For many MSPs, handling client equipment is just part of the job. Maintenance work, updating hardware or software, troubleshooting and more, it is impossible to completely stop contact with laptops and other devices if you want to keep business running with any amount of continuity during this time. Here are some ideas to make this process more transparent for your clients, and safer for your staff.
It goes without saying that all social distancing or isolation regulations should be followed, without exception. When arranging drop offs or pick ups for laptops or devices, create a safe process that is consistent across the business. One option is to have an SMS or an email account where clients can message you with details of the problem and arrange to pay over the phone or via bank transfer.
When it comes to the physical drop off, this is a very useful procedure that some businesses are using to limit contact, via the use of QR codes, Microsoft or Google Forms, and an isolated area of the building. Clients scan the QR code with their phone, enter the important information on an online form, are admitted entry to the building alone, where they can leave their device in a secure location, and exit. You can also ask clients to try to limit the pieces of equipment you are exposed to, such as reminding them to remove adaptors, plugs, or laptop cases before they make the drop off.
Start with Sanitization
Remember that the risk of contracting Covid-19 lowers the longer you retain the devices. Within 3-4 hours, the risk is reduced heavily, and it should be eliminated in a few days, typically around 4-6 days. That’s a long turnaround time for fixing client devices, but you might consider making this the protocol for non-urgent requests and ensuring that the 3-4 hour wait time is kept to strictly.
Once you start working on the devices, your first step is sanitization. Remember, this is not the same as sterilizing, so even after you have cleaned everything, you should still take precautions and remember that the risk is not completely eliminated.
That being said, the best way to sanitize is using 70% alcohol, and remembering to let the equipment sit, rather than immediately wiping. Some businesses are adding the extra step of doing this twice, leaving the item for 10 minutes to half an hour between each time. Lysol or Clorox wipes are known to be effective here. Be careful about what you use on a device screen, as this can be easily damaged. The Lysol website publicizes that you can use its wipes on device screens, but always check manufacturers guidelines so as not to void a warranty if something goes wrong.
Protective Clothing and Procedure
Outside of this, gloves and face-masks are a good way to reduce the risk of handling client equipment. It’s essential that you change your gloves between working on different pieces of equipment, or you could just be moving the germs from one client device to another, the last thing you want to do. If you’re using disposable gloves, dispose of these after working on one machine. If you’re using non-disposable, such as washing up gloves – make sure to wash these thoroughly with hot and soapy water that is at least 130F.
When you’re working with the equipment, you should also think of ways to keep contact to a minimum with each device. Consider using your own wireless keyboard or mouse, so that the only contact is through one USB port, rather than prolonged use of the client’s machine. Implement a procedure for the equipment so that it doesn’t have to travel around your offices more than necessary, or only comes into contact with one member of staff.
Remember, keeping track of your movements is essential here, in case you need to prove the steps you took in the future. Log everything through an application like Microsoft or Google forms, so that if health officials or individual clients ask for information, you have the data on who handled the equipment, the sanitization process you used, or the exposure to the potential virus readily to hand.
Stay One Step Ahead
This is a time for extraordinary measures, and a real balance must be kept between being able to support and protect your clients through this period, and also keep your business and your own staff safe. If you’re handling client equipment on a daily basis, make sure to set up these protocols as standard, and publicize them widely and transparently so that your clients can give consent when they drop off equipment, and your staff are clear on your expectations. And let us hope that we can get back to business as usual soon!