Philip Bird, of IT services company The PC Support Group, doesn’t know of any IT support company that doesn’t want to be known for providing excellent levels of service and customer care. We certainly set out to literally amaze our customers with the quality of our service when we founded The PC Support Group.
So it’s frustrating to know that the thousands of IT support companies around the UK generally have one thing in common—they are renowned for poor service. And this is a highly damaging reputation for organisations that place IT ‘service’ at the crux of their business offering.
The ‘break-fix’ model
What’s the reason for this poor service? It is the continued use of a traditional ‘break-fix’ business model that most IT support companies still employ and stubbornly refuse to move away from. This is a reactionary model where the support company acts in response only when the customer’s equipment fails, when the network goes down, or when software programs are not working properly.
But the pitfalls are numerous. Having to rely on a reactive, rather than proactive model means that you will forever be ‘fire-fighting’—something that can be incredibly time consuming and plays havoc with work scheduling. This might also leave you unable to focus on creating additional revenue generating opportunities from your existing customer base, let alone win new business. Without the time for marketing and business development your company is going to end up suffering.
In addition, growing your business with a break-fix model also means scaling up your staff, your premises, and number of site visits—an expensive process.
Changing market conditions
This is dangerous because in recent years, the break/fix model of problem solving (or ‘fire-fighting’) has become less profitable as well as less predictable, making it hard for companies to grow whilst still providing a good level of customer service.
Increasing costs of travel time, spiralling petrol prices and work-scheduling complexities have resulted in shrinking profit margins as well as unhappy customers—far from the ideal situation, especially given today’s challenging economic conditions.
In fact, the Gartner Group recently stated that if VARs do not change their break/fix business model to a pro-active ‘Managed Services Provider’ (MSP) business model, by the year 2009, roughly 40% of the 60,000 VARs will be out of business—a worrying figure!
Moving to the MSP model
Put simply, as IT service organisations we really only want to offer one service—to remove all our customer’s worries and concerns about their computers and anything that communicates with, runs on, or connects to them.
For us, the adoption of an IT automation platform from Kaseya has enabled us to manage and deliver IT support services across our entire customer base remotely, easily and efficiently through a single, integrated Web-based platform. Any issues from a minor configuration problem on a single PC to the planning, installation and maintenance of the IT infrastructure of a building can quickly and easily be remedied using the platform.
Constant monitoring and alerting also means any breaches of performance thresholds or other issues are spotted the moment they occur. This proactive approach to IT support means that every PC operates at its optimal level, minimising the chance of failure—and hence downtime—and maximising processing speeds.
The PC Support Group can place a ‘support agent’ on every customer PC and server, to enable it to monitor, manage and control the system remotely. This allows it to schedule and carry out routine housekeeping tasks such as security patches and operating system updates quickly and easily, reducing potential problems and freeing up its staff to add further value to customers by undertaking proactive tasks that too often get overlooked in smaller organisations.
From one central location, The PC Support Group can proactively monitor its customers’ networks, scan for problems and correct them before they affect the computer system. They can remotely deploy software patches, provide preventative maintenance, and manage the entire inventory on the network without ever having to return to the customer’s location.
The business case
Because we are proactively managing and continuously monitoring every PC and server we support, our customers are experiencing 25% less issues. In addition, the traditional break/fix model achieves at best 50% engineer productivity. Because we fix 90% of issues remotely, engineer productivity is approximately double what it would be in a traditional IT support organisation.
The PC Support Group’s customers have also confirmed that the business model works for them. By automating our IT service, we’ve been able to open local franchised offices throughout the UK, using a central platform for all IT service management and delivery across the entire business to maintain high levels of service.
The MSP model enables our engineers to handle the majority of customer support issues remotely, and so this has also driven efficiencies into the business, ensuring The PC Support Group can offer a fantastic level of service, but at a reasonable cost which isn’t passed onto its customers.
In a highly competitive market, it’s the smart IT service companies and resellers that are moving away from inefficient, traditional service models and adopting a value-add approach that not only delivers high service levels, but drives efficiencies into their business and establishes a solid platform for profitable growth.