[The key point here is that a good PSA system will set you free. ConnectWise set us free and gave us spectacular documentation. Now Autotask sets us free and gives us spactacular documentation. Use your tools.]
- - - - -
You may have heard the saying "The truth shall set you free." Or its direct corollary, "Perfect documentation shall set you free."
In our company this equates to "ConnectWise will set you free."
(Note: We say ConnectWise because that's what we use. You might use Shockey Monkey, AutoTask, or some other practice management software. The important point is to have best practices and use your tools to make money.)
One of the most important concepts in managing the profitability of your service business is to track how you use your time. The only thing that comes close to that in importance is to make sure that nothing on your "to do" list gets dropped or forgotten.
We know we can't bill for everything we do. But we still need to make the client aware of all the things we do.
Enter the "Zero Time Entry."
With a Zero Time Entry, we put time against a service request to note that we did some little thing, but the actual time worked was too small to bill. The best example is a phone call that resulted in a voicemail. Or a quick email about an issue.
Zero time entries are very useful in two specific circumstances. First, when we or the client want to know where we are in a project, we just look in Connectwise. Second, when a client wants to dispute whether we're giving adequate attention to an issue, we have a trail to follow. We might see entries like this:
Friday June 29th 9:45 AM - Called [client] regarding email archiving. She hasn't had a chance to clean out sent items. Time 00:00 billable.
Friday June 29th 2:45 PM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Time 00:00 billable.
Monday July 2nd 8:30 AM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Time 00:00 billable.
Monday July 2nd 4:30 PM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Sent email requesting status. Time 00:00 billable.
Tuesday July 3nd 9:00 AM - Called [client]. She needs handout on cleaning and archiving email. Sent this via email. Changed priority to P4. Time 00:00 billable.
Thurday July 5th 8:30 AM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Sent email requesting status. Time 00:00 billable.
Friday July 5th 8:30 AM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Sent email requesting status. Time 00:00 billable.
Monday July 9th 11:00 AM - Called [client]. Too busy to work on this now. Will call when she has time. Changed status to "waiting on client." Time 00:00 billable.
Now, please understand that this example could have included a series of communications that actually moved a project forward. In this case, however, you see that we've documented the fact that we tried to work on this service request for ten days, the client did not make herself available, and the SR was placed in a holding pattern until she gets back to us.
(Note, also that this SR will be closed the next time we call and she doesn't have time. We'll close it with a note that client can create a new SR when the problem comes up on her radar again.)
Why do this? Because we have too many service requests for anyone to keep track of. When the Customer Service manager gets a call from [client's] boss, wanting to know why her email hasn't been taken care of, he can look in Connectwise and read through all this.
We put these entries as Zero Time Entries rather than internal notes so that they show up on the invoice.
One of the really great things about Connectwise is that all your tech notes get printed on the invoices. Even Zero Time Entries. So a client who cares can look through all these notes and see why they're getting billed. Or not billed. In either case they see the progression of each SR to completion.
Another great example of Connectwise setting you free is when a client comes to you and says "We have _this problem_. It's been going on for over a month. What have you done about it?"
Well, let's see. On your last invoice, SR 12345, we noted the problem, documented it, developed a plan to fix the problem, made a list of affected workstations, and fixed three of them. We are currently working on the other three.
How may I provide you with excellent service today?
- - - - -
But Connectwise is much more than a time tracking tool.
What's the external IP on that firewall? Did you look in Connectwise?
Where's the license file for [client's] new Office licenses? In Connectwise.
Who was the last person to work on that PC? Check Connectwise.
How many times have we had problems with that switch? Look in Connectwise.
And most importantly . . .
Where can I get a list of every single activity, project, and problem that needs attention by someone in my company? Connectwise.
If it's not in Connectwise, it doesn't exist.
When we add up all the outstanding Service Requests, projects, and activities in Connectwise, we get a tally of how many hours we have "in the pipe." When we don't put in accurate estimates for work to be done, then we have an inaccurate estimate of work in the pipe.
When we maintain Connectwise the way we're supposed to, we can use it to make decisions about staffing. After all, there's a difference between a 2-week backlog and a 5-week backlog. If the numbers are accurate, we can make decisions with confidence.
If you've bought a professional services tool and not yet implemented it, get your butt in gear.
If you're keeping track of your clients using Outlook and Excel, get a professional services tool.
How do you pay for it?
Guaranteed more billable hours. Better scheduling. More productive use of your time, and your techs' time.
How can I run off to the Worldwide Partner Conference for a week with a senior technician on vacation and my service managager leaving for two weeks on the day I get back? Because Connectwise has set me free.