NOC Is Not Enough for MSPs

Author: Benchmark 365 CEO James Vickery

Does your MSP really need a NOC (network operations center)?

I’d argue that whilst many MSPs will seek out a NOC service to help keep servers and networks humming at night, you could potentially be overlooking an even bigger concern – keeping highly demanding customers happy during the day and maintaining profit margins. This is common among the many MSP’s we talk to every day at Benchmark 365.

NOC may have its place in the MSP offering but how do you deliver your services profitably both day and night?

MSPs are facing a More for Less paradox

The challenge for your customers today is that they are under increasing pressure to meet their own deadlines.  As a result they expect their MSP to be high performing at all times.

Not only would your customers prefer that their IT never goes down - they also have very little patience for common issues like a slow computer or network, a troublesome Outlook plugin or a confusing error message.

They want these problems fixed immediately but most MSPs would agree that their customers appetite for IT support spending is out of balance with their demands.

These day-to-day issues won’t be not addressed by just adding on a NOC service - yet they have a substantial impact on an MSPs reputation if not met consistently and economically in the eyes of your customer.

Getting Back To Profit

So how does an MSP increase its level of service whilst maintaining margins?

You could hire more people but statistically customers won’t pay more for your additional headcount, you could also make your existing employees work harder and faster but that isn’t sustainable either. Lastly (and perhaps the worst option for a growing business) is that you personally step in and handle more tickets to keep customers at bay – but then who will focus on growing the company?

None of these options scale and for that matter nor does adding the cost of an NOC service since it doesn’t address the core problems most MSPs are facing.

Many MSPs are now looking at outsourced helpdesk as an alternative, or in addition to, a NOC. A well run outsourced helpdesk should increase customer response time whilst reducing labor costs.

Instead of employing more people, an outsourced helpdesk augments your team and deliver it at a fractional cost to your business.

Choosing an Outsourced Helpdesk vs a NOC

There are many outsourced options in the market from freelancers to hiring agencies with some MSP expertise.  These options often put the burden of management back to you so whilst you may appear to be saving some money on staffing costs, your own time is sunk into managing, training and administrating more employees.

Here are some tips for choosing an Outsourced Helpdesk:

1. Works alongside you and your team day and night

'Often NOC services are back of house and aren’t able to pick up the phone or jump into a chat with you and your team or your customer.  A reliable outsourced helpdesk should form part of your team working with you and acting as you in order to meet the common goal of keeping customers happy.

2. Provides more service delivery and less HR

Despite the many freelance or low cost hiring solutions on the market, your outsourced helpdesk should be a service provider not a labor hire.

For example if a freelance helpdesk technician suddenly disappears you’ll need to spend time finding someone to replace them. Alternatively, if you lose an employee through an outsourced hiring company, then you need to wait for them to re-appoint a new one and you may need to train them up as well.

This is often the hidden cost of outsourcing.

A good outsourced helpdesk doesn’t involve you in HR.  They deliver a service and any gaps in their staffing or employee performance issues are theirs, not yours.

3. “Usage Based” not “Endpoint Based”

Many NOC services charge per endpoint and these charges are often very difficult to recover.  Customers may desire great round-the-clock service but as mentioned earlier they are rarely willing to pay more for it.

This is the problem with Endpoint based pricing of NOC or Outsourced Helpdesk providers.  They will often charge a high % of your pricing model yet many of these endpoints will never have an issue or ever log a ticket. Endpoint based pricing may work well for billing your clients but you shouldn’t be passing your margins on to a NOC or helpdesk provider.

A good outsourced helpdesk partner is all about helping you grow your profit margins by only billing an MSP for usage at a fractional cost.

4. Demonstrates a cost reduction in labor

An outsourced helpdesk should reduce one of the biggest costs to your MSP. Labor. Rather than hiring more people an outsourced helpdesk should demonstrate that it can save you 50% or more on the cost of hiring, training, retaining and rehiring staff. We regularly see our partners at Benchmark 365 make these kinds of savings while growing their customer base and services.

5. Works with your stack

Often a NOC provider can only deliver a reliable service because you need to buy and deploy their tools.  This is fine if you’re ready to make a radical change to your stack, but a good outsourced helpdesk provider should work with your RMM and documentation systems that saves you time, cost and re-training of your employees and your customers.

So NOC or Outsourced Helpdesk – which is right for you?

There are certainly use cases for an outsourced NOC, but there is a far more economical and practical way to give you back your time, increase your customer service and make a healthy margin.  I believe for many MSPs today the answer lies in an outsourced helpdesk solution.

James Vickery is CEO of Benchmark 365, a private label MSP partner that offers around-the-clock helpdesk, NOC, Level 1, 2 and 3 support. Read more Benchmark 365 blogs here.