10 questions to ask your IT service provider

Project - Problem solving

Our discussions with new clients are typically focussed on their current concerns and how those can be addressed, but we do encounter a range of questions from time to time that seek to confirm if we can provide the quality of services that we claim we can.

Sometimes the questions are good, but often they make it easy for a service provider to bluff their way into your business without actually demonstrating that they can (and will) provide the services you need.

We know exactly what it takes to ensure that our customers enjoy reliable and powerful IT systems, but a new client often has no idea what they should ask a prospective IT service provider to confirm if they would be a good choice for their own business.

To help you to verify that a prospective IT service provider really is as good as they claim to be we suggest you ask them the following questions:

  1. Is the provision of IT managed services your core business? (This is a good question to start with because it can reveal if you are talking to a photocopier, printer or telephone system company who have recently branched out into I.T.. If they claim to focus on providing I.T. support, ask for client references that confirm how long they have provided I.T. support as a core service).
  2. How many technical staff do you employ? (This is a great questions because a lot of service providers employ more sales and administration staff than they do actual technicians. This can mean that a very small number of technicians need to try and support too large a number of customers, with predictable results).
  3. Where are your helpdesk staff located? (Also a great question, because some service providers actually outsource their helpdesk functions to an offshore company. A good example of this is the service provided by Continuum, who provide a monitoring and helpdesk service so your IT service provider can try and support your needs without actually employing technical staff. If you are not already a client of ours, ask your current provider if they are a Continuum user).
  4. What platform do you use to automate the monitoring and management of the I.T. systems of your clients? (There are a number of good platforms around but only a small number of serious solutions that empower a provider to really tailor their service to your specific needs. If you can identify the platform your provider uses try asking them to demonstrate for you how they customise the system to monitor specific software or hardware environments).
  5. When an issue is detected by your systems, who is alerted and what actions do they take, inside and outside of business hours? (This is a great way to confirm how well organised a provider is. A professional provider will have protocols in place to ensure that when an issue is detected appropriate actions are triggered to ensure that the issue is resolved before it has an impact on you. If they are happy for an issue to simply trigger an email being sent for attention the next business day, you know you need to look elsewhere).
  6. How often do you perform manual checks and maintenance on the I.T. systems of your clients? (A trap for I.T. service provides is to become too reliant on automated systems and to make too many assumptions about the state of a client system. A provider who arranges planned maintenance visits for their customers is demonstrating that they are prepared to invest staff time to make sure that everything is working as it should).
  7. Do you have experience with the specific software applications I use to run my business? (This is an excellent question, but a provider who has never dealt with one of your specific applications should not necessarily be dismissed out of hand. Asking this question gives you the opportunity to confirm that the provider supports other businesses in your industry, and knows the way your industry works).
  8. What strategies do you employ to improve the performance and reliability of the I.T. systems of your clients, and how do you assist them to plan for future changes? (A lot of service providers do not treat planning and managing improvements as part of their ‘support’ services, but a good provider understands that managing the evolution of the systems of their clients is a key part of ensuring that those systems are reliable, and performing well. Ask for details of how the provider would engage with you to plan for the growth of your I.T. systems as your business needs change).
  9. How do you measure client satisfaction with your support services? (A key part of the management of a helpdesk, of any size, is the measurement of client satisfaction. Aside from ensuring that clients are receiving excellent service, a good measurement system will reveal which staff would benefit from further mentoring or training and which clients may need to consider a change to their systems. If the provider has no formal system to measure client satisfaction that suggests they don’t really care if their clients are satisfied with their services).
  10. Why should I choose you to manage and support my business technology? (This is not a probing question, but rather one to allow the provider to properly articulate where they offer value. I.T. service providers operate in different ways, and asking this question allows the provider to clearly state how well suited their services are to your business).

We hope you find our list of suggested questions useful. If your business is seeking a new I.T. service provider we encourage you to call us today on 1300 138 761 or simply click HERE and we will be in contact with you.

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