WHEN YOU HOLD a quarterly business review and all the client wants to talk about is a ticket that’s been open for two weeks, that’s a real encumbrance to growing your business,” says Todd Kane, president of Evolved Management Consulting, which focuses on IT services businesses. If service delivery is not meeting customer expectations, he stresses, they will have no interest in investing in new solutions. That’s why a good service manager is “fundamental for being able to grow and scale your business.”
The benefits a service manager brings include increased profitability and a more consistent experience for both clients and employees, according to Josh Peterson, CEO of Bering McKinley, an IT services management consulting firm. It also allows owners “to take the next step in their ownership journey,” he says, by building an infrastructure that isn't centered around them.
Most channel pros initially are everything—salesperson, technician, service manager, and more. When staffing hits eight to 10 employees, it starts making sense to have a service manager, Kane says.
Barb Paluszkiewicz, CEO of CDN Technologies in Oakville, Ontario, hired a service manager, who was employee No. 4, “as soon as it was financially possible.” She and her staff were wearing too many hats, she explains. “Some of these hats were very time consuming and they weren't necessarily our forte, so what we wanted was for everybody to work on what it was that they were good at and to have someone have the client-facing responsibilities.”
For Jason Etheridge, president of Logic Speak, an MSP in Roswell, Ga., the tipping point was recognizing that a haphazard approach to service delivery was holding back growth. “We felt like we were starting to implode on ourselves because we weren't able to take as many tickets as we should have. We took the tickets that clients called about, the ‘squeaky wheel’ syndrome,” he recalls.
Logic Speak had reached just under $1 million in revenue and 7 employees. Etheridge turned to consultant and business coach Manuel Palachuk to help him implement an agile service delivery method, which included creating service manager and dispatcher roles. “You've got to have the service manager who's orchestrating or making sure that everything is going well, and then you've got to have somebody who's doing the nitty-gritty scheduling,” Etheridge says.
Roles and Responsibilities
How IT business owners define the roles of service manager and dispatcher varies. At CDN, the service manager works closely with clients to make sure they are happy. They also work with the techs to provide clients updates on projects, Paluszkiewicz explains.
At Logic Speak, the service manager oversees the tech support organization while a different manager oversees projects.
Peterson acknowledges that “the real challenge with our industry is there are not globally recognized definitions,” but Bering McKinley has carved out some. Dispatchers, he explains, own every ticket that flows in and out of the company, with a responsibility of keeping them moving forward through completion. They are also responsible for the technicians’ day and the inventory of hours, and report to the service manager if there is one.
A service manager, Peterson says, has three primary objectives: a gross profit of 55% or higher, a happy workforce, and a high client satisfaction rating. The service manager is responsible for knowing where the company is regarding those objectives at any given time, he says, and should be looking ahead. “What do we need next? Do we need greater documentation of our client networks? Do we need better documentation of how we handle these technical tasks? Do we need better documentation of how we do our workflow through the organization?”
A business’s first service manager is often tasked with building out those things for the first time, Peterson says.