If you’re a small to medium-sized business and considering a new IT support company, you know how difficult this decision can be. How can you judge their technical capability when you’re not an IT expert yourself? It’s vital you make the right decision, as your tech support provider will become a virtual team within your business.
Any IT downtime can have a seriously negative impact on your company’s performance. As a London IT support company, we’re well-placed to provide you with some essential questions to ask would-be IT support providers. We’ve broken these up into several categories:
- The company
- Their accreditations
- Their people
- Contracts and payment
- Response times
- The future
- What size is your company?
IT support providers come in all sorts of sizes, and offer a range of services. Bigger companies may have a broader set of skills, while a smaller company or consultant could bring you more specialised abilities. Paying a high price won’t necessarily mean you get more value. Instead, focus on finding a company that can meet your particular demands.
- What geography do you cover?
If your business has several locations, nationally and internationally, your provider must be able to support you in all of these. If you’re based in one location, you may find it easier to work with a local company. At Speedster, we provide IT support services in central London.
- Do you support other companies in my industry?
When an IT support company has worked for several businesses in your industry, they may be in a better position to help you than others. From experience, they’ll already have an idea of how you use IT and what challenges you typically face.
- What are your client retention rates?
Client retention and satisfaction rates are an excellent indicator of an IT support company’s ability and performance. We’re proud to say many of our clients have been with us for over ten years.
- Can I speak to a reference?
Testimonials can show why clients were impressed your prospective IT partner. You can go one further by speaking to the clients directly. Most tech companies will provide you with contact details for a reference on request. If they don’t, or seem reluctant to, this may be a sign that something’s not right.
- What are your IT support desk credentials?
Make sure their IT support desk is directly employed and based in the UK. Check out what their operating hours are too, and if this fits with what you need; whether that’s 24/7 cover or 8am - 6pm. Is there out of hours assistance, and is this remote or onsite? Our IT support desk is covered from London on a 24/7 basis.
- What technology partner accreditations do you have?
It’s important to ensure your IT company has partnerships with reputable technology providers, such as Microsoft, Dell and HP. It’s also worth asking if they have accreditations. Microsoft, for instance, runs a partnership accreditation scheme where partners must pass exams and meet other criteria to be awarded Gold or Silver partner status.
- Will I get an account manager?
An often overlooked element is the benefit of a dedicated account manager. It’s important to have someone as a point of contact who thoroughly understands your business, and can meet you frequently to discuss service and support your performance. This way, they can focus on excellent service delivery and meeting your expectations.
- Will I get an engineer?
Most IT companies will assign their engineers to the issues they feel they can fix most effectively, so you may not always be dealing with the same one. But this question is still worth asking. If they say yes, consider the reasons why: it may mean they have a small number of engineers at this experience level.
- What training do your engineers get?
Technology is always changing, and so engineers need to be able to keep up with developments. Find out how often your prospective company’s engineers receive training, and if they’re following courses for the specific hardware and software you have.
Contracts and Payment
- What levels of support do you offer?
IT companies tend to offer a choice of service arrangements. The most popular are:
- Pay-as-you-go, for hourly or fixed-rate prices. These can be expensive.
- Online chat, where you access support via digital messaging channels. This can be cheaper, but it can feel less personal.
- Break-fix, charged hourly in advance or after the work is done. It can also work like an insurance policy on a fixed-price contract.
- Managed services, where your IT support company actively watches over your activity and offers fixes. You’ll usually sign an annual support contract for this option.
Picking the right option is more important than price. If you think you can’t afford support, you definitely can’t afford the consequences of an IT fault.
- What’s covered in your support contract?
‘We cover everything’ is a vague promise. When speaking about support contracts, you need specifics. Do they supply hardware, software and licenses? One or two but not the other? Do they charge extra for travel and installation or this is included in your fee? Don’t be afraid to dig for detail. The more you can find out, the better.
- What isn’t covered in your support contract?
It’s just as important to learn what a potential IT partner won’t do. Are there any costs that aren’t included in your fee? Again, don’t be afraid to get specific here. This is stuff you need to know.
- How will I pay?
Suppliers can use a variety of payment models. Choose what works out best for you. You should also ask if they charge extra for one-off problems. Some will include this in your subscription, but others may not.
- How can I log a problem?
Is there a specific person you should try to reach, such as an account manager? Should you call, email, or use a ticketing system?
- How quickly can you respond?
Asking about timing can help you know what to expect, and plan for any downtime that may come up. Knowing this in advance is better than get a nasty shock when a deadline’s fast approaching.
- Can you support my growth plans?
You shouldn't just think about the size of their company; you should consider yours too, and how you want this to grow. When it does, your IT company needs to be able to support it. Some providers will offer flexibility in the event of growth.
- What are the cancellation terms?
We know, you don’t want to think about the end. But life is unpredictable, and for whatever reason, you may find yourself wanting to part ways with your IT company. So find out if there are any cancellation fees, how much notice you have to give, and when you have to return any equipment and when you’ll lose any licensing by.
One Last Thing
Run through these questions with your shortlisted IT providers and find one you like. This will be the start of a long-term professional relationship. Our final advice is this: make sure you like them because they’ll be a virtual part of your team.
If you’re looking for an IT support company in London and need some advice, contact us. We’d be happy to help.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published as ‘5 Questions to Ask When Choosing an IT Support Partner’ in November 2016. It was updated in August 2018.