Imagine one of your customers is nearing the end of their contract. You check your PSA and decide they’re a good fit for an upsell—decent turnover, growing headcount, stable industry.
Three months out from their renewal date, you call them up and give them your best sales pitch.
And then it all falls apart.
It turns out your customer has been complaining about dropped tickets and slow service for months. They don’t want to talk about a new contract until you’ve fixed all their current problems.
You hang up the phone and click back to your PSA. What just happened? There’s nothing there to even suggest there was a problem with this account to begin with.
The likely cause is that your employees aren’t documenting their work properly. If I’m being honest, I don’t even blame them. PSAs are clunky and everyone develops quick workarounds and shortcuts to speed up their work, especially when business owners haven’t implemented Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
But as we’ve just seen, poor documentation wreaks havoc on subsequent resells. Let’s talk about fixing MSP data practices and harnessing your employees to collect valuable customer data.
The problem with data
Before we dive into fixes, let’s hammer out the two distinct challenges MSPs face with customer data: data access and data reliability.
First, data access.
In most cases, day-to-day customer data lives in a PSA like Connectwise, Autotask, and ServiceNow. That’s where you see things like contract details, documentation, projects, and calendars. It’s also where techs’ notes should live. When a tech fixes a ticket or goes on-site, they should document what they did.
While PSAs are great for customer data, they’re woeful for sales. Even so, account managers have to use them because that’s where the customer data is.
In order to sell more effectively, MSPs need to manage data in a way that allows visibility across both PSA and tools that are designed for sales like CRMs. You can integrate the two tools, but it’s often expensive unless there’s a one-click integration. The alternative is to work between the two systems. It’s not ideal, but it’s immediately accessible.
But behind the data access challenge is a more fundamental problem: data reliability. This comes from employees not properly documenting their work. When your data is unreliable, it’s unusable. Say your PSA doesn’t have any ticket notes. Does that mean everything is going well, or that your techs didn’t remember to document their work? You don’t know.
It’s this second problem we’re going to focus on. Because unless your data is reliable, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s accessible.
Set behavior benchmarks
The goal here is simple: techs should take proper notes when they go on-site. While simple in theory, it’s a problem that all MSPs have to deal with. Techs are busy. They prioritize metrics like time to resolution or average ticket completion time. If they’re rushing from one ticket to the next, proper documentation is one of the first things they’ll cut.
The reason they prioritize speed is that they’re (usually) appraised on speed. If you set an SLA for ticket acknowledgment at 30 minutes, resolution plan at two hours, and resolution at eight hours, they’ll move to hit those targets. Since ticket resolution isn’t contingent on record-keeping, it makes sense to skip over their notes.
Once you know what behavior you want to encourage—record-keeping—you have to work it into your incentivization structure. Companies have adopted strategic platforms like the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to benchmark the behavior they want and incentivize against it.
As with all change management, the moment an owner takes their hand off the wheel, progress and standards slip. This is no different. Once you have your revised incentive plan in place, you need to stick to it, come hell or high water.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a superstar tech who consistently closes tickets in one call, you likely will give them a lot of slack—outcome is important. Process is also important, so what do you do when they’re skipping or putting off completing their documentation? It’s tempting to let it slide. After all, they’re your superstar.
When you let their behavior slip, the people around them think, “Oh, it's okay not to take notes.” Then their behavior begins slipping, too. They’re now also skipping taking notes and closing tickets without proper documentation, and they feel justified in doing so. It slowly ripples through your business, and it begins to undo all of the processes you’ve spent years building.
As you see the change unwinding, you might come down hard on your B- and C-players. Ultimately, this just builds resentment across your entire team. Why is the superstar getting away with the things they’re being disciplined for?
Now, you’re back to solving the same problems you experienced early on in your managed services business—and you’re going to have to start over. Retraining people is challenging when they know they can let standards slip. Disciplinary action is not advised when you’ve enforced an uneven or unfair policy. A consistent policy—documented, trained, and acknowledged in writing by your team—is mandatory if you want to provide corrective counselling or build a performance improvement plan.
Identify the behaviors you want to promote. Find a way to incentivize them. Then drive unrelenting consistency.
Find the problem and work backward
Creating reliable data might seem like a thankless task—but it can drive improved sales performance. To understand why, start at the problem and work backward.
Your MSP business isn’t growing? Ask why: you’re not bringing in more revenue.
Why isn’t your revenue growing? You’re not adding enough new opportunities. Dig deeper for an answer: one reason might be you don’t know what’s going on with your current customers.
Why don’t you know what’s going on with your current customers? Your employees aren’t keeping accurate records.
When you’re in the weeds, it’s tough to see the link between accurate record-keeping and increased revenue—but it’s there.
When all of your employees document their work in a standardized format and single platform, you gain a much deeper understanding of both your prospects and your customers. You’ll know what you should offer for upsells and when to push for renewals. You can increase your sales performance without adding sales headcount. With clear visibility into the entire lifecycle of your customers, and clearly defined standard operating procedures enforced consistently across your organization, it won’t be long until your business begins experiencing the best-in-class margins and year over year growth you desire.