Seeking a service provider should be similar to recruiting a new employee. As with a job interview, aim to ask open-ended questions to get the best answers. Here are five subjects you should take time to explore with each service provider you contact:
1. Tell me about your client base.
It is important to understand who the company is currently serving. Don’t be blinded by big-name clients, but listen instead for the scale and demographic of their customers. If you are a small business, you may wish to select a more individually-tailored service provider, rather than the biggest company.
If their current clients sound similar to your business in size and I.T. usage, they will probably be well positioned to meet your needs. Testimonials or proof of customer satisfaction are very helpful, and there is nothing unethical about contacting some of their clients to ask how happy they are with the service.
2. How do you stay ahead of developments in technology?
This open-ended query is a preferable structure to, for example, “What qualifications do your engineers have?” That question would mean more work for you, as you would have to research how current credentials are, and how they are earned.
Listen carefully to determine how proactively an I.T. Support company works to keep their skills current. Ideally, the candidates will tell you about their minimum certifications for engineers and any ongoing training programs that they participate in.
3. Tell me about the packages you offer.
Determine which services you need and which package will suit you, bearing in mind the price for each. Find out if the company will proactively monitor your system or just be on call to put out fires when something goes wrong. See if they will provide you with dedicated engineers and an account manager (if you need them). And if they charge an annual subscription, don’t forget to think ahead – what will your business need in 10 or 11 months’ time?
4. How are your support calls handled?
It’s important to know what this candidate will do when you contact them. Get a measure of their response times and how they deal with emergencies. Find out if issues can be logged online, or via a dedicated phone number, and how these issues are escalated. If you need 24/7 I.T. support, check how this is handled – you want to ensure that you can reach the right person to fix any problems, regardless of when they occur.
5. What is your best price?
Once you’ve found a service that seems right for you, remember to ask how flexible the price is. Sometimes you can negotiate a lower price by declining optional services that you won’t need. Most account managers will offer competitive quotes straight away, but it never hurts to ask.
Choosing your candidate
As with a job interview, the goal is to hire the best match between candidate and company, not necessarily the longest or most corporate CV. Look for an I.T. Support provider who suits your needs in terms of service, price and compatibility with your operations and values.
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