Working at an MSP usually means spending at least some of your time interacting face-to-face with clients. Whether your client is a Customer Service Representative whose computer just crashed or a CEO who just had his email compromised, you need to know how to interact properly with end-users.
With that requirement in mind, let’s take a look at the different types of clients you might encounter, and how to handle personal interactions with them.
Types of Clients
There are several types of clients that you may face. Below, we will discuss two common types that you will almost certainly encounter during your career as an MSP.
The “Everything is Urgent!” client
First, there are the “Everything is Urgent!” users. These users can be pushy and stress-inducing, but one thing to remember when dealing with them is that they’re human, and their issue is urgent — at least to them.
These users should initially be treated with the utmost care. Address their issue as quickly as you can, even if it doesn’t feel urgent to you. Then, once the problem has been addressed, you’ll want to use your newly built rapport to go over your ticket priorities so that, in the future, they will hopefully do a better job of categorizing their issues. I have found that end-users are usually receptive to the procedures once they know your goal is to help them.
If you have “Everything is Urgent!” users who aren’t receptive to the above approach, and consistently submit tickets with the incorrect priority, you can try working with your internal management to go over the ticketing procedure company-wide. This process will be different for every company, but it all starts by identifying that you have a problem and want to work with the end user(s) to find an amicable solution.
How to do you know if you have an “Everything is Urgent!” user? We’ll use Karen as our example: Karen comes into work and notices that her “shift” key isn’t working on her keyboard. She submits a critical priority ticket because (as she would put it) “she can’t work without a keyboard.” You might not see this as such a critical problem — after all, she has 2 shift keys, so this doesn’t actually stop her from completing work; it just makes it more annoying for her. To you, this should probably be a medium-to-low priority issue, as it’s only affecting a single user, and it doesn’t completely stop that user from working. While this issue should be handled as soon as possible (as all issues should be), you would want to explain to Karen after replacing her keyboard that you understand her tickets are an important priority for her, but when submitting tickets like that, she should configure the proper level of urgency, so as to not have her keyboard problem listed as equal in urgency to the restoration of the file server you’re trying to restore.
“Only Urgent Issues” clients
Another type of client is one who never submits ticket requests unless something truly critical happens, such as a server crash. I call these “Only Urgent Issues” clients. These clients may feel like they’re easier to manage because you’re not receiving requests from them every day, but in reality, these clients can be even more problematic than the “Everything is Urgent!” users. The problems that will likely arise with these “Only Urgent Issues” users is that minor things will go wrong that they won’t report, which will give the client a bad IT experience and make him or her feel that the IT service is useless — even though these issues could easily be resolved had they been reported.
Each time such a client submits a ticket, you should first solve the initial problem, and then ask about any other issues he or she may be experiencing. But don’t simply ask, “Do you have any further questions?” That’s a routine line for ending a conversation, and your customer might not understand your true intent. Instead, you should express a full-on interest in solving anything that’s on the client’s mind, no matter how big or small the request will be.
This puts the ball in the client’s court, so to speak, to bring up anything else that might be going on that he or she didn’t feel was worth a ticket. By probing these users, you impress upon them your desire to help and make them feel that their issues will be resolved. You will thus build trust between the user and you (both you as an individual, and you as part of your company).
So, how do we identify these users? Unfortunately, these users are typically discovered only via trial by fire, meaning that you don’t know about them until they submit their critical problems. If you have a user you’re seeing a pattern with — such as only reporting issues like server crashes or Blue Screens of Death — you’ll want to probe them for more problems the next time you have a conversation with them.
Yes, this gives you more work to do because it will require you to resolve all of their small issues — such as stopping their PDFs from opening in Microsoft Edge because it annoys them — but the benefit here is that they’ll feel you’re more competent in what you’re doing, as you’ve been able to resolve something that has been annoying them for weeks or months.
On the flipside, if you don’t probe these users, they’ll continue having small minor issues that will end up compounding their frustration when major incidents occur — which may lead to them not wanting to renew their contract once it’s up.
Work with Expectations
It’s unrealistic to have an answer to every issue immediately. While most clients will want an immediate resolution, they know that problems take time to resolve. What doesn’t take time is making contact with the user to let them know you’re working on their issue. Sure, an email will let them know, but a phone call is much more personable and will build a larger degree of trust. While you have them on the phone, be sure to let them know you understand the problem and discuss the next steps you’re going to take to resolve the issue. Hearing a plan of action will put even the most aggravated of users in a better mood.
You may be saying: “But I don’t know yet what their problem even is! How am I going to resolve this?!”
The answer is that you shouldn’t try to resolve it all at once. Start asking probing questions to determine what’s going on. You should sound confident during a phone call, even if you don’t have a clear view of the situation. Your clients don’t need to know you have no idea what’s going on – they just need to be assured that you’re going to fix it. Once you’ve identified what you believe may be the issue, or at least have identified researchable symptoms, provide a timeline of when they should expect to hear back from you.
Remember to always overestimate how long something is going to take you to do. This sets both a realistic expectation for the client and a deadline that you can actually meet. If you’re able to deliver a solution earlier, you’ll be sure to have their praise. If not, you’ll still be on time.
Your clients are people, and people are multifaceted. Being able to relate to your clients in a personable way will make their experience with you better, and your experience with them easier. No matter what type of client you’re working with, once you’re able to break the ice and relate to a user on a personal level, they’ll be much more responsive to the expectations that you set forth in resolving their issue, as they’ll have the understanding that you’re personally vested in helping.