As a buzzword, we all understand what automation means. We know that we are taking a manual process and finding a way so that some form of MSP software does it for us. It’s one of the main reasons people purchase software in the first place. Saying software automates a part of your business should be a given by now and isn’t a selling feature on its own.
While automation generally refers to specific tasks, it’s the business perspective that MSPs should really be focused on when it comes to adding automation. From an internal business perspective, MSPs are saying that task automation can be a driver of growth in their business. Our recent Business Growth Survey showed 51% of respondents saw automation as a way to drive growth.
We asked five MSPs what it means to actually automate. While task automation was critical, it was the effects of that task automation that helped grow their business. MSPs who automated were able to take on more clients, have better communication with their clients, and reduce time their technicians were spending on low value tasks.
It’s important to realize, automation is here, and it’s not going away.
Frankly, at this point, automation should be part of every MSP and business. But it goes beyond just thinking of ticking off tasks to be completed. Rather, it’s about giving your MSP opportunities to grow in multiple ways that will benefit your team, your business, and your clients.
It’s no longer science fiction. It’s no longer in the future. The future is now. Our whole world is going to change dramatically because the things that soak up so much time right now, that are manual, are going to be automated processes. I can’t see how you don’t enable better growth and more satisfaction from your clients and the ability, quite frankly, to invest in your team, so they have more time for training certification opportunities to scale up. I definitely see [automation] leading to growth. It’s not hyperbole to say dozens of hours a week are wasted on things that could and should be automated.
While many see automation as that way to reduce menial or repetitive tasks, it should be looked at as a way to give employees time to do other things that are more productive. By giving them more time to work on other things, you can scale your business, take on additional clients and services, and allow employees to be more proactive in how they address problems with clients.
Automation’s important because without the automation, you’re now spending more extra man hours, you can automate a lot of those processes. It’s not to make an employee redundant, but It allows you to free them up to work on something that can’t be automated, so they can actually be more proactive in their service and support as opposed to reactive. You get the automation just, “Hey, there’s a problem. Let’s deal with that and create a ticket for you,” and “Oh, the technicians know what they need to work on.” Whereas if you’re trying to do that manually, you’re looking for a needle in a haystack. So automation, I don’t know how an MSP could operate efficiently really without it.
Clients aren’t always fans of automation because they just want to talk to someone. It can be a balancing act to find the right fit for automation in your business, without disrupting the client experience too much. If it’s client facing, it might not be great to automate too much to the point the client isn’t feeling a personal connection anymore. Instead, all the behind-the-scenes tasks can be wrapped up in automation, leaving your employees to focus on delivering a better client experience.
It allows you to work with the clients that are just the ones that are like, ‘Nah, I don’t wanna talk ever. Nope. Just keep my system running. Don’t care. Don’t wanna do any of that stuff. Just keep my system running.’
And then we have a quarterly check in that our engineer or the team has to get in touch with. If the client blows us off, it’s okay. It’s hard to build that relationship, but those are short term type relationships. And by short term, we mean three to five years. We’ve got some clients that we’ve been working with for 28 years.
It’s always an issue knowing exactly, when do you hire that person and or when do you flip the switch and utilize this new [automated] tool that’s going to save us a ton of time. Those are the kind of pieces that you’re constantly evaluating. What tool is out there that’s gonna take away the monotonous piece, or that’s gonna give us better insight or allow us to move faster when we’re taking care of a client or that automates some more things. So, the art form is identifying how much people interaction do we need to have for that client? What’s the required interaction? What would be a nice interaction? And by that, I mean a client calls in and says, “Oh my gosh, I’m having a problem with my workstation.” Put in a ticket. “But I just need to talk to somebody.” Sorry. We don’t work that way. We’re automated. So just put the ticket in and then the system will ask you a bunch of questions and it’s going to be so wonderful.
But there’s still people out there that are craving for that communication. And so that’s where, that balance of when do we bring people in, when do we automate. It automates the stuff that the client can’t see, that doesn’t have interaction, that’s the preventative stuff. And that’s the reporting stuff, because man alive, you gotta have this reporting stuff.
The fear for many is that automation will cost people jobs. If you automate lower level tasks, then you don’t need a person to do them anymore. We have seen automation cost people jobs in the manufacturing sector, however, MSP owners should be looking to remove the grunt work from their employees. They should also be going a step further and inviting all their employees to participate in the automation conversation to see what parts of their job can be automated – not to put them out of a job, but rather, so they can focus on more meaningful work.
We’ve embraced automation quite a bit in terms of being able to leave the lower repetitive tasking to the systems using scripting, using our RMM tool to do a lot of that sort of work. So our guys aren’t chasing the low value type of work that our clients don’t see as important. So that leaves our guys to do customer facing things where they can interact with clients, show the value of the relationship that we bring to the table in a very real way.
So as those needs grow, then we can hire more people. But we don’t wanna hire people to do the grunt work. So whenever we do a quarterly kind of self-analysis where we sit down and go, ‘Okay, what have we been doing manually that we can automate?’ We ask everybody to participate in that conversation, not just management, because they’re the ones that are doing it and sometimes they come up with ‘I have to poke this little thing every day and I think there’s a way we can automate that poking. So I don’t have to poke it, but we know if something goes wrong,’ we’re like, great, let’s do that. And then that person now gets eight hours of their week back that we can now use in higher value, potentially more revenue generating purposes.
One of the largest advantages of automating customer facing activities is that they get completed faster. We don’t think about how password resets are now automated, but that has made clients’ lives easier by being able to do it themselves. By focusing automation on the customer journey, MSPs can create a better client experience. That requires strategic planning to think about the journey the client takes and how best to handle their situation.
It’s an ongoing journey. So whether that’s automation of particular tickets within the ticketing system for support, or whether it’s automating a password reset, alerts, CRM activity, it’s enabled us to react a lot quicker. It enabled the customer journey to be more tech-focused which is what I think they expect these days, rather than waiting half an hour for somebody to call them. Just a simple, automated response to say that a ticket has been logged and that somebody will deal with it is important.
And I think that’s exactly the same in sales. We’ve got your inquiry. We’re gonna send you a quote too. Or we’ve got your order. Here’s your order confirmation. Here’s your tracking info or the portal will be updated by automation. It means that we can focus on strategic management rather than doing. It enables us to focus more on the plans and then just consistently try to improve that as well.
Whether it’s a better client experience or giving time back to employees, automation is turning into a cornerstone of many MSPs’ future plans for growth. When any MSP thinks of scaling their business, starting with automation is a no-brainer. It can reduce menial tasks, giving your employees more time back to focus on things that will actually improve your business and the client.
In order to properly implement automation, however, MSPs need to think strategically and long-term. Automation is not a simple check mark beside a task, but rather, a larger business decision that is setting up the MSP for future growth. And those who think of it as a large-scale business growth strategy will see greater rewards for automating their business.