Archive for July, 2011

Centralized Dispatch for Managed Services Providers

July 21, 2011 by   •  8 Comments

I’m sitting on an Amtrak train going from Seattle to Portland right now.  I had a great morning meeting Gavin Riley, the new Sales Manager for Brian Miller’s company Fusiontek.  In our industry, a sales manager is a rare thing so it made this morning interesting, challenging, and educational.

After working with Fusiontek in the morning, I had the opportunity to go eat incredibly hot wings at the Wing Dome in Seattle with Harry Brelesford of SMB Nation.  As usual, Harry drops some serious knowledge from the front seat of his Volvo navigating the streets of Seattle with a million dollars of carbon bikes strapped to the back.  Overall not a bad way to spend a day if you ask me.

So, none of that has crap to do with this blog post title, so let’s stop messing around and get down to business.

Centralized Dispatch.  This is my answer to about 400 different IT company questions.

How can I increase managed services contract profitability? Centralized Dispatch

Where are my techs? Centralized Dispatch

Why won’t my techs enter their time? Centralized Dispatch

Why isn’t my service board clean? Centralized Dispatch

How do we get rid of these old tickets? Centralized Dispatch

How will I ever not have to be here all day every day? Centralized Dispatch

Why isn’t my Net Promoter Score higher?  Centralized Dispatch

Centralized Dispatch is a model of scheduling engineering resources using one central position as the hub for all client – engineer interaction.  Clients interact with a dispatcher through phone, email, or some manner of ticketing portal when they have a technical problem.  The dispatcher formulates, immediate, short term, and long term schedules in order to meet SLA’s, address emergencies, ensure happy clients, and keep engineers billing their time for the maximum amount of time.

This model takes all of the burden off of engineers and clients and places it squarely on the shoulders of the dispatcher.  (JOSH’s NOTE: please do not be stupid and think or even say “well Josh, what about when that person is on break or vacation?”  If you can’t figure out that solution, pack it up and call it quits)

This is not a new idea.  It is not an unproven idea.  It is what some of the most sophisticated industries in the world utilize to make sure things run smoothly.  Let’s take a look.   Continue reading Centralized Dispatch for Managed Services Providers

What are my sales people doing?

July 10, 2011 by   •  2 Comments

I work with a number of owners and sales managers who work very hard to increase the revenue and profits of their company by hiring sales people and trying their best to manage them.  When I speak with them the conversation usually starts with an owner or manager complaining that their sales person is just not closing enough business.  When I start asking questions, the discomfort level goes up and the anger starts turning more towards themselves then at the sales person.  I heard someone once say “if you have crappy employees, it’s because you are a crappy manager.”  Over the years, I’ve learned that those words could not be more accurate.

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on where you sit) it does not take a whole lot to become a better manager.  Sometimes we just need to remember the Drukerism “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”  Let’s start there for learning what your sales people are doing.  I want you to stop worrying about RESULTS for now.  Let’s FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS on EFFORT.  The results are a simple equation of EFFORT + TALENT.  In our world of sales, effort goes just about as far, if not further than talent.

So, what is this effort?  Quite simply, it is

PROSPECTING, SETTING APPOINTMENTS, SITTING ON APPOINTMENTS, and PROPOSAL PRESENTATIONS.

I don’t care how many of each activities they are doing RIGHT NOW, but you damn well be able to tell me when I ask.  These are the activities that your base salary pays for.  In sports, we don’t just measure touch downs and points scored, we also measure all of the ACTIVITIES that players perform on the court or on the field that will result in a win.  I need you to do the same.  Show me a basketball player who doesn’t know his or her own stats cold. Show me a quarterback, that can’t tell you on the spot how many yards he threw for, last week, last year, or even in his senior year of high school.

It is from this moment forward unacceptable Continue reading What are my sales people doing?

MSP Score…Providing NPS Surveys

July 10, 2011 by   •  Leave a comment

You know I love Net Promoter Score.  I think it is an amazing survey method for determining customer loyalty.  Not only is it very versatile in learning about your clients, it is also so simple that I can’t believe everyone doesn’t do it.  I’ve been having my clients perform this survey for years but as with anything as a small business owner, it just makes one more item on their to do list.

This year I was committed to get a small survey company off the ground and with the help of some amazingly talented folks, we were able to begin offering survey services to several Managed Services Providers around the country.  In the first several weeks since beginning, we’ve learned so much about how to perform the surveys in order to maximize response rates and minimal nuisance factor to the respondees.   We shoot out a personalized email to the respondent, followed up by a phone call.  So far so good!

Shoot me a message and I’ll be happy to help you develop your own method for performing this service for your own company or tell you more about how to get started with us!

Pre Employment Criminal Background Check

July 5, 2011 by   •  Leave a comment

Over the last six months I have paid more attention to some of the pre employment procedures some of my clients and colleagues follow.  In the past, I have not observed many small IT companies running criminal background checks (or even checking references for that matter).  Recently though, I have heard more and more stories about companies declining to make job offers or withdrawing job offers based on the results of these background checks.

The most common offenses that I hear of are related to driving such as excessive or unpaid moving violations or driving under the influence.  It is interesting the different perspectives that owners have on these types of activities.  On whole, I find that most owners will not hire people with a DUI on their record.  I have to say that I do agree with this position.  Not on the basis that this is a good or bad person (I will leave that to your own personal ethics) but rather the liability that you potentially take on when you hire someone with that history.  Some would say it speaks to judgement and maturity, others would say it is a character issue.  I would strip these issues away and make your decision based on pure legal logic.

Example that I’ve heard from an attorney in Washington state:

You have an applicant that you learn has a poor driving record and a past DUI.  You allow that person to join your company in a position that requires a great deal of driving to perform their duties at remote locations.  That employee gets into a serious car accident during the course of their duties.  The other party decides that as the employer, you have the deepest pockets so they pursue you in a law suit.  When it is discovered (and the attorney will discover everything) that you knew of this prior driving history and still allowed them to drive on your behalf, you will have a very painful experience ahead of you.  While not guaranteed that your liability will be even greater, it will certainly reduce your ability to defend yourself and your company.

My recommendation is that you establish your hiring guidelines before having to make a decision on the spot when a background check reveals something.  My experience has shown that companies that have policies that they follow, not only reduce their liabilities but also reduce the stress of making the “right” decision when they experience a new situation.

Using an outside firm to perform reference checks, criminal background checks, drug tests, driving records, etc, is highly advisable so that the process happens every time in a consistent fashion.  Speak to your insurance company or ask others in your peer groups for recommendations.  I’ve become very impressed with Administaff’s services based on the feedback from my clients.

So, get responsible, stop hoping that everything will be just fine, define your own personal level of comfort with people’s histories, and make decisions based on your predefined thresholds.

Don’t be a lurker, post your stories and experiences.  I know you have some horror stories; let’s hear them!