After my business grew from a break/fix it tech provider to a full fledged MSP, it was clear that I needed to offer 24/7 Help Desk service. I weighed the options and decided to outsource this role, choosing specifically to partner with Continuum’s Pittsburgh team. This partnership has thrived for the last 4+ years, expanding to encompass our Server Management, Security Operations, Network Management roles and more.
But, even though Continuum is an excellent partner, I learned the hard way that outsourcing a core operational process, like a Help Desk, can not be treated like ‘set it and forget it’. There are instances where it will not fulfil your needs... where you have to tailor it to fit your business. I also learned that the only way to take advantage of all that it offers is by first understanding how it works. It took me years and many mishaps to figure that out.
Outsourcing your Help Desk, easy? Sure... but not so fast!
Let’s get right to it. Here is the issue. Most often, your Help Desk is not integrated or responsive to you and your company’s needs. Certainly when I started, mine was not. I learned the hard way. You don’t have to. Here are 7 tips that will help you Maximize your Continuum Help Desk Partnership. And yes, the devil is in the details.
1. A Good Client Communication Strategy
Be sure to communicate to your clients the REAL benefits of working with a partner like Continuum and their outsourced Help Desk team. For example- they will have a Help Desk service even if Los Angeles gets hit by a missile. Their documentation and data will be safe with a company who can support their business, no matter what disaster might arise. Smaller companies simply can’t provide needed SLA’s without scalability. It’s not only important to share the REAL benefits but also to describe exactly what the Help Desk does, putting all that into a framework and a language that clients can understand.
2. Have Checklists for Complex TasksComplex tasks require that the partners have a process in place to keep mistakes at a minimum. The mistake many MSP’s make is not having an actionable process in place for all partnership activities, allowing all team players to understand the process... no matter where they are located or if they are new or old timers. Plus, what is sent to the team is both easy to understand and visualize, making what needs to be done very easy to assign work back and forth, no matter the complexity of the issue.
3. Virtual Team Collaboration Process
This is more about collaboration. We already set the stage with proper communication strategy with the client. and managing complex procedures. The third one is about how to manage collaboration, as well as the process itself. First remember, the guys and gals at Continuum are real people.. not automated processes and they must be treated with respect. So instead of just creating a ticket with no communication why not actually talking to them. Ask real questions to help the process work smoothly kie- “Hey, can you tell me if this makes sense? Can you tell me if what I've assigned is correct? Can you make sure that you do this part and then you send another part to a different team?" Many call this team building, I call it collaboration and treating all members of the team as equals no matter where they are located.
4. Tactical Overview
This fourth tip is about having the proper tool set versus not having the proper tool set. Anyone who runs a MSP knows you need to have the right overview of your processes. In the case of the Help Desk, there's a couple of tools that have been really helpful in keeping control of the tickets.
For example, instead of only using ConnectWise which has terrible visualization tools, we use a BrightGauge dashboard that we developed for the purpose of watching our tickets, which are on our help desk board. This is a board that excels at maintaining accountability with our partners in the help desk. Basically we created more of the tactical layer above an operational stack, which has helped us to see what's going on on the higher end.
5. Quality Assurance
The fifth tip has to do with having a solid QA process. Without quality assurance, the chances for mistakes quadruple. I cannot stress this enough. If you are not triaging, managing, and doing ticket closing, you're going to have dissatisfied customers. It's just that simple. And I've never been taught this by any outsourcing partner. This is something I had to teach myself.
One of my colleagues lost a $3,000 a month MSP client last week. One of the major reasons was because tickets were just sitting unattended in Continuum boards, and everyone in their company thought they were being worked on. The solution- Watch things, read things, pay attention. You need to know what's happening. You don't want to go to a QBR and have someone bring up a ticket and you don't even know what the hell happened. You don't even know it existed. Just because you are outsourcing your Help Desk does not mean you should ignore it or not integrate it into your entire company.
6. Know your Partner’s Limits
You might think this is just obvious, but its importance sometimes gets forgotten. You must understand the limits of your outsourced partner.
For example, in any Help Desk process there's a knowledge transfer and without a proper knowledge transfer, the tech team might get it wrong. Plus sometimes there are certain tools better managed by the MSP itself. Basically you have to understand the limits in a capability sense. Do they know how to follow the instructions that are provided? Are the instructions even provided? Do they have access to the system that's in place. Do they have the personal skills to deal with clients? There's so many things from a technical standpoint that must be shared, let alone, the human perspective, it is wise to be clear when your Help Desk should handle something or when your internal team should.
7. Building your company culture- Help Desk and Internal Staff as one
This is to counter the last tip. The last tip is about not understanding the limits of your outsourced Help Desk team. This tip addresses leveraging the collaboration strategies that we mentioned earlier. It's about teaching everyone on the team how to delegate. I'm telling my guys, “you have these partners,” right? Maybe it's the help desk, or maybe it's, “hey, I need you to troubleshoot this server issue overnight.” But again, the cultural piece of outsourcing is teaching your entire team to know how to delegate. That's one of the biggest pieces of building a strong and aligned team.
There is a cultural shift when you can build your virtual network of resources that everyone can use. We're trying to expand the scope of what people do, but it's almost like everyone has to become a little bit of a manager. You have to learn how to see what's happening in a ticket, and how to know what are the limits, but also what are the possibilities with these partnerships? One team looking out for each other... having each other’s back, that is a successful MSP.
Your Continuum Out-Sourced Help Desk supports MSP's by providing superior helpdesk solutions. If handled the right way, it can act as a direct extension of your business. That is why your Help Desk should be utilized as a true partner... so you can offload the tasks that are holding back your business. But as any successful partnership, don’t just ‘set it and forget it’. This partnership needs effort and attention on your part to make it a REAL success.