How Do You Help an Underperforming Technician?

Having a technician who is underperforming can impact your business in different ways. For instance, a slower employee can cost you in efficiency and profitability. Similarly, an employee who lacks customer service skills can impact the business by costing you five-star reviews and customer referrals. So, what can you do if one of your techs isn’t up to scratch?

In order to answer that question, we need to define what qualifies as underperformance. There are several elements to a technician’s job. It’s possible to have employees who excel in some elements but underperform in others. parts of a technician’s job that can have a negative effect on the business and therefore be considered underperforming. Your first job as a business owner or manager is to set proper expectations. This means setting goals during the hiring process and at least once, if not twice, per year. Each technician should have goals that contribute to the overall success of the business but can be measured and attributed directly to the technician as an individual. As a starting point, you should set these goals around the following, each of which contributes to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of an MSP:

  1. Process and policies
  2. Tool proficiency
  3. Technical skills
  4. Customer service

Over the rest of this blog, I will focus on each topic above, looking at the things you should measure and some ideas for increasing performance in each.

Processes and policies 

Processes and policies are the foundation of your business operations. The lack of adherence to these can cause confusion, delays, and errors in execution. For technicians, this has a direct influence on the time spent on individual tickets and ultimately increases the “time to resolution” measurement.

A common example is tickets that sit for too long with tier one technicians before being escalated to tier two. You should have a policy that dictates how long a ticket can sit with tier one technicians before they escalate it. Also, you should track escalations to know which tickets/technicians aren’t escalating after the allowed time has passed. Finally, have a training policy to educate tier one techs regularly on items they should escalate to tier two techs so they don’t spend time on them needlessly.

Tool proficiency

MSPs rely on a variety of tools to run their businesses efficiently. Measuring how much time it takes for a technician to do routine tasks like documentation and timekeeping can show where certain employees are lacking. Taking longer can indicate a need for more training on the tools they’re using—which is an easy fix. However, in order to measure they’re performance, you must track these types of activities. This is one of the reasons to make technicians accountable for every minute of their day. Once you measure all of their activity you can find inefficiencies and address them. Make sure to check with your vendors to see if they offer technician training to save you time.

Technical skills 

It can be tricky to measure technical skills. The easiest way to do it is to look at similar types of tickets and average resolution times per tech for each type of ticket. The techs who take longer could use additional training on that particular type of ticket. For example, if technician A always takes longer than technician B to work tickets involving firewalls, get technician B to train technician A on common firewall issues and their resolutions. Better yet, capture that training in a knowledgebase article you can share with the entire team.

Customer service

Lastly is customer service. This one can be tricky for two reasons:

  • Technicians are not usually an outgoing bunch
  • Soft skills are often lost on technically inclined people

Chances are your entire team could use some training from your sales team. However, as one of my favorite management professionals, Peter Drucker, says, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Measuring customer satisfaction is important. If you aren’t doing it already, try capturing the net promoter score (NPS) for each closed ticket. NPS is measured by asking one simple question, “how likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”

This question gauges the overall state of the customer but is heavily influenced by their most recent transaction (ticket).  If you want you can add the words “Based on this latest issue,” to make it more relevant to the ticket at hand. High performing technicians will generate more positive NPS scores while underperformers will be easily identifiable. You can get more detailed in your surveys if you want but be careful not to make them too complicated. Once you’ve identified technicians who could use more training in this area, coach them using online materials or books to help them see the value in better customer service skills.

How do you get technicians to change?

One final note, incentives go a long way to create a spirit of healthy competition around these issues. Focus on one at a time to keep things simple and rotate throughout the year. Ongoing improvement involves a cycle of employee goal setting, weekly one-on-ones, coaching, and feedback.  For more information on one-on-ones, feedback, and coaching, check out

Technicians are simultaneously your most expensive and most valuable resource. They can generate a lot of revenue and profit if used efficiently. They can also cost a lot of money and decrease profits if you don’t utilize them well. It’s up to you, as the owner/manager, to set goals, measure activity, identify issues, and correct underperformers.

Eric Anthony is the Head Operations Nerd at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.

You can follow Eric on Twitter at @operations_nerd

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