Can You Replace Your MSP Service Desk with Chatbots and AI? 

Over the past few months, I have across some MSPs that are moving towards providing all of their services and support via email, chat, or SMS. When I ask them what the driving force is, they predominantly state that the customers prefer it. My first question when I hear this is, who is the customer, the person paying the bill – ie the business owner, or the staff needing support?

Paul Azad, founder, ServiceTree
Author: Paul Azad, founder, ServiceTree

Well, you can guess, the answer is always the person needing support. This always makes me wonder, which of these is the more important one to keep happy, and more importantly – why are we not keeping both happy to start with? Remember it’s much easier to say the truth, then to remember the lies we have said before – likewise, it’s easier to be consistent and work to keeping both parties happy, then trying to bounce all over the place remembering what ticks each parties box.

And I will add that not all of these MSP owners were millennials, although the ones that were not were being driven down this path by others in the company who were definitely millennials.

With all the tools coming out that an MSP can leverage, there is a chance that in the near future you could replace your service desk with chatbot and AI tools – but would you really want to?

Are Chatbot and AI Service Desks for MSPs Worth it?

Ask yourself this, what makes you different from the MSP up the road? Nearly every MSP will say something on the lines of, ‘our people make us the best’, or ‘we strive to deliver great service’, or it could be ‘our mission is to deliver great value’. When you look at all of these, they always revolve around the people that make an MSP what they are. Will you ever see something like ‘our tools make us better than others’? I highly doubt it. Your customers will expect that you utilize a great tech stack to deliver your service, but it's your people that they are buying into.

Moving to a text first support methodology takes away more than the voice of your people. Yes, I do get it, finding the right staff is hard – I know. I have faced that for the last 20 years, you are not alone there. But having your staff actually talk with your customer is important, it gives you a connection to your customers and they're able to relate to the brand through emotion and feelings – without these, you really become faceless in their eyes.

Just think of this, when you think of your mobile phone provider – do you think of T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T with emotion? Moving from one to another is always only about one of two things - number one is the price and number two is their network coverage.

Just think of that, is that why you want your customers to stick around -because you're cheap?

Why Do Customers Not Prefer Chatbot or AI Service Desks?

  • They can just send their issue to someone like texting a friend, and now it's their problem.
  • Their issue is not forgotten about
  • They have visibility. With chat features, they can see they are number XX in the queue
  • It feels quicker

Why the real customer (the business owner) would prefer it:

  • More efficient in getting what they need to be done.
  • Costs the business less as their staff is not wasting time back/forth on messaging
  • That’s what they are paying for.

The Use of Technology in MSPs

If you look at the real point at hand here, the customers that prefer text support do not do so because their MSP generally doesn’t have the integrity. This might sound harsh, but if you really look at it– why do you need a dispatcher, or a manager to manger the service desk? The answer is because tickets get ‘forgotten’ about, right? Well, that’s a nice way of saying the techs choose to ignore specific tickets.

Mature MSPs, those that are really growing (not accidentally), have good customer feedback, and value their service desk. These MSPs also don’t have an endless list of tools that they subscribe to just to deliver their service. I have been shocked as to how many tools some of the small MSPs are using, I mean you need a full-time person just to manage all of these tools - and I am talking about MSPs that have less than 5 staff to start with!

The Importance of Communication

I recall something I heard from one of my staff working on a customer account at my MSP a few years back - whatever is important to my boss is important to me. It took me a few seconds to digest it, but it made perfect sense. If I know what is important to my boss, what drives them – then I should make it super important to me. It’s not far from the saying ‘happy wife – happy life’, again successes come easier when we are working together for the mutual goal.

Think back to when you last faced an urgent or really important issue. Could you have just sent an email, or messaged someone and felt that it was now all OK? Would you not of felt on edge still? Chances are you would have. Speaking to someone about an issue generally helps you vent the frustration and in some cases re-asses how bad it really is.

I also want to bring into the picture the importance of the way we communicate. A study done many years ago found that the words we hear someone use only fulfill 7% of the communication. 38% is actually felt based on how the person communicating to us uses those words. The biggest impact on how we receive the message, coming in at 55%, is the body language of the person delivering the message. I am not saying that we should all start using video calls to help a customer through an issue, what I am saying is that when we are just using text, we are missing over 90% of the message. The effectiveness of what we are trying to communicate, and definitely our sincerity of how we feel towards the customer's pain, is lost.

Focus Your MSP on Customer Service, Not Software

With all of this being said, I truly believe, and have for many years, that our service desk is more effective if it is staffed by customer service people, instead of techs.

When MSPs come to ServiceTree, they often say to me, 'we are trying to replace the people within the MSP with software'. But the fact of the matter is, that is not what ServiceTree does and it's not the reason you should utilize technology in your MSP.

Software like ServiceTree should enhance your business, not replace your people.

Author Paul Azad is founder of ServiceTree. Read more ServiceTree blogs here.