Not all IT providers are created equal. Maybe your company has had the same provider for years, making it easy to renew that contract without much thought. But IT support is an essential service that can have a major impact on your business’s operations and reputation. Take the time to review your current IT service provider to determine if you are getting the service you need at the quality and price you want.
If you aren’t 100% happy with your current provider, it’s time to make a change. Knowing the right questions to ask an IT support company is an important first step in picking the right partner.
1. What Experience Do You Have in My Industry?
All companies need IT services, so any IT support provider should be able to offer those services, right? While many companies will have you believe that, your provider should have proven experience relevant to your industry.
Why does industry-specific experience matter? You want to work with an IT company with a knowledge of:
- Operations: IT needs can vary from industry to industry. Whether you are looking for general support or assistance on a specific project, you want to know that your IT provider understands how operations in your industry work.
- Challenges: The challenges in healthcare, for example, will be different than the challenges in architecture. Your IT partner is supposed to help you solve challenges, and that process is a lot easier when that partner has experience solving industry-specific obstacles.
- Risks: Different industries face different IT risks. For example, some industries are primary targets for cyberattacks. Others may have different risk priorities. Do you want an IT support provider that knows those risks or a provider that applies the same risk categorization to all industries?
Ask your potential IT support provider to share insight into the industries they serve. You can also ask if the IT support company has earned rankings or awards relevant to your company’s sector. If the provider does not have any experience, consider moving on to another option.
2. What Support Is Included in the Contract? What Isn’t Included?
If you want to know what to look for in a managed services provider, dive into the details of your potential contract. Some possible support to look for includes:
- Help desk: Do your employees need access to regular tech support? An IT help desk can answer any questions and help to keep everyone’s devices running smoothly so that they can do their jobs.
- Data protection: Your business’s data is a vital asset that needs to be protected. Does your IT provider contract include data backup and protection? This addition could save you from disaster down the road.
- Network monitoring: Your company’s network likely spans across a large number of locations and devices. Regardless of how far your network reaches, it needs to be protected. Does your support contract include network monitoring to catch and prevent intrusion and damage?
- Mobile device and server management: Mobile devices have become instrumental to daily life. Many employees can access their employer’s network on their phones, tablets and home computers. Does your IT services contract include management of these devices? You should also know if your contract extends to include server management, which can involve updating and configuring your server.
What isn’t included in the contract is just as essential as what is. If your contract doesn’t cover some necessary IT service, you will need to perform those tasks in-house or work with another partner to make sure you cover all your bases.
3. What Is Your Response Time?
One of the most important questions to ask outsourced IT support involves response time. How quickly can you expect your IT partner to respond? How will response times differ for a relatively simple matter versus an IT emergency? When asking about response time, consider:
- Help desk hours: Your partner’s help desk is there to answer everyday IT questions for your team. Some help desks offer 24/7 support, while others work during set office hours. Think about the level of support your company needs. During the help desk’s working hours, how quickly can you expect to receive assistance? Will there be long wait times? Will open tickets sit unresolved for days?
- Security issue response time: Not all IT matters are urgent. Some issues can wait for days without materially impacting your business. Other problems cannot wait. If you experience a widespread disruption of IT operations or a security issue, you want to know that your partner will be there, ready to help.
- Time from response to solution: Once you connect with your IT support provider, how long will it take for their team to solve your problem? Rapid response time is of little value if it takes too long to deliver an effective outcome.
4. What Is Your Customer Retention Rate?
The IT services sector has an average customer retention rate of 81%. Customer retention is a very telling metric, giving potential clients an idea of how happy an IT support company’s customer base is. High retention indicates high levels of satisfaction. If the potential IT partner has a low customer retention rate or it won’t share that metric, you have cause for concern.
Don’t be afraid to ask IT providers for that number. Ask for examples of satisfied customers and explanations for why clients have decided to leave and seek another partner. Companies that have built strong reputations supported by excellent customer service will be able to offer you that insight.
Common reasons for customer churn include poor service and failure to deliver value. You might actually be looking for a different provider for similar reasons, and if possible, you want to avoid selecting another IT partner that will present the same challenges.
5. How Does Your Support Ticket Process Work?
One of the most important questions to ask an IT support provider is about their support ticket process. That procedure itself can involve a few steps, so you might ask:
- How do you open a ticket? The process of opening a support ticket should be fast and simple. Ask your potential IT support provider how this task works. Do they use a specific system? Can you open a ticket through an online portal? Can you open a ticket over the phone?
- How are support tickets prioritized? Depending on the size of your company — and the size of your IT partner’s other customers — the team handling support tickets might have many issues to resolve every day. How are these issues prioritized? What system does the IT provider use to sort through, categorize and prioritize critical issues? You want to know that your IT issues are being addressed in a timely, organized fashion.
- How are tickets resolved? Ticket resolution is essential to keeping your business running smoothly. Does the IT partner notify you, the client, when they resolve tickets? What happens if you are not happy with the resolution process? Do you need to reopen a new ticket?
6. What Do You Monitor? What Security Measures Are in Place for Your Clients?
IT security is crucial for your business. Your and your clients’ data need to be protected from the threats active in the world today. When you examine a contract proposal from an IT support provider, carefully consider what kinds of security measures are included. Does your provider have measures in place for:
- Your network: Threat actors actively try to compromise business’ networks for financial gain. While some industries are at higher risk for these kinds of attacks than others, no industry can afford to get on without network protection. How will your IT provider monitor and protect your network?
- Devices: Today, most businesses’ networks include much more than their servers. Employees and third-party vendors can often access sensitive data and systems from home computers and mobile devices. These endpoints are vulnerable to attack. Does your IT support contract offer monitoring and protection for devices?
- The cloud: According to the Flexera 2020 State of the Cloud Report, 93% of businesses use multi-cloud solutions, while 87% have a hybrid strategy. The cloud offers a number of advantages, but it is yet another aspect of your business that is susceptible to attack by threat actors. Does your IT support offer security measures that cover the cloud?
7. What Will the Transition From My Current IT Company Be Like?
Once you know how to choose an IT support company, you’ll have to transition from your current partner. Your company will need to do some preparation to make that transition as easy as possible. Inform your staff and vendors of the impending change, maintaining transparency and sharing the necessary information with all parties affected by the switch. You can also ask your incoming IT support partner how they will help to make the transition seamless. Ask questions like:
- How long will the transition process take? A seasoned IT support provider will have managed many transitions before yours. Your new partner should have a playbook that outlines the different stages necessary for successfully switching providers. They should be able to provide a timeline specific to your business based on its industry, size and contract details.
- What information do you need from my team? Clearly communicating with your new IT partner will help make the transition process easy. Make sure you have clear points of contact within your business and the new support provider’s team.
- How will you mitigate business disruption? You are likely switching to a new provider because you want a higher level of service to meet your business’s needs. With that in mind, you want to avoid disruption to your daily operations. Ask your new IT partner how they manage risk during the transition process.
8. Can Your Company Handle My Organization’s Size?
How to choose a managed service provider depends in part on the size of your company. See if your business is a part of the small and midsize group or if it is considered a larger company. Factors like the number of employees, number of physical locations and annual revenue determine your business’s size. Typically, small businesses have 10-49 employees, while midsize businesses have 50-249, and companies with more than 250 employees are usually considered large businesses.
When selecting an IT partner, ask what kinds of customers they serve. An IT provider that specializes in large businesses is a promising fit for companies that exceed the threshold of 250 employees. On the other hand, those IT support providers that mostly manage large companies may not understand the needs of small- to medium-sized businesses. Ask your potential IT partner about other clients they serve that are similar in size, as well as industry, to your business.
IT providers that do not have experience working with businesses comparable to your size may not deliver on your expectations. Outgrowing an IT support partner or discovering the support partner does not understand the needs of a business your size is a common factor that drives a provider switch.
9. Will I Get a Dedicated Account Manager?
When working with a partner, you want to know that they understand your business’s unique needs. You also want to be able to build trust and rapport with that partner. An IT support company with experience in your industry and with companies of your size is a great starting point, but it is still important to determine how you communicate with that partner. A dedicated account manager will:
- Provide continuity of service: You do not want to waste your time explaining your IT issues to multiple people. A dedicated account manager can serve as your main point of contact, communicating issues and questions to the rest of the support team. An account manager that knows the ins and outs of your business can help maximize the value you get out of your IT service provider.
- Understand your business’s long-term goals: IT services are an essential part of your operations. Even if those services are outsourced, they will need to adapt to your business’s changing goals and needs. A dedicated account manager will have in-depth knowledge of your company’s long-term goals, empowering them to help you adjust your IT service as needed.
You may also want to ask your support partner if your contract will include a dedicated engineer who can be your go-to technical contact.
Get Your Questions Answered With PCS
At PCS, we think finding an IT partner should be easy, and we are ready to serve you. If you are looking for a new IT provider, ask us these questions — and any other ones you can think of — to understand the full scope of what we can offer. Selecting a service provider is an important decision, and we are here to help make that decision as easy as possible.
Contact us to start a conversation about your IT needs and have your questions answered.