How does a small MSP without a large staff do helpdesk, scheduling and answer the phones?
This is one of our major challenges right now. We currently forward our local phone line to a hosted PBX (via an 800 number) that then forwards to either my tech or myself depending upon which department (1 for sales, 2 for tech support, etc.) or which extension they choose. It has follow-me features so that it rings my cell phone first and then the tech for some things and my home phone for other things. It’s a great service (http://grasshopper.com/) but I’m the operator. Not a very efficient use of my time.
So, I’m looking for alternatives. I started looking in to a plain answering service, but it seems to me that if someone is going to answer the phones I want them to be able to do scheduling for techs and interact with my ticketing system to enter new tickets and forward people to the helpdesk. It might be useful to have them do personal assistant stuff as well. So if a tech is in the field and cannot get to the ticketing system, they could call this person and update a ticket over the phone.
There’s lots of other reasons to have a “power answering service” too. Of course this really points to hiring someone to sit in an office all day. That’s what companies have done in the past. I don’t want to do that. We do have an office, but it’s really just a place for our back-end systems to sit and for me to work outside the home when I’m not onsite at a client. I don’t want to put more warm bodies in an office. I don’t remember who it was, maybe Amy Luby, that was talking about telecommuting all their people. I think this is a great idea. Get together once a week for a staff meeting and then let everyone work from home.
The solutions I’ve come up with so far are either expensive or lacking. I’ve looked in to virtual assistants, but I hesitate to engage with one without a recommendation. I’ve asked my MSPU mentor for recommendations but they haven’t come up with anything yet. I’ve looked on the web, but it’s impossible to tell who’s good and not. I guess I could start interviewing them like I would an employee. Any recommendations here?
I’ve thought about talking to Synergy about doing helpdesk for ALL of my clients rather than just the one on my all-you-can-eat MSP offering. I’m not sure if they’d do that or not. They’re not really an answering service and I can’t imagine they’d do the non-helpdesk stuff.
Today I’ve been looking at automated call centers. I found AnswerNet and they say they can do what I need for $250 to set up and then $205/mo for 250 minutes of “operator” time. I’m also going to contact Successful Office and maybe XACT Telesolutions to see what they offer. I’d pay up to $300 a month for this type of service I think. The real question is how good a job will they do. It’d also be nice to have the other functions of a all center at my disposal… to do appointment call downs the day before and customer satisfaction calls the day after and such. We’ll see.
So, other options… get a part time person to work from home? Maybe an intern from the local community college? If I need someone just for a few minutes here and there but 8×5 I don’t see that working well.
How do other small businesses handle this? Give me your input.
So I’ve been using Level Platform’s Managed Workplace to remotely manage and monitor my client’s systems and I’m wondering now whether that was the best or just the most convenient system.
Did I get sold?
I’m starting to look at the other options again. I was turned off by N-able a while ago because they required that I buy this big package up front. I own a small business and don’t want to invest more than I have to. If I can buy it as-required and by-the-month I will. There’s no datacenter at Redwood. After looking at my options just over a year ago I came upon Ingram Micro’s Seismic program and their hosted Managed Workplace. At the time Kaseya was really off the radar for me. I’m not sure why I didn’t look in to it further. So, now I have LPI remotely hosted by Ingram Micro. The hosting is reliable although they had some trouble with the upgrade to MW2009R1 and they won’t be going to R2 until later this quarter or sometime in Q4 apparently.
Did I miss the boat by not choosing Kaseya or Zenith Infotech? I thought one of the benefits of LPI was that it was agentless. But is that really a benefit? I don’t think it’d be a big deal to install an agent on all the machines I want to manage. And if that agent gave me remote management options I don’t have with an agentless system it might be worth it. I’m starting to watch the Kaseya demos and wondering what the real cost of this extra functionality is. Here are a couple quick items I’ve found that are interesting:
- Kaseya shows you product keys for installed Microsoft product in it’s inventory
- You can message your installed agents
- Integrated backup & disaster recovery option with virtualization and offsite replication via Acronis True Image
- Integrated antivirus / endpoint security option
I need to do more research on Kaseya and look at some user reviews before I really consider it. I’ve looked at Zenith before and I currently use their BDR at a couple clients. I’m not crazy about their offshore support, but I understand that the price reflects their lower cost of providing service… potentially increasing my profitability. But is it really worth it?
I’m not competing with other MSPs on price. Redwood provides an experience that our customers appreciate. We do save them money in some cases, mostly through increased productivity gained through maintenance and automation. In some cases, we replace in-house support and save even more.
What are your experiences with agent vs. agentless remote monitoring tools? I’m not looking for in-depth evaluations of products, really more of a discussion of the technologies they use. Comparisons of individual products will have to wait for another day.