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Clarity in MSP Agreements preserves reputation and thwarts legal claims

The digital landscape is continuously evolving, pushing Managed Services Providers (MSPs) to broaden their offerings and to take on the roles of trusted IT consultants, outside help desks, and systems security advisors, among others. With the diverse nature of IT support services, it’s critical to ensure these services are clearly and comprehensively defined in MSP-client agreements. This not only lays the groundwork for a robust MSP-client relationship but also sets the stage for a smoother operational framework.

The Vital Role of Well-Defined IT Support Services

Often, the root of dissatisfaction in MSP-client relationships is a lack of clarity and alignment around the scope of IT support services. The MSP agreement is the foundation of the business relationship, and the services defined within it should be comprehensive, leaving no room for ambiguity. This means that the MSP must delineate the specifics of the service provision, including the locations covered, equipment involved, types of services provided, response times, and the level of support.

A lack of precision in service descriptions can lead to situations where expectations and reality don’t align. A client might interpret “IT support services” as a blanket term covering all their offices and all types of equipment used, while the MSP might price and plan its services with a narrower scope in mind. Misunderstandings like these can sour relationships, potentially resulting in clients seeking other providers and tarnishing the MSP’s reputation.

A Real-World Example of Misalignment

Consider an MSP whose client has its headquarters in Chicago and five sales offices spread across the United States. The MSP, in the managed services agreement, agrees to provide “IT support services” without further elaboration. The client agrees to the service at the quoted price, presuming that the service covers its headquarters and all its sales offices, including support for all its devices – laptops, phones, tablets, and others.

However, the MSP’s understanding of “IT support services” is quite different. The MSP intends to provide support services only to the headquarters, and the quoted price covers only the computers used by employees at the client’s headquarters. This discrepancy in understanding can lead to dissatisfaction, with the client feeling short-changed and the MSP facing the brunt of a damaged business relationship.

The Solution: Comprehensive Service Descriptions

To avoid such pitfalls, MSPs should focus on creating a comprehensive service description that leaves no room for doubt. Such descriptions should address:

  1. Locations Covered: Specify whether the service covers only the headquarters or also includes branch offices.
  2. Equipment Coverage: Enumerate the devices covered under the support service. Are phones and tablets included or is the service limited to desktop computers?
  3. Types of Services: Define the support services offered. Does it include hardware support, network support, or both?
  4. Response Times: Clarify the expected response times for support requests and issue resolution.
  5. Level of Support: Outline the support service level. Is it available only during regular business hours or does it extend to 24/7 availability?

By defining these aspects, MSPs can provide their clients with a clear understanding of the services offered. This clarity can prevent misunderstandings and potential conflicts, fostering a stronger and more effective MSP-client relationship.

Legal Implications and the Need for Expert Assistance

Misunderstandings in MSP-client relationships can lead to legal complications. Clients may argue that the MSP failed to deliver the services promised, leading to potential disputes. MSPs can protect themselves by crafting comprehensive and unambiguous service agreements.

However, this task is not as simple as it may seem. Crafting a legally sound, comprehensive MSP agreement requires a combination of legal, business, and industry expertise. This is where ITLA comes in. We have extensive experience in assisting MSPs and technology clients to help navigate this complex landscape. ITLA helps MSPs create comprehensive, clear, and legally robust agreements that are tailored to their unique circumstances and services.

How do we help? In a multitude of ways. We assist in defining the scope of IT support services while considering the potential legal implications. ITLA can help ensure that the terms are not only clear but also equitable, reducing the risk of disputes down the line. Furthermore, ITLA can guide MSPs in implementing a robust system for documenting service changes and updates, a crucial element in maintaining the clarity and accuracy of the MSP-client agreement over time.

Beyond the initial agreement, ITLA can also provide ongoing legal support to MSPs. As the digital landscape evolves, the need for adaptation and agreement modifications always arise. ITLA can ensure that these changes are executed properly, maintaining the integrity of the MSP-client relationship and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

Take Aways

In the dynamic world of IT support services, clarity and precision are crucial. A comprehensive and well-defined MSP agreement not only builds a strong foundation for a successful MSP-client relationship but also helps prevent potential legal disputes. By leveraging legal expertise in the crafting and maintenance of these agreements, MSPs can ensure they are setting the stage for a smooth, efficient, and legally secure operational framework.

Are you an MSP in need of assistance with defining your IT support services in a comprehensive, legally sound manner? Reach out to ITLA today and Schedule a Call. We specialize in supporting MSPs and technology clients, and we’re ready to help you build a more robust, reliable, and legally secure MSP-client relationship.

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Dan Liutikas

ITLA Manging Partner
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