Q: We’re having a tough time getting technicians to remember to log their time. Some customers are on an all-you-can-eat service model, while others have an allocated amount of service time. How can I get techs to accurately log billable time?
Whether all your customers are on an unlimited plan or not, logging billable time is important. It can help you find inefficiencies within daily activities, and it can help technicians find out where all their time is going — especially if they often feel like there isn’t enough time in the day.
For advice on how to implement time-tracking standards and routines at your MSP business, we talked to Neal Bradbury, vice president of channel development at Barracuda MSP. After working with numerous MSPs and helping them overcome daily challenges, Neal highlights the added value better time tracking could provide for your MSP.
To give you additional insight on how other peers have overcome this challenge, we spoke to Dan Blumenthal, principal at NCGIT, LLC. He recently evaluated his company’s processes and implemented strategies and time-saving solutions to overcome time-logging challenges.
Keep profit margins on track
When your techs aren’t logging their time, you can’t properly assess your cost and profit margins as a business owner, Neal explains. The more time you log, the more money you can make — and when you’re using an all-you-can-eat service model, logging time is even more important. Tracking time will show you when it’s time to add another technician or a new solutions set, and how long it takes your team to fix a problem — which ensures your profit margins stay where they should be.
When you track your processes, you can really dig into the areas where your MSP can be more efficient. For example, if you’re not logging how much time you’re spending managing backups, you won’t know when you need to start looking for a solution that will be more efficient or more effective.
There isn’t one specific way to overcome this challenge. Most of the time it’s just a matter of getting people to do log their hours; sometimes it’s the result of not having the right tools in place — and it could often be both, Dan explains.
Changing your tools
For NCGIT, Dan says switching to an integrated tool set is what helped the most: “We used to have a separate tool for tracking hours and a separate CRM tool for interacting with customers. Our technicians had to do everything twice. They had to do the work in the CRM tool and then separately record it in our billing application. We typically got most of it in, but it was certainly hit or miss—and it was always done at the end of the month as a giant marathon race to catch up and get everything in there.”
“We moved about a year ago to a tool that allows our staff to log their billable hours at the same time as closing out the customer interaction,” he explains. “Right when they’re done, they can simply click a button saying how long it took — and it’s completely done. Then a few weeks from now, they don’t need remember how much time it took. That was the biggest thing for us — being able to do those two things together.”
Changing techs’ behavior
When there’s a flat fee involved, end-users and staff can get confused and could care less if the time is accurate. But, just because there is a flat fee, it doesn’t mean you can’t go back to the customer and renegotiate their contract because they’re killing your staff. Instead of letting techs fall into this trap, help them understand how logging their hours relates to making the business more manageable — and their lives easier.
Some technicians don’t see logging their hours as a valuable use of their time, but typically they just don’t see the value of it, Neal says. Be transparent and explain why and how this is important for the business.
If you want be more proactive about changing your team’s behavior, a good first step is to make sure logging time is required on all service tickets. Just like Salesforce has required fields, PSAs have required fields as well, so be sure you’re taking advantage of that functionality.
Dan says now that techs at NCGIT know they need to do log hours, they’re getting to the point where instead of the majority of tracking being incorrect and needed to be corrected, now only a small fraction needs to be adjusted. “This is taking pressure off everybody in that sense, but we are trying to move towards a more positive reinforcement and recognizing the people who are doing it correctly — versus those who are not meeting the expectations,” he explains “We haven’t settled on how we are going to positively reinforce these behaviors yet, but we want to recognize good habits in general — not just billable hours — and people who are sticking to processes and doing things in an organized way.”
“Right now, we are on the honor system phase of the tool,” Dan adds. “We don’t have a rule set up yet to stop a tech from moving forward without logging their time. At some point, we will probably move on to a phase where it’s strictly enforced. Even with it being an integrated tool, it does add 30 seconds onto closing something out, and being a year into it, we still have some people who are resisting the change.”
Implementing new procedures and policies — like getting techs to log billable hours — can take time, but by following Dan and Neal’s advice, you can overcome the initial challenges that are thrown your way. Ultimately, you’ll be able to turn something as simple as logging hours and turn it into something that helps you continually improve your business instead of just being a problem that’s holding your team back.
Photo: Murray Campbell via Unsplash.