1. Will I be able to speak with a technician immediately when I call?
Many IT support companies will have non-technical employees answer the phone. Instead, they will take down the specifics of your problem and forward them to the specialists, who will contact you when they are ready. When you have a problem, it usually needs to be addressed right away; chances are, when they call you back, it won’t be a problem. Check to see if the company you’re contemplating has direct access to the technical staff.
2. Is it possible to only call if we have a problem?
Ask if the IT support business you’re considering simply responds to problems as they emerge, or if they also serve as a helpdesk, providing assistance to anybody in your company with even simple questions like “How do I do this in Word?” or “How do I stop Excel from doing that?” An IT support firm that can relieve the pressure on a person in the office with limited IT understanding will allow that person to focus on the job they were hired to do, and the service will almost certainly pay for itself.
3. Do you keep an eye on our systems?
Many IT organisations still solely provide break-fix support, but there are now so many good software packages available that can monitor thousands of devices and automatically bring the most critical issues to a technician’s notice that break-fix assistance is almost obsolete. It is in the IT support company’s interest to conduct proactive monitoring because it can reduce calls to them. Similarly, you should be able to get on with your work without having to call the help desk every two minutes; monitoring can assist prevent this by catching problems before they become a problem.
4. How do you handle service packs and updates?
Updates for security and reliability are released by software suppliers and are necessary for a stable and secure system. Updates and service packs may be configured to install automatically by some IT companies. Every night, a computer might be turned off and updates scheduled for 3 a.m. However, some will install them throughout the working day, which may have an influence on performance and cause interruptions to your job. There are even companies that will charge you for out-of-hours updates since they aren’t covered by their contract because they aren’t done during working hours. Ascertain that software upgrades are covered by the service contract and that they are monitored and performed at a time that is convenient for you.
5. What about custom or niche software?
Will the IT support company help you if you have an issue with Sage or QuickBooks, or other software that the IT support firm may have never heard of? Will they install any updates that are made available? With an IT support contract, the company should work as a full-service outsourcer, handling all of your IT for you rather than simply handing you over to a third-party to manage. They don’t need to understand the inner workings of every piece of software on the market; that’s impossible; but, a skilled technician should be able to navigate most unfamiliar situations.
6. What peripherals are covered by the support? Are our printers, scanners, and cell phones covered?
An IT support business will frequently support computers and servers while charging extra for anything connected to them. You may also be expected to interact with the manufacturer for warranty claims if something goes wrong. Make sure you ask if they’ll call on your behalf; after all, they’ll be more qualified to handle any technical queries about the problem. Mobile device covers are more important than ever; they are a vital item for modern business, and they are more like computers than they have ever been. Will the IT support business assist you if you are having trouble receiving emails on your mobile device or if you want it set up to access your emails?
7. Will a technician be assigned to me who gets to know my system?
You expect a rapid and efficient answer when you call your helpline. If you’re asked for your account number initially, you’ll feel like an account number! If the person on the other end of the line doesn’t recognise your voice, how can they understand your setup? Because IT support businesses handle several clients, outsourcing your IT assistance is less expensive, but you should still be able to have a named contact who becomes familiar with your systems and can thus resolve any difficulties more quickly. That isn’t to suggest you won’t talk to other technicians, but having someone with whom you develop a relationship is advantageous to both you and them for things like knowing where the router is and what it looks like, or that you have a power outage or that your server is tucked beneath Jane’s desk. Isn’t it good that when you call, someone recognises your voice and can even inquire about Dave the cat’s well-being following his visit to the vet last week?
8. How much will it cost if I require on-site assistance?
There will always be situations that necessitate the presence of an IT expert. There are some things that can’t be done remotely, whether it’s a failing hard drive or a RAM update. If you’re considering outsourced IT help, make sure you understand the costs associated if you require on-site assistance. It’s common to be charged both a call-out and an hourly rate; some companies may allow you to roll a number of visits into the cost of the annual contract; and some companies may even allow you to include all call-outs. If you want visits included, you’ll have to agree to terms like what will and won’t result in a call-out. Will the call-out cost be waived if the provider is local to you? And, if you’re fortunate enough to already have someone in your firm with some IT understanding, would the IT support provider be willing to walk them through a procedure if it’s judged necessary to save time and money?
9. What hours is support available throughout the day, and what occurs after hours?
Not all IT support businesses provide round-the-clock assistance, but do you really need it? You can’t expect a technician to be available 24 hours a day if you want a service where you have an allocated technician. If you want 24 hour support, you’ll have to pay extra. Some organisations only function during regular business hours, but what if you’re working late on a contract or other critical project and something goes wrong? Is there a mechanism for seeking help outside of business hours? And, if so, how much more will it cost?
10. How long does it take you to respond? Review the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Calling with a problem is only the first step; you must also know what the next steps are and how long it will take to resolve the issue. Many concerns will likely simply require a simple yes or no response, but others may require a bit more time to resolve. How long will it take for a technician to contact you back if you don’t get through right away? It’s no good if you’re unable to work while twiddling your thumbs; by the time they phone back, the problem may have vanished! Determine the initial reaction time, followed by the projected fix times.
11. What criteria are used to prioritise calls?
You’ll probably discover that this changes depending on the nature and severity of the problem. If you can still work, the problem may be handled later than if it is preventing everyone in your office from working. There will be times when you report something and say, “It isn’t urgent, simply when you have a minute.” An IT support company will prioritise calls in some way, so make sure you understand how they do it so you know where to set your expectations. There will always be non-urgent tasks that require only two clicks and can be completed in a flash, but you want to make sure that anything that prevents you from working is given high priority, followed by tasks that simply slow you down. Paying your employees to wait through downtime is the last thing you want to do.
12. Do you have a catastrophe recovery policy or procedure in place?
It’s unrealistic to expect everything to be fixed in an hour if the worst happens. However, you must know how quickly someone can arrive, how they will work to get you back up and running, and, most importantly, how much it will cost. Find out what precautions are in place to avoid disasters if they do occur. A reputable provider will collaborate with you on your business continuity strategy and numerous worst-case situations to ensure that you can continue to serve your customers even if your system isn’t fully functional; and, most importantly, that losing everything won’t be the end of your company.
13. Will your IT team collaborate with us on a long-term strategic basis?
Your company may alter on a daily basis or remain quite constant. You need to be sure your IT support firm can adapt to your shifting needs, whether you’re expanding or contracting (preferably the former!). Can you simply remove machines that are no longer in use if you downsize, and can you add new ones pro-rata if you grow so you don’t have multiple contracts in place if you grow? Non-technical visits may be included by certain IT support providers to discuss your plans and ensure that the IT services they’re delivering are the most appropriate for your needs. Because IT is such a fast-paced sector, there may be a better method to arrange your IT infrastructure or a new service that will be beneficial to you. Check to see if the IT support company you’re contemplating will have an active relationship with you, one that isn’t solely focused on selling you the latest gizmo you don’t require.
14. Is there anything the contract doesn’t cover?
Every supplier will provide you with a list of what is included in the price, but be sure to inquire about what isn’t. In addition to on-site inspections, you’ll be astonished at how many vendors will raise additional charges for things like virus removal during the contract’s term. If a computer becomes infected with a virus, isn’t it the IT support company’s fault for failing to provide proper protection? Viruses are frequently contracted by employees doing non-work-related activities such as downloading ‘free’ screensavers for opening an email attachment promising ‘here are your airline tickets’ (even if they haven’t ordered any); however, there are ways to limit the types of files your employees can download and techniques to prevent malicious files from ever reaching your employees, so even if they’re trigger-happy with the mouse, they won’t cause any damage.
15. What is the name of this company?
Do your homework! There’s nothing easier than having a strong tool like Google at your disposal. Look for information about the company and look past the first page, which is likely to contain solely material created by the company. Look around to see whether they’re mentioned anywhere else. You may come across some positive feedback, but you may also come across some negative feedback. Also, if you have any names, do some research on them as well. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter may all provide you with valuable information on the people you’re considering doing business with. It will just take a few minutes of your time, but it will be well spent; you should be able to learn a lot about your potential IT assistance service. Chameleon Support is an award winning IT support and strategic services company with over 15 years’ experience of delivering exceptional service to small and medium sized organisations across all sectors. Every day over 1,000 people depend on our support and expertise and we have grown to be a trusted and reliable provider throughout the UK.