The Value of Planned Work and Service Calls

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There are a few reasons why you as an MSP, whether you’re the owner, dispatcher, or service desk engineer, would want to do more planned work. Which in Autotask is called a “service call”. 

As you know, Proxuma was founded by MSP Autotask consulting firm Dxfferent. At Dxfferent, we help MSPs configure their business processes and Autotask according to the best practices for the modern MSP. So, how do we envision the ideal planning process for an MSP? Let’s look at some everyday situations in an MSP and how service calls can help you in every step of planning incoming work. 

Tickets

As an MSP, you get all sorts of tickets throughout the day, some of which are urgent, some are important non-urgent, or some of lesser priority. Dwight D Eisenhower has a famous matrix for this:  

Eisenhower-Matrix
Eisenhower’s decision Matrix. Of course, in Autotask you never delete a ticket…

Every ticket needs to be triaged. When a ticket comes in, it can be categorized in the categories mentioned above. A common situation for tickets is that a ticket requires an immediate response but not an immediate solution. 

A common situation for a service deck engineer is that he or she is already drowning in tickets, and now gets a new ticket on top of their pile.  

For example, a Ticket comes in stating the following.  

“Customer keeps getting locked out of his account” 

As a service deck engineer, you know that you can do two things for this. One is a quick fix, and the other is to resolve the main cause of the problem. Since you are already drowning in Tickets, the thing that makes the most sense is to do a quick fix, which in this case is a password reset. But the resolution to this problem is to find the root cause and resolve it, which you can do in the quiet hours.  

 

How can service calls help with the handling of tickets in this scenario?

Let’s say the ticket comes in, the engineer does a first response by sending the password reset and informing the client of the situation, which would take a maximum of 30 minutes. Then, you plan a service call to work on the resolution. That means you haven’t immediately solved the problem for the customer, but you have scheduled their problem to be resolved and have informed the customer exactly when you’re going to be working on it.  

It could even be the case that it takes you two weeks to solve the problem. But if you update the customer every two days on the progress of their ticket, it is very often good enough for the customer because they have a sense of control and progress around their problem.   

The same feeling occurs for instance when our flight is delayed. If the airport tells you your flight is delayed for some unknown reason and they don’t have a new departure time for you, you may tend to get frustrated. There’s uncertainty here and you aren’t in control of the situation. You don’t know whether you can go and get coffee or if you must stay at the gate ready to board at any second. Even if the delay is only 30 minutes, that’s going to feel like a very long 30 minutes. 

But when the airport tells you exactly when the new boarding time is, the whole situation changes. Even if it may be delayed by three hours, at least you can now go to the lounge or get a meal with beer somewhere. It isn’t about how long the delay is, it is about the uncertainty.   

Or as marketing guru Rory Sutherland puts it: “The single best thing the London Underground did in terms of improving passenger satisfaction per pound spent wasn’t faster, more frequent, later running trains, it was putting dot matrix display boards on the platform to tell you how long you were going to have to wait for your next train.”  

Now, let’s look at the ideal scenario for using a service call. When you now get that ticket on a busy day, you can do the quick fix by resetting the password. And then you start planning everything else using a service call. You plan to work on it as many times as you need to, you plan to call that customer and update them, you plan to ask assistance to resolve the ticket, and you plan to update the customer that their issue has been resolved. In every step or process of resolving that ticket, you would need to create a service call, so you don’t forget anything. Now, you know what needs to be done when a Ticket comes in that doesn’t need an immediate resolution, but an immediate response.  

In your Autotask dashboard, Outlook, or Proxuma, you can see all your service calls for the day. This helps you prioritize what you need to do and how long it will take. Every time you have a service call, you are reminded of the thing you need to do exactly when you need to do it, thereby avoiding any overlooked items. This also then allows the dispatcher and the project manager to be in control of the work to be done. Things don’t fall through the cracks, engineers aren’t overworked and problems are handled when they need to be handled. 

Recurring Maintenance

Aside from ad hoc tickets, there’s also planned maintenance. If you want to have structure in your planned work, you will want to set up recurring tickets for routine maintenance items. Be mindful that you only make the tickets visible in the queue when you need them to be. This is already an excellent practice, but with service calls, you can block out a certain amount of time at a certain moment for this ticket. It is still completely flexible as you can just edit the time and date, but now you’ve set yourself a hard reminder and blocked the time so you’re available to do this for the customer.  

Project Tasks

Having looked at tickets, now how do you use a service call in your projects and tasks? 

Let’s say you have a task or perhaps a checklist around installing a firewall. Often such a task is put into an engineer’s calendar by setting a start and end date and off he goes. However, installing the firewall and actually having it fully operational to the customer’s satisfaction, is something which may take up more time. This means that before you can complete the task, you have quite a few steps until the job is done. The thing is that those steps don’t all happen at the same time.   

First, you might discuss the requirements with the customer. If you’re a less experienced engineer, you may even have another step of discussing this with a more senior engineer on how something like this works. After, you prepare the configuration. Another is ideally you’d even prepare a test for the customer. Next is when you would configure the firewall. For this step, you would very much want to use a service call to schedule a time when the client can be present. Finally, you’re going to roll out the firewall and you’ll have to contact the customer through Teams or any channel you prefer. If it’s through a Teams call, you’ll plan it using Teams or Outlook. For this step, you also plan a service call to document the event in Autotask, and if you’re trying to go the extra mile you would even create a different service call to check in with the customer if everything is all right. When everything is set and done, you can now close the task, ticket, and service call. In a smaller organization, you may even add “check the invoice” or “follow up on payment” to complete your work. 

This level of granularity and planning may be difficult in Autotask right now. That’s why we created Proxuma, allowing you to create service calls with a simple drag and drop. The service call can have all the fields pre-populated to your liking and takes on the title of the ticket.   

So, if you are currently not working with service calls for planned work, ask yourself why?   

Is it because you just like doing everything immediately no matter how big the job is? Or is it because it takes too long to create service calls in Autotask? If it is the latter, you’ll perhaps consider Proxuma.  

Demonstrating your capacity in numbers

Another reason for planned work (this one is not meant for the ears of the business owners) is: How do you prove to your boss that you’re overbooked/understaffed? That you’re up to your ears in tickets and tasks? That you’d like to get some extra help, which means maybe the company needs to hire a new team member?  

What you need is numbers. Business owners like to make fact-based decisions as much as possible. So you’re going to want to show the numbers for your current availability, and what is coming up. That can only be achieved if the hours you’re going to spend working are already planned out for you days, weeks, and months ahead, with the data being presentable in a timeline view to your boss.   

Proxuma Capacity Bar Single Person

Final Word

Whether it’s a ticket or task, using service calls for planned work can be of great value. It frees you up to put an issue out of your mind for now and work on it when it is needed. When you implement this way of working and have your work planned out weeks ahead, your capacity to take on more work becomes visible. Now you can make datadriven decisions on capacity, like when to promise new work to customers; or hire new staff. You can help satisfy both your clients and employees by making sure no one is overworked while making sure clients’ deadlines are also met. A planned organization is an organization that does what it promises, works on problems when the work is needed, and never lets the customer’s issues fall through the cracks.  

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