In a recent blog post, I asked Is Your Service Desk Losing Money because of Bulldog Engineers? Those Service Desk or Helpdesk Engineers who get their teeth into a problem and work on it until it’s resolved… however long it takes!
While an often admirable trait, in the world of IT Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who work on flat-fee arrangements — where the client pays the same amount each month whether a problem takes ten minutes to fix, or ten hours — Bulldog Engineers can cost your business a fortune.
So how can you help your engineers to solve issues your clients experience in an efficient, cost-effective manner?
One often overlooked avenue for help can be Vendor Technical Support services.
The benefits of Vendor Technical Support
Almost every vendor who supplies you with software or services for your clients will typically also offer free of charge partner technical support services. This is a vendor helpdesk or contact point which offers technical support to people it knows are, in turn, offering technical support — i.e. you, the MSP.
These partner services, when delivered well, will work from an understanding that the MSP partners they will be speaking with will be technically proficient, understand their software or service, and primarily be contacting them because they’ve hit an issue that they need expert help with.
In other words, the partner support services of these vendors are the experts who help the experts. With their extensive knowledge of their specific product or service, they can help your Service Desk get to the heart of any issue more efficiently than if you tried to solve the problem alone.
So, if these services can help your Service Desk engineers solve problems for their clients, why is it most MSPs don’t tend to use them?
Is your Service Desk aware of your Vendor’s Technical Support?
In my experience, Vendor Technical Support services are often overlooked as a way of speeding up the resolution of a client’s issue because the MSP Service Desk engineers simply aren’t aware that these support services are available to them.
At best, many MSP Service Desks are aware that Vendors like Microsoft, Datto, Symantec and Google offer help to partners, but they don’t know how to contact these specialist partner support services.
At worst, some engineers don’t turn to Vendor Technical Support because they think they won’t receive good quality assistance. Perhaps they even think they know more than the Vendor’s Technical Support team. In my experience, this is very unlikely — Vendor Technical Support teams work on a single product or service, all day, every day. They typically know more about a product or service than even the most experienced MSP engineer.
Whatever the scenario, the first key to utilising your Vendor Technical Support services is to make sure your Service Desk engineers are aware that help is available, and are aware of how to obtain this help.
How to create an escalation process
For each of your vendors, I’d suggest you create a crib sheet which explains the process of obtaining technical support from their partner team.
This crib sheet can be as simple as an A4 sheet of paper that lists important details such as:-
- How to contact the Vendor Tech Support service. List all methods, including the partner technical support telephone numbers, email addresses, live chat pages and web forums.
- Partner details required to log a support ticket. Most Vendors will need to know the partner they are speaking to before they’ll offer help, so make sure your engineers have knowledge of your Partner ID, contract numbers, user accounts, passwords and any other information a vendor requests before raising a support ticket.
- Issue details to collect *before* contacting the Vendor. Typically, most vendor technical support teams will have some sort of script where they ask for information to help them resolve any problem. Help your engineers to understand the information they will be asked for, including license numbers, software versions, BIOS revisions, serial numbers and more. Collating this information before the engineer picks up the phone or fires off an email can help reduce frustrating back and forths with vendor support teams.
- How to record the Vendor support request within your own ticketing system. You should explain to your engineers the details you expect them to record within your internal ticketing system — your Helpdesk or Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool. It’s no use contacting a vendor for assistance if that help is stuck in one of your engineer’s heads — much better it is recorded within a ticket. That information might include the vendor’s own support ticket number, the name of the vendor support engineer who is assisting, a copy of the details your own engineer submitted to the vendor (see the paragraph above) and any responses from the vendor.
- The terms of the vendor SLA’s. It’s also definitely worth setting the expectations of your Service Engineers by helping them understand your vendors’ support Service Level Agreements (SLAs). How quickly can your engineer expect a response or a fix to a problem? This information helps your engineers, in turn, set expectations with your client who is waiting for assistance.
How to make it all work
And if you experience any resistance from your engineers towards using these services, then reducing the friction (or, dare I say, objections) that your engineers feel about these services is key. Creating crib sheets that give all the information needed to contact a vendor support team and escalate a ticket is a really simple and valuable way of doing this.
Your Vendors’ partner-facing technical support offerings are a value-added part of the partnership you have with your vendors. Why wouldn’t you use them?
In my experience, the most successful IT Solution Providers and MSPs understand that by utilising these vendor services, they not only deliver a faster fix to their clients but they also dramatically reduce the cost of delivering their own services — and that’s a key way to increase the profitability of your MSP business as a whole.
Do you utilise your vendor partners’ technical support services? If not, why not? I’m intrigued to hear your experiences — both good and bad. Please, do leave a comment below or get in touch.