, hired a junior technician or simply redirected your clients to write you emails. Everybody has a clear sense of what their role is in your business, and you see it growing.  Great!

However, the job is still not done.  

Your clients and staff have expectations. You as the director and leader of your MSP must ensure that consistency follows through and pivots your business into an upwards trajectory.

Your customers need to know:

  1. How soon they will get a response when they call, and how soon they will get serviced. 
  2. How soon they will get a response when they email, and how soon they will get serviced. 
  3. Which issues are urgent and which are not. 
  4. When you will have time to speak to them.

You can only achieve this by having a solid, well organized system with technicians that follow a clear procedure

You are on the right track when your clients are happy and trust you; and when your staff is satisfied and encouraged to grow in a friendly, chaos-free environment.

7. Broader view – take inspiration wherever you find it!

idea bubbles, inspiration, creativity, msp, management, ring groups

Everywhere around us we can find examples of good communication and management. MSPs can look to how customer support is handled by bigger industries like medicine, hospitality, airlines, etc. They each have masses of people using their services daily and a great responsibility to carry.

Without a successful system that can take those people in, guide them through procedures and deliver their needs with urgency, they would not be successful.

They will all have the following in common: 

  • Well distributed roles
  • Established procedures
  • A formidable triage system
  • Reliable documentation
  • A distraction-free environment

Success leaves clues. So whenever you feel lost in the eye of the MSP storm, looking to positive examples in other industries can help you reset and find your northern light. 

Have any more questions about the helpdesk? Leave a comment below or feel free to reach out to us here for consultation