Sunday, February 24, 2008

Monday Morning Quiz

Every few weeks, we have a quiz at KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist). It has the following questions. Everyone in the office has to answer these, from the President to the newest employee. Administrative assistants, technicians, office manager. Everyone.

The quiz is very simple:

1. What does KPEnterprises do?

2. All work is done . . . [fill in the blank]

3. Managed Services covers . . . [fill in the blank]

4. How are Service Requests worked?

The answers are:

1. "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."

Acceptable alternatives are "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks for Small and Medium Size businesses" and "We design, build, and support Networks for Small Size businesses."

2. All work is done from a service request.

3. Managed Services covers the maintenance of the operating system and software.

4. Service Requests are worked from highest to lowest priority and from oldest to newest.


We take this quiz again and again and again. Why? Because every single person in our company is responsible for knowing these answer exactly. The wording is chosen carefully. There can be lengthy explanations and discussions about each of these points. But you may never get to the lengthy discussion. So it is critical that the first response be exactly what we want it to be.

[ed. note: If you haven't read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, go do that right now.]

Let's look at these one at a time.

1. "So what does your company do?"

"We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."

Clear, concise, to the point. Now, I can't claim that this is unique, ground-breaking, or profound. But I can tell you that the message is 100% consistent. We don't have stumbling responses about being techno-goobers and gurus and specialists in this or that.

When you talk to a tech, he says "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."
When you talk to the office manager, she says "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."
When you talk to the part-time assistant who puts price tags on cables, she says "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."

Phone conversations. Cocktail parties. Elevators. Baseball games. Rock concerts.

This message has to be learned and ingrained. It must become an automated response. What do you do? "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."

2. All work is done from a service request.

"As long as you're here, will you please [set up my printer] [look at my monitor] [help me with Outlook] [reprogram the Hubble telescope]?

It doesn't matter what the question is. "Right now, I'm working on a specific issue. All work is done from a service request. So, put a service request in the system. Since I'm here, I'll try to work through all the service requests in the system before I leave."

True Story: A little over a year ago, Manuel and Nicko were doing open heart surgery on a backup drive. They literally had the drive splayed open. Nicko was holding the drive parts and Manuel was meticulously working on the fine parts inside.

A client user walked into the computer room and asked "Can you help me with my printer?"

Nothing against her. This is a completely understandable action on the client's part. Her printer stopped working. The computer guys were onsite. So she walked into the computer room and asked for help.

Shoulder-tap tech support at its best.

In order to make your business profitable, and keep your rates reasonable, you need a system. In order to benefit from the fixed rate pricing of managed services, your clients need to learn and use the system.

A second example: The phone rings. In fact, every phone in the company rings. Finally, Client X gets ahold of someone. "I've been trying to contact your office. I've called every phone number and extension I know. I've sent emails. I'm not getting any response. I have a new employee starting on Monday and I need their computer set up."

"All work is done from a service request. Have you entered a Service Request?" No.

If Technician A is at Client B and his phone rings, he is not allowed to answer it. He has to give his time and talent to the job in front of him. After all, Client B is paying for that time.

If Client X enters a service request, the person monitoring the service board will be paged within seconds, evaluate the request, and contact Client X.

Even in an emergency, entering a Service Request is the absolute fastest way to get service. Period. No technician is going to spend one second of time on a problem without a service request. So even if the client gets a technician on the phone, the first thing he'll ask is "Did you enter a service request? If not, let's go ahead and do that now."

All work is done from a service request. Like it or not, this is a for-profit business based on the buying and selling of time, which is tracked through service requests.

3. Managed Services covers the maintenance of the operating system and software.

Maintenance. Maintaining. Keeping it going in the future as it goes today.

So, is the installation of new software covered? No. That's an add.

If outlook breaks, is that covered? Yes. Getting the system back to work as it worked before is covered.

Jan and Dean are switching offices. Is that covered? No. That's a move.

Service Pack 2 needs to be installed. Covered? Yes. That's maintenance.

So: maintenance means keeping the operating system and software working properly. That includes updates, patches, and fixes. It does not cover installation of new software. But once the new software is in and working properly, then it's covered.

If you get the argument that clients and technicians don't know what's covered and what's not, you need a simple rule that provides a common place to discuss the service.

Whatever the question, you can ask, "Does that fall under the definition of maintaining the operating system and software?"

Again, this is a profitability topic. You need a definition that allows you to have enough of a margin to pay your employees and keep the lights on. It has to be comprehensible to clients and technicians. In our case, this simple sentence helps us define a consistent product (service).

4. Service Requests are worked from highest to lowest priority and from oldest to newest.

This may sound like an obvious statement, but it is easy to lose track of in the day-to-day operation. Most business owners are interrupt-driven. And, in return, they are interrupt-drivers. In other words, they're in the habit of walking up to anyone in their business, interrupting that person, and asking for things. Their employees let them do this because . . . because they're the owner!

So business owners reduce their own company's profitability by not respecting the work their employees are doing. This, in turn, trains those employees to interrupt each other. And you.

When you're onsite, you should have a list of exactly what you're going to do. (All work is done from a service request, after all.) But if the owner interrupts you and says, "I have the newest, lowest-priority item on the service board. Can you take care of that now?" What do you do?

You train your clients to respect your time and use you efficiently so they can keep their costs down.

"Service Requests are worked from highest to lowest priority and from oldest to newest. I'm in the middle of something right now. When I finish here, I have A and B and C to do. Let's sit down and go through the SRs. We'll make sure they all have the right priorities assigned."

Note: Most bosses and owners are not used to being treated this way -- even when it's in their best interest. But our experience is that they react very positively if you treat them with respect.

Remember, you and the business owner are the only two people in the company who are motivated specifically to save tech support costs. Talk to the owner about this so there's a context for the inevitable discussion about priorities.


All of these quiz questions seem very easy. But they need to be absolutely ingrained. We tattoo them on the insides of our employees' eyelids. We give them audio tapes to listen to while they sleep.

Okay, we really just do the quiz thing.

But the point is: These are some of the Rules of Our Success. Knowing these things by rote memory makes us more profitable. Knowing them by heart makes it easier to talk about them casually with a client. Having the client know them allows the client to buy into a system that provides superior service at a reasonable price.

We have clients who have traded a $75,000/year in-house technician for a $25,000 contract with KPEnterprises. They don't want to give up shoulder-tap tech support. But in the big picture, working within our system saves them a boatload of cash.

Consider for your own business: What does your company do?

And what other two or three questions reveal the core procedures for your success?


For a good little blog post on Position Statements, see Trent's discussion at

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