You’re out there, selling your butt off…but it seems no one back at the ranch cares. There is a big disconnect here. The Service Delivery Team is a great group of Gals and Guys. Give yourself some credit, you have built a great culture.
But, why does it seem they don’t care about your Customers? Something is out of sync here – is it Sales out of sync with Support, or Support out of sync with Sales?
When was the last time a Customer called, frustrated, and accused you of not living up to your promise…only to find out you were the only one in the Company that knew what they expected?
An Unlikely Friend at Your IT MSP…
As it turns out, your most vocal Customer just might be your best friend (paraphrased from Bill Gates). Why? They may be pointing out that there is a disconnect between what they remember agreeing to and what they are experiencing with your Service Delivery.
Sure, the problem may be that their expectations are too high. Or it could be because the verbal discussions were not reduced to writing, nor communicated effectively to the IT Support Team.
When IT Sales & Support Are Out of Sync
Experience has shown us that the steps to align the Sales Team with the Support Team takes 3-5 months on average. On the surface it seems like a simple task, but in reality, we are asking a culture that is very reactive to pause and think through what is actually being said, sold, responded to, and configured. That’s no easy feat.
We have sat in your seat and know what it takes to fully communicate what the Customer has signed to a Team of Techs scrambling to engage and complete requests ASAP.
Part of the problem is the gun is going off half-cocked. It never works, usually misfires, and at best, never hits the target. What is the target? I do not know. He is playing third. See, this can be as confusing as an Abbott and Costello routine.
Below are the 5 steps we have been talking about, with details that explain why it takes so long. Follow these steps well, and your Customers will be singing your praises and raving about you to anyone who will listen – your next Customer.
5 Steps to Align Sales with IT Support at Your Managed Service Provider
1. The IT Service Manager needs to sit down with the Sales Manager and carefully review the agreements so there is a clear understanding of what services are being offered, in general.
Phase 1: First 1-2 Weeks:
The first round is a high-level discussion on what is conceptual in a Silver, Gold, and Platinum agreement:
- Silver is usually monitoring services only
- Gold is Monitoring and Remote Network Device remediation
- Platinum is All-In: Monitoring, Onsite & Remote, Network and PC’s remediation agreement; including Afterhours and small Service Requests (usually up to 4 hours of engagement time).
This discussion usually includes a bunch of “What about this type of work?”…which leads to a long discussion about what is actually In and Out of the agreements.
I think these discussions arise because Sales is not Service Delivery and vice versa. Sales takes a very general point of view and Service Delivery takes a very detailed view. Sales also has the pressure to say “Yes” to everything to get the deal; Service does not see how we can support everything for that price.
The back and forth takes a few weeks to work through until there is an understanding of what (in general) is In and Out of the agreements. This understanding is still at a very high-level and only conceptual in nature.
Phase 1: Next 1-2 weeks:
From there, a review of the existing contracts in the Autotask PSA reveals a variation from a high-level of understanding. Where the Sales Department is more mature, a majority of the Contracts will conform to the High-Level Understanding.
In contrast, if the MSP is just starting out and the Sales Department is focused on growing the company to some base level of profitability, whatever the Customer wants typically reigns.
Suddenly a clear picture of why this process takes so long starts to emerge. You have:
- This high-level concept
- A list of Customers who all have something different
- What is in the Autotask PSA does not conform to either one
Phase 1: Another Week:
At this point, unless all parties are committed to cleaning up the mess, making sure Support is supporting what has been sold, and a spirit of collaboration exists, the process of moving forward is doomed.
It takes about a week to get through the “storming” phase in the process of aligning Sales with Support, and overall about a month to get to the point where the Sales Manager and Service Manager have a meeting of the minds and agree on what is In and Out of the Managed Service Agreements.
From here it should all be downhill: Each manager reigns in their Teams and from this day forth, there is alignment, right? Well, yes and no.
Tomorrow, the Sales Team is going to need to deviate in order to close the deal, and the Support Team is not in a position in either understanding or with Autotask PSA configurations. There is still a lot of work to be done.
2. The IT Service Manager and Sales Manager (together) need to create a list of Customer Agreement one-offs.
Phase 2: 1-2 Weeks:
I know in Phase 1 there was a review of the contracts that were one-offs, but that was more of an awareness of how many one-offs there were, and what type of things were one-offs, so there could be an understanding of the agreements in general.
Now the Service Manager and Sales Manager are tasked with creating a detailed list of what is In and Out of each individual Customer agreement. And more importantly, how to organize the one-offs so they will make sense to the Service Delivery Team.
3. A simple presentation (i.e. Excel Services Grid, PowerPoint presentation, etc.) should be created and distributed to everyone in the Company.
Phase 3: 1 week:
Once the IT Service Manager and Sales Manager have a list of Customer Agreement one-offs, it does not take long to create a document that can be provided to the IT Support Team which gives them a high-level overview of what is In and Out of the agreements.
Phase 3: 2-4 weeks:
What takes time is educating the Support Team on what the document means, how to use it, and what is expected.
Our suggestion is to:
- Start with the Technician that is looked up to by the rest of the Support Team. It is usually the most Sr. Technician, but if they are a butthead, it will be someone else on the Team with better social skills. In both cases, you know who I am talking about in your organization. Listen to what they say, and incorporate their suggestions into the document – you need their buy-in.
- Once the influencer is on board, hold Lunch ‘n Learns to introduce the document to the rest of the Support Team. Pizza will encourage high attendance; be sure to leave plenty of Q&A time. Have the influencer in the room to help answer the questions in terms the Techs will understand.
- Follow up in one-on-ones with each Tech to make sure they get it, and so they have a safe environment to ask questions.
- Build a QC mechanism, either by Widget or Live Report. From our experience, the Service Coordinator is the best one to review all completed tickets before billing to make sure the Tickets are coded correctly. Outside of the Tech that worked on the Ticket, the Service Coordinator is the most knowledgeable person in the building when it comes to each completed request.
Phase 4: 0 weeks (runs concurrent with Phase 3)
4. Services need to be added to the Customer Contracts in the PSA/IMS tool, so that the intake personnel and Technicians can quickly review what Services are available for that Customer and update the Ticket accordingly.
Hint: if the Service is not available, then the work is out of the scope of the agreement. This should also prompt the Support team to choose a Role or Work Type that automatically excludes the work from the contract.
Here lies a dilemma. Matching the right Service to the request is a manual process, and one that does not help the Support Team remediate the issue. Therefore, there is no incentive for anyone to take a few minutes to think through the request and select the right Service.
At best, it can be added to the Triage process and have a good match 80% of the time. I doubt any Tech will check the Service at the Time Entry stage, so the decision the Service Coordinator makes stands.
Selecting the right Service is not something that can be automated. However, it can be limited to which Services are available for each Customer and having it 80% correct is better than leaving 18% of the profit on the table.
Solution: include in the Triage process the manual step of adding the best-guess Services.
5. The IT Service Manager needs to monitor Ticket quality, looking for coaching opportunities to prevent profit loss, or to verify the Support Team understands what is covered by the Managed Services Agreements.
Phase 5: 3-8 weeks (and really on-going, at least on a quarterly basis)
Here is where you will know if you took the time to do the first 4 phases well. If you have time, a few weeks of spot checking will put you in a state of high confidence that Support is aligned with Sales. If, after 3 weeks, the Support Team is not getting it, look back over the first 4 phases and see which one needs to be revisited.
- Are there requests that were not discussed as to being In or Out of the packages?
- Are there more one-offs than realized?
- Is the document not comprehensive? Is another Lunch ‘n Learn needed to go over the original list, or for the new information?
- Is the Service Coordinator struggling with the additional step in the triage process?
We are here to help! The main purpose of taking the time to write this article is so that you are in a much stronger position to accomplish the alignment process in 3 months rather than 5.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Reach out to us anytime.