Unless your business is big enough for its own IT department, outsourcing your IT may benefit your day-to-day operations greatly. Without this service, entire departments can become paralyzed, and your business can come to a grinding halt.
Despite being particularly at risk of disaster without it, many people still put off the task of finding a suitable service provider. This could be due to a feeling of being overwhelmed by the process, not knowing what qualities will best suit your business’ needs, or perhaps a bad experience that has soured your opinion of IT support. In this article, we break down nine key tips for you to consider before selecting an IT support company.
The location of your IT support team is very important, even if the digital age provides many arguments to the contrary. Most common IT issues can now be addressed remotely, but not all of them.
If you choose a local IT support company, it means that you’ll probably get faster service. Your technician may be able to visit your headquarters at a moment’s notice. Having a representative on-site can also be very beneficial, as they can guide you through the process, and more effectively convey what went wrong so as to prevent it from happening again.
Many companies can and do get by using IT support companies located offshore. This is demonstrative of the fantastic technological developments over the years, although it does come with drawbacks. Research has suggested that outsourcing technical work to offshore providers can affect the quality of the results. (1)
Furthermore, time difference can occasionally disrupt your IT support service. Most offshore providers will have staff available around the clock, but typically less so during off-peak hours in the service provider’s country. This may add to additional wait time between lodging your ticket and its fix.
2. Is the IT support company experienced in your industry?
Whether or not the company you hire are experienced in your industry can have significant consequences for the quality of work being done. You can determine an answer to this by asking a few simple questions:
- Does the provider have credibility in your industry?
- Do they have certification that pertains to your industry?
- Do related businesses or your competitors use their services?
- Does their customer base consist of large companies, small-to-medium sized businesses, or individual users?
You wouldn’t employ an electrician to install your plumbing, and the same rule goes for IT. Without proper vetting at this stage, you can end up wasting a lot of time and money when what you really need is tech support.
3. How fast is their response time?
This varies significantly from company to company, but what won’t is the unanimous pledge to respond “very quickly”. Obviously, it is a necessity to obtain some hard data on their response time metrics before taking this regurgitated promise at face value.
The following are some questions that you should ask right from the get-go:
- Whether they have guaranteed response times
- Whether all clients receive the same level of speed, or this is determined by priority
- How long it will take if you need on-site support
- If they offer assurances on issue resolve times
Something that you can also do is to request their Service Level Agreement (SLA). This is an agreement between a customer and a service provider that outlines the metrics of their services. It includes particular details on the responsiveness, quality, and availability of the provider’s services.
The cost of the service provided is, naturally, the first thing that many businesses will consider. Competitive pricing is as important as it is enticing, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. Like with anything else, quality and cost are in strict agreement with each other.
If you opt for the cheapest provider, the pride you feel in saving a few dollars off your bill will likely be diminished once you actually experience their services. A cheap price may indicate that a company is stretching a small number of less-qualified technicians further than they should be. This means that the service you receive could lack in quality, or that the time required will likely be inconvenient to your business operations.
At the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive IT support companies may not be the best providers either. If you are a small-to-medium sized business, the inflated price for the is probably too excessive for your relatively basic needs.
Remember to scrutinize the pricing structure, and to think about your company’s specific needs. Tech help is supposed to improve your business operations, not hinder them. For bigger businesses with complex networks, a contracted, monthly subscription may suit best. For smaller companies, ad hoc work and charges may be a better fit for your needs. Your customers should be at the heart of your decision; a provider who keeps your customers happy will pay for itself.
Communication is another key detail that is susceptible to oversight. Something many won’t consider until they are experiencing first-hand is an inefficient contact process, or slow response time to emails.
Ideally, you should be given a direct phone number for your technician or their department. When they are fixing an issue, it’s always helpful to be kept in the loop during the process. And the provider should keep records of all the work that they do. This means that the company will be able to fix any technical errors quickly and efficiently the next time that they happen.
Your service provider should offer feedback for their services. This shows that they are proactive and continually looking to improve. Little to no recourse for feedback should be a big red flag.
6. Reputation and credibility
As your business will likely know, reputational damage to your brand can adversely affect customer reach and customer conversion. This should be no different when your business inverts to becoming a client to somebody else—especially as ethics are playing an increasingly significant role in business, and the poor reputation of an associated business can affect your own brand reputation. (3)
Some important things to consider in this respect include:
- How you discovered the business—if it was through dubious sources, then it’s best to take a second look.
- Are they certified with large vendors?
- Who they partner with—this can generally be located on their homepage.
Doing your homework on a provider’s background can also be a good idea. Sometimes this can be as simple as a Google search to see what results pop up. If the company has ever been embroiled in a scandal or implicated in anything illegal, it would be good to take a critical second look, or even to ask the company what steps they have taken to rectify past mistakes.
7. Customer satisfaction and testimonials
As a customer to this IT service provider, it’s essential that they have your best interests at heart. We all know the pains of bad service, but it is particularly unacceptable if company revenue is being affected in the process.
Nowadays, people tend to flock to Google or even Facebook to find out what customers really think about a business. This is no longer limited to just restaurants; it has blossomed into customer reviews of all manner of businesses across various industries. These kinds of unfiltered customer testimonials can be invaluable to your decision-making process.
Some key questions to seek answers to in reviews include:
- How easy are they to contact?
- Did they respond in a timely manner?
- Did they resolve the problem?
- Are there recurring issues throughout reviews?
- Have they tried to respond to unhappy customers, and did they take ownership of the situation?
8. Will you get a dedicated technician?
In business, efficient processes depend on working relationships as much as they do professionalism. If a company quickly and efficiently resolves your IT request, it’s a good sign. But if you have to do that groundwork all over again with another technician next time, this can be tiresome.
Having a dedicated technician means building a long-term relationship with someone. This ensures that they are on the same page as you regarding your future business goals. Having said that, different technicians have different fields of expertise, so in lieu of one dedicated technician, it’s also possible that a dedicated department could prove more practical.
9. Their standard of remote service
As adaptable, modern-day technical professionals, it’s expected of IT service providers to be able to provide some kind of remote service. Many unmanageable glitches that petrify the common user can be amended in a matter of moments by an IT professional. Ensuring that the chosen support can respond to these minor issues remotely and quickly will be a blessing to your business operations.
Finding an IT service provider is a task that should not be taken lightly. Choose wrongly, and your business operations may get stuck in the mud. By making careful considerations based on factors such as geography, industry experience, response time, credibility, remote services, and—of course—price will ensure that your business receives the best possible technical service when it needs it most.