MSPs don’t know everything about every piece of technology, solution, or cyberthreat. There’s just so much to know. It’s impossible to know how to fix every problem that arises. IT infrastructures are complex. If you find yourself researching problems, you’re not alone. But when you do, do you charge your clients for your time?
Every MSP is set up differently. Not every service-level agreement (SLA) is written up the same way. It’s important for you to know how your SLAs account for research time.
Some MSPs bill clients hourly for research time, while others include it in their SLAs.
Law Firms Bill for Research, so Shouldn’t MSPs?
As you're well aware, MSPs aren’t always treated the same as other professionals. For instance, people assume they’re going to have a hefty bill after retaining an attorney for legal work. The same goes for services rendered by physicians and other medical experts. People undoubtedly expect their medical bills to be high. But when they turn to an MSP to protect their systems and networks from the ever-growing IT threat landscape, for some reason, they usually expect more for less.
MSPs are the experts in their fields and they should be treated as such. Sometimes research is outside an MSP’s scope of work. That’s why some MSPs decide to bill for research time (they know what they’re worth and are charging for their value). And why not? Lawyers do the same thing. Whenever they have to research a field outside of what they normally practice, they bill that time to the client — and mostly everybody accepts this practice.
So, shouldn’t people be okay with MSPs doing the same? Many MSPs think so.
Look in the Contract
Speaking of lawyers, hopefully, you have a good one. A good lawyer can save you time and money in the long term. Your contracts should be clear, concise, and to the point. When there’s ambiguity, you open yourself up to potential legal battles with clients down the road. Avoid this by retaining a lawyer who knows the needs of not only your business but the industry you’re in.
Further reading The Importance of Legal Services to MSPs Explained
While you may not find “research time” in your SLA, it may be implied elsewhere in the contract. For example, if you have a maintenance agreement with a client, research time is more than likely covered. You’re essentially being paid to maintain your client’s IT infrastructure. If something goes wrong, you’re responsible for solving the problem.
It doesn't matter if it takes you 10 minutes or two hours to fix an issue. Your client hired you to ensure everything runs smoothly. When it doesn’t, it’s up to you to figure out what’s wrong and what you need to do to get things back to normal.
There are going to be times when researching a topic is necessary. When you’re researching a solution, you’re taking time away from something else. Whether or not you bill extra for those times is up to you. But whatever you decide, be consistent and ensure you’re being paid what you’re worth.