Your clients need a reliable way to communicate with you regarding issues they’re having. You need an effective way to manage incoming requests and resolve them as quickly as possible.
The conventional wisdom in both managed services and the broader support industry is to offer as many ways as possible for clients to contact you for tech support so they can choose the method that’s most comfortable and convenient for them.
But is this really the most effective—and profitable—for your MSP business?
Let’s take a look at the tech support channels you could offer and why you might want to use them or not make them available.
Tech support by email
In his book So You Want To Be An MSP?, Syncro senior product manager Andy Cormier says the best tech support intake method is always email.
His argument? Everyone has an email. It requires no setup. And all the customer has to know is what email address to send the request to.
On your side, emails flow right into tickets so there’s no manual note-taking or admin, helping to optimize technician efficiency.
As the conversation progresses, clients get notified through the very same medium every step of the way. If they ever need to research any prior correspondence, it’s all there for them in their email.
Andy goes so far as to say that email could viably be the only tech support option you offer.
Have you ever lost a sale, he asks, or do you suppose you might lose a sale because you only offer email to ticketing? When you realize the answer is a resounding no, then why would you ever spend the effort to offer alternate ways to contact you, he wonders.
Well, let’s take a look at chat.
Tech support by chat
Live chat has sprung up on company websites as a highly popular tech support channel with benefits for both customers and businesses.
At this point, most companies offer some form of live chat support and customers love it because of the quick response. In fact, chat is consistently ranked higher for customer satisfaction than both email and phone support.
Because the conversation is live, you can often get issues resolved quickly instead of having to wait hours or even days for clients to answer clarifying questions by email.
What’s more, chat is less expensive for you than phone support. Techs can handle multiple chat conversations at the same time—you can’t do that on the phone!
As well, chats, like emails, can be sent directly to tickets to eliminate manual entry. (Syncro Chat, for example, allows you to transfer, reassign, and create tickets from chats.)
And if your help desk or PSA software offers a system tray menu that you can add to client endpoints, popping open a chat with you is fast and easy.
All in all, chat is a highly effective channel for tech support: popular, efficient, and cost-effective. If you were going to add a second channel outside of email, this is likely the best choice.
Tech support by SMS
Offering your clients the ability to text you opens up a big can of workflow worms, not to mention response time expectations. (“I sent you a text. Did you get it? Did you get it? Why haven’t you texted me back?”)
Are you going to give out technician cell numbers (or your own)? Not advisable. This creates massive problems with data documentation. Any texted information isn’t in your help desk or being tracked on any ticket. Only one person has access to it. And you risk technician burnout.
You’ll get varying opinions on this but a lot of folks think offering text support isn’t really necessary.
If you decide to offer support by text, you’ll definitely want to invest in some additional tooling that can forward any messages to email and then to tickets. From there, your team can handle the tickets in their usual ways following their usual protocols.
Tech support by phone
It’s true, millennials hate talking on the phone. But no matter how many new communication methods arise, some people still prefer to make a phone call, especially when discussing payment, account, or other confidential issues.
Some people see phone calls as a more direct way to get their problems fixed. You may also have a client who fears fraud or a security breach. Talking to a live human puts their concerns at rest.
When I worked at an MSP, I always preferred email and chat requests so I could multitask more efficiently but the phone was always great for situations where a client had difficulty conveying their problem over email. A person-to-person chat definitely allows for more specific back and forth.
But incoming phone calls do tend to disrupt workflow. If you choose to offer tech support by phone, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking steps to minimize that disruption. Richard Tubb, author of The IT Business Owners Survival Guide, has these great tips:
- Designate a receptionist or dispatcher to answer calls or rotate the duty among your technicians so your whole team doesn’t lose focus each time the phone rings.
- Redirect calls to a call handling service to filter and take messages for you.
Above all else, Richard advises, never give out your personal cell number to clients.
“If you answer client calls on your cellphone, you’re educating them to avoid the systems you’ve put in place for logging support calls and handling queries,” he says. “Those one-offs where they tell you ‘it’s just a quick call’ will soon become the standard.”
Onsite tech support
We’ve touched on all the remote tech support channels. What about onsite?
For years now, RMM software and remote access tools have dramatically reduced the need for onsite support. And onsite support has become even more uncommon since 2020 for obvious reasons.
I always found in-person site visits were my least favorite way to take support requests anyway. They consume the most time and the scope always increases because the client saves up other small things since “they knew we were coming out.”
We always did what we could of course but it can really set you back in time. Not to mention that if you want a record of any of those requests and their resolutions, inputting that data into your service desk will be entirely up to you. More often than not, it simply won’t get done, leaving gaps in your documentation.
No matter what…
So which tech support channels should you offer your MSP clients? The most efficient are definitely email and chat. Text support can be done but requires some thoughtful workflow practices to make it feasible. And though phone calls are on their way out, they sometimes can’t be beat for quickly getting to the bottom of complicated issues.
Whatever mix of channels you choose, the key to success is making sure they’re integrated into your ticketing system so you and your team have everything you need to solve problems, track time, document fixes, and communicate well with clients.