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Should Your MSP Answer the Phone?

In an IT helpdesk, you have a few options when it comes to handling inbound phone calls from end-users.

You can:

  • Let calls to a message and then disconnect
  • Let calls go to vmail
  • Let calls go to an answering service
  • Let calls go to a non-technical customer rep
  • Let calls go to a technical customer rep
  • Let calls to to an engineer

Message + Disconnect

While this may be shocking to IT firms, some IT departments do take the approach of calls going to a message/disconnect. This actually can be effective if you have a captive audience that you want to force into a specific communication channel, e.g., forcing end-users to log a ticket via a helpdesk portal. The message would go like this: “This is the IT support team. To log an issue, please create a ticket in the IT helpdesk portal. If you are unable to use your computer, please have your manager create a ticket on your behalf.”

I don’t think the above approach would work well in an IT firm, so let’s not dig too much into it.

Vmail & Answering Service

We can group another approach into “go to vmail/answering service.” This is effective if you have the messages routed into your incoming helpdesk queue. It does train your end-users to be succinct, but can also aggravate them, especially if an answering service asks too many questions without being able to provide help. Remember, phone calls are a balancing act of patience+reward, and answering services often require a lot of patience with little reward for the end-user.

Answer by Non-Technical Customer Rep

This is often what happens in smaller IT firms. The IT firm recognizes that it needs help with answering end-user calls, but can’t fully dedicate a technical resource. The reward is that the end-user gets a human, and that the help is often better than with an answering service. Added to that, the non-technical rep can do basic triage on the ticket before sending it to the helpdesk.

Answer by Technical Customer Rep

Similar to above, but the person answering has direct experience in IT. They can assist in full triage and tier 1 resolution (to a point). We’ll circle back to this.

Answer by Engineer

This is the most expensive solution, and, surprisingly, not the most effective for the end-user. In fact, it’s less effective than “Answer by Technical Customer Rep.” Overall, it likely hovers between “Answering Service” and below “Non-Technical Rep.”


Engineers solves problems. And if they answer every call from your end-users, they will likely spend far too much time on small issues, while larger issues grow (strategic issue). Even worse for your end-users, the engineer will be handling a small issue, taking their time, while several other users queue up for support. This results in both low throughput and POOR COMMUNICATION to users that are in the call queue.

Overall, one of the worse options in my opinion.

The Best Solution

The best solution is a Technical Customer Rep. They don’t have the skillset of an engineer, but they do have IT experience. They should triage tickets and, if bandwidth allows in your IT firm, they should tackle tickets that require 15 minutes or less. If they can’t solve tickets in under 15 minutes, they escalate and move on.

The 15-minute model for triage/quickfix is taught by SeaLevel Ops, and we’re big fans of their model.

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