Choosing an IT support services provider and being on a first date can be very similar experiences. Maybe it's not quite as awkward as a first date can be however, you do want to ask enough questions and listen well enough to decide if you have a reason to stick with them, or if it's best to end the relationship before someone gets hurt, particularly your business. Is it fun? No, but necessary in order to move forward with confidence that you have made the right decision. One way that you can limit a bad experience in either scenario is to ask the right questions from the onset and listen to see if you get the right answers. You don't want to find yourself a few months into the relationship wishing that you had asked the right questions, the tough questions, in the beginning. Here are some of the right questions you can ask in the beginning to avoid IT Support providers that might.....well, stand you up!
- What is your client retention rate? Most businesses will not stick around with a service provider that is not providing good service to them.
- How many clients do you currently serve? This is just to get the first number to determine their employee to end user ratio.
- How many full time engineers or support desk personnel do you currently have? Size isn't the deciding factor. What you want to know is does this company have a healthy employee to end user ratio. Automation can work wonders for efficiency however, sometimes you just want to talk to a human being. The recommended ratio, according to Gartner Research, is 70:1. That's 70 users to 1 support engineer.
- What geographical area do you cover? Why do you care about this? You want a company that understands the culture of your geographic area. Local is better. This is also tied to question 2. You want to know that they can effectively manage the size of their company vs. the size of their client base.
- Do you offer different levels of support? This is a key issue! You don't want one size fits all - you want a company that works best for you. Just as after a few dates you can usually figure out if a person is compatible, you want a company that is compatible with your needs.
- What is your guaranteed response time? These are often referred to SLA (Service Level Agreements) most importantly, how do you guarantee them? If you're late, how does that work? Ever gone on that first date and it ended with "I'll call you"? Yet the call never comes. You want an IT support service that can tell you when they will respond and stick to that response time. You don't want to be left waiting or even worse, stood up!
- Do you provide remote support? It's nice to meet a person, but it's also nice to know they have introduced efficiency that might save everyone time waiting for a support person to drive onsite during high traffic volume times of the day.
- How often do you meet with your clients? Many providers have optimized their remote services to the extent of reducing onsite visits to critical disasters. Even though there may not be a disaster, it's important to meet with your service provider at least once a quarter in order to ensure you are still "on the same page".
- What do you include with your services? There should be a broad array of services offered to your company. Many providers present alike however, each one includes different services with their plans. An IT support company should be able to help you with procurement, projects, security (antivirus and firewall), advisement, vendor management (dealing with the copier or internet service providers), device repair and replacement, onsite support, remote support and more without itemizing new charges on your bill. This way you know what you will get and what it should cost.
- Can you provide referrals? Obviously the chances are better of getting a quality service provider if they have provided reputable services to other businesses in the area. Call the list they give you! I'm sure it's their most preferred clients but if the references they give to you don't pan out, you were just given a sign!
If you are in the market for services, please be sure to let us know. We challenge you to have a first date with us! Contact us and let's start a conversation so that you may ask us the tough questions :)
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