Is your IT support good enough? 6 questions to ask your IT provider

Can you trust that your existing IT service provider, if you have one, is he or she doing a great job protecting your business? There are six key questions you should ask to find out if they are right for you.

Pay attention to the way your question is answered. It may sound obvious, but if they’re patronising, takes offence at the question, or sounds like they are winging it, red flag it. If they don’t have the information to hand, that’s OK, but they should be able to get you the answer within a day or so. 

I’m not going to suggest for one second, that if your IT service provider (let’s call him Tom) ‘fails’ these questions you should sack him and start looking around. You can’t afford to leave yourself exposed. So, while you should start looking around, keep Tom going until you find the right one.

  1. What am I paying you for? 

Tom should be able to tell you exactly what service he is providing, whether it’s per user, or per device, for example. Typically, it will be one of two service options. 

The most common service is reactive and by the hour when things go wrong. This often seems cheaper and simpler for a small business, but quickly becomes expensive when you have a problem that takes a while to fix. This reactive service also means that there is less opportunity for Tom to learn about you and your business, as he only deals with you when something is broken. That reduces his ability to advise you effectively in future. 

More mature IT service providers offer a monthly, proactive, per user service, usually with a choice of plans (Bronze, Silver or Gold for example). These provide better value as you pay one fee regardless of IT problems, and it puts the onus on the provider to give great value. It also gives them greater ability to learn about you, how you work and how you want to work. 

Some offer a combination of the two, but these can prove complex and difficult to manage. 

  1. How easy is it for either party to terminate the agreement? 

Neither of you should feel tied into a service agreement that you can’t get out of. If you’re unhappy with the service, you should be able to leave. Equally, if it’s clear that the relationship isn’t working, it’s only fair that Tom can sever ties just as quickly as you can. He may use tools that require a long-term deal but will always be able to allocate the licence he has for you onto another client or keep it in reserve. 

Both parties should be able to sever ties in one calendar month, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Even if you signed up for an initial 3 month minimum, or agreed to a year-long contract, you should be able to get out of it in one month. 

  1. What technology is my business currently using? 

You and your team could be using a wide variety of devices (hardware) such as PCs, laptops, tablets, printers, mobile phones, etc. Your people may use their own sometimes, or you may try new things occasionally. It’s important that Tom knows what hardware he is looking after and how. 

If you both know exactly what devices are covered, it helps both of you. Tom can serve and advise you better and you will have peace of mind that everything is being looked after. He shouldn’t be able to trot out the old “that’s not covered” excuse. Tom should be able to tell you how many devices you use, and their function, how many routers you have for internet access, and how many printers you have installed, etc. 

He should also be able to tell you if any of your devices have problems, require replacing now or if they will soon need replacing in the future. A sad fact of modern technology is that it ages quickly, mostly through use, and upgrades are a necessity. Tom should be offering quarterly reviews and, depending on your support agreement, may be able to provide monthly reports.

  1. How do you keep my business running when things go wrong? 

If Tom is reactive and paid hourly, then your business could be unable to function while he is fixing problems. If he is proactive and paid monthly, he should be helping you keep working, even if your office is hit by a tornado filled with sharks! Really? Really. Even if you’ve only recently started working with Tom and he is still in the learning phase, he should be able to give ideas on what he would do for you.

The ideal response you will get to this question is: “As all your people are using our cloud services, you can work from anywhere on any device, no matter what.” Grab his hand, shake it hard and say yes. A lot. 

The next best answer you could hear is: “Although we are still learning about you, we have some ideas we’d like to share with you.” You should say yes to this one too. 

Be concerned if you hear: “When you have a problem, we will fix it as soon as possible. 80% of our fixes are on the same day.” Frown at this one. A lot. Then start finding someone else. Hearing this response means you’re out of action until it’s fixed, possibly for more than a day. If your office is flooded, you’re screwed. Even after the water recedes (and the sharks are rounded up and taken back to sea) there may be damage to your equipment that will take days to recover from. 

  1. Will you save me time / money / help me grow / both? 

This question is very important for you, but less so for Tom. His priority is convincing you that IT support is an investment and necessary for your continued survival, (which it is). 

Reactive IT providers focus on tools or reports that tell you how many tickets they solved last month, or how quickly they can diagnose a problem. That’s good, but mainly for them. 

Most of their answers focus on the premise that paying an expert to do it is cheaper than doing it yourself, which it is. That doesn’t tell you much about your long-term business though. 

Proactive IT support focuses on prevention and helping your business grow, ie, Tom shouldn’t have to close lots of tickets quickly as your IT should be running so well that problems don’t arise that often. 

The best answer to this question is: “Our support tools ensure your IT runs smoothly so that issues arise much less frequently. When they do, we resolve 80% of them without you even knowing about them. Our methods enable you to work much more effectively. This means your team gets things done more quickly, and you can better serve your customers. As a result, your business grows and you’re able to hire new people and get them up to speed much quicker. In turn, they can get on with their work earlier and more efficiently than your competitors. We make sure you never feel alone, or unsure.” 

That’s the perfect answer and one that fits with the Cloud First system. If Tom says this, he’s probably read my book. Grasp his hand firmly and say yes. 

  1. How will we keep in touch? 

Fun Fact: Most people who work in IT don’t talk much. It’s one of the attractions to the job – you can beaver away at your work and speak to people only when necessary, (like when someone mentions Star Wars or World of Warcraft). 

It’s common for business owners to assume that you don’t need to hear from your IT service provider, unless something is wrong. Equally, it’s common for IT people to assume that their customers don’t need to hear from them, unless something is wrong. 

Neither assumption is correct. If Tom doesn’t like talking to you, he should already be on his way out the door. IT is a people business, way before it’s a technology business. To hear from your IT provider regularly either through reports, meeting or phone calls, is a good thing and should be encouraged. There is, however, one caveat to this. If they only speak to or see you when they want to talk about how many tickets they closed that month (to brag about their amazing service), then they are doing you a disservice. 

So, when you ask, “How will we keep in touch?” run away from the one who says: “You can raise a support ticket by emailing here or calling here.” They only want you for your money. 

A slightly better response is: “We’ll schedule regular meetings, either in person or over the phone, and you can ask any questions by emailing [email protected].”

The best response would be something like: “In your welcome pack, you’ll find the methods to raise a support ticket. You’ll also receive regular reports / meetings / road map plans, as well as our newsletter. If you ever have anything you’d like to talk about outside of those things, my personal email and mobile are X and Y.” 

Put a ring on this one, he’s a keeper. 

You’re now armed with 6 powerful questions to ask and the answers you should expect, hope for and avoid. Use them to see how your existing IT service provider fares. 

Considering a new IT provider?

If you want to find out more about the value of cloud technology, used properly alongside good quality systems and solutions , with expert advice, get in touch with me:

Email [email protected] or call 01634 766055.