IT Companies are typically six of one, half a dozen of the other - in that there are more than plenty of average IT companies out there and only a handful of really good, reliable and trustworthy ones.
In this blog post, we focus on the key points to focus on when looking for IT Support for your business.
1 | Average Response Time
The average response time is a number which indicates how quickly your issues can be responded to.
Be sure that the average response time is actually when they are responding, as a common trick is to claim excessively quick response times of a few minutes. Some claim that when a ticket is raised, an automated response which is sent to say "Thanks, we've got your ticket and are investigating it" counts as a response.
You should look for a realistic average response time for how long it actually takes for issues to be actually responded to.
The time that it takes should fit in with your needs.
If you can wait for the next business day then a response time of 8 hours is absolutely fine for you, and is quite standard amongst larger IT companies.
Smaller businesses typically need a faster response time than this, so looking for someone who could realistically respond in under 1, 2, or 4 hours.
2 | Expertise
Something every single company you speak to will speak of, their expertise. So much so that it's very hard to distinguish the true experts from the 'experts'.
Look for experience, accreditations held by the company, accreditations held by individuals, and anything else that validates their actual expertise.
Larger IT Firms will also hold standardised accreditations such as ITIL, ISO and Investors in People which smaller firms likely will not, however don't discard the smaller firms for not holding these. They are likely working towards them as they grow. Of course if your company policies require these accreditations then ask the questions early on in your discussions.
Who are their customers and could you even speak to some of their existing customers for honest feedback about their own experiences?
If you didn't have someone that was an expert in their field then it would take them forever to actually fix the issue, and maybe they couldn't even fix the issue to start with.
Often with new customers, we find that over time their staff come to trust in the service we provide and start raising issues which their previous companies just couldn't solve.
Knowing that someone has the right staff that can do things for you, whether it's a minor issue that might suit a more junior level, right through to complex problems and large scale projects such as moving premises or complete IT system refreshes.
It's all about having knowledge at all levels, and being able to use the knowledge most efficiently to provide the best service.
3 | Cost
Cost is always one of the most important considerations. Great companies will likely have higher fees than the average ones, as they will provide a service that matches.
Size of the company is something that isn't something that should concern you as much as you think.
Small companies will likely be able to provide a far superior service than larger companies who are bogged down with standard procedures and policies. Smaller firms are able to flex to your needs without having to sacrifice the quality of service.
Price wise, anything less than £50 p/h is likely too good to be true.
£50 - £70 p/h I would suggest are average prices for an average service.
£70 - £85 p/h are prices commanded only by good, trusted firms with good reputations.
What I would say is that these figures could increase by 50% or higher the closer you get to central London. However anybody with prices higher than these in the local area should have a very good reason, and be able to provide proof to why their prices are so.
4 | Attitude
Attitude is king!
You could have technically the best company in the world supporting your business, but if their attitude isn't right then staff aren't going to want to speak to them and things will slowly disolve.
Every company will have their own personalities, but may I suggest a few things.
- Take a look at their mission statement
- Ask to speak to key members in the company, support, finance, accounts as this will let you get a good feel for what the attitudes and general personalities are like overall.
- A good sense of humour always helps when working in stressful environments - again, speaking to key members of their team will allow you to seek out how well they work under pressure.
5 | Goals and Beliefs
This will be very difficult to get a truly honest answer, but if you speak to the owners of the IT Company try and find out what their own plans are for the business.
Looking to grow organically? Great - this indicates they are commited to always providing a great service.
Looking to grow fast? A word of warning as service levels may slip if growth happens faster than they can recruit good staff.
Looking to sell the business or retire in x years? Avoid - you're likely just a number on their sheet of paper, and when the company is bought by new owners, any manner of things can change. Service levels slip, staff change, entire departments could dissolve.
6 | Hours
An easy one to discuss - what are their opening hours?
If you're a 9-5 business and they're open 9-5, great!
7 | Out of Hours
Do they offer any form of support out of hours?
This will typically be charged extra, and the majority of businesses don't require inclusive out of hours supports as part of normal day-to-day operation.
If you buck that trend, say as a 24x7 business then it's important that you find someone who is able to offer support during all hours.
8 | Number of Technical Staff
In a smaller company of 10 staff, having the majority of those staff being technical is fairly important. If there are more sales and marketing staff than techies, I would ask more questions as to how they provide support.
In large companies of 100+ staff, you would certainly expect around half of these staff to be technical, with the other half made up of other departments such as sales or accounts.
It's always a qualifying question for me when speaking to new suppliers. If they have a technical product, say a CRM system or a line of business software package for your business - how many technical staff, or how many developers do they employ?
If it's a good number, then issues will be fixed quickly, and products will improve at a steady pace.
With smaller numbers, you'll be waiting longer and products may never dramatically improve over time.
9 | Staff Retention
I know large firms who have had more than 50% of their staff change in the last 12 months, with retention like that you will likely never speak to the same person twice. Relationships will be difficult to maintain as account managers or technical engineers will change often.
It's a quick question to ask and very simple to interpret their answers.
High staff turnover may indicate internal issues which aren't that visible from the outside. Staff not being motivated, or perhaps being treated poorly. Dig deeper if you think there may be issues which could impact the service they would provide you in future.
10 | Feedback and Reviews
Once you have worked through all of the points mentioned above, the last thing you should do is check for real feedback or reviews, and I don't mean the testimonials shown on their website. Written testimonials can be written by the company themselves.
Video testimonials are better, as this shows that their customers are happy to stand in front of a camera and publicly say how happy they are with the service.
Search for public reviews, ones that the company doesn't have any control over. Google or Facebook for example, and check they are recent and relevant to the product or service you need.
Lastly you can even look at their own website and ascertain companies they already work with. It may be a bit sneaky, but why not try calling them and just directly asking how they find the service?
If you are looking to change IT Providers then I highly recommend taking a read through our IT Support Learning Hub, which contains information on what to look for, and how to get the most from your IT team.