How Good Is Your IT Support? – How to Spot Substandard Support
Since the advent of the digital revolution in the 1980s, IT has played an increasingly critical role in the way businesses function, communicate and deliver products and services to their clients. Today, we’re entering a new phase of this digital revolution, one in which automation promises to play an increasingly important role, allowing organisations to level-up productivity and competitiveness in unprecedented ways.
This new age belongs to businesses and organisations willing to embrace tomorrow’s technologies today, but we acknowledge that embracing change can be a daunting prospect.
Having a keen, dynamic and dedicated IT partner onboard can make the transition easier: a helping hand to guide you through the perplexing array of technology options and deploy best-fit solutions with care and precision. But how can you tell if your current provider is up to the challenge? How can you measure the quality of something so unquantifiable as IT support?
To help you assess the quality of the IT support you currently receive, we’ve assembled a list of what we believe are the top 5 signs of a poor IT support provider.
Communication isn’t their strong suit
There is an ongoing perception among some that because IT is about technical deliverables, quality customer service is a secondary concern. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as having an engaging, personable IT partner is vital to ensuring you get the most out of any new investments and in helping your team understand recent or planned changes
Your provider should be communicative, agreeable, patient and helpful. Their passion for their work should be clear in their manner, and they should be eager to engage with you and your team to ensure you’re pleased with the service being delivered. They should be a consultative presence for your business: always on hand to assist with matters big and small, and keen to point you in the direction of the most suitable products and services.
If your provider is conspicuous by their silence, communicates only in baffling jargon and never offers advice unprompted, then they’re unlikely to be the strategic IT partner your business needs when navigating significant changes.
Service Level Agreements dictate the service standard
Hang on, isn’t that a good thing? Don’t you want an IT provider who stands by their commitments? Of course, but a good IT provider views a service level agreement as a minimum quality benchmark, and will aim to do far better.
An SLA won’t set out intangible aspects of good IT support. For example, your provider should be a generous font of technical knowledge and be explaining changes and decisions in terms of how they’ll bring measurable benefits to your business. They should be conscious of regulatory and budget constraints, and develop solutions with these limiting factors in mind. A good IT provider will also focus heavily on service aspects that may be less bound by contractual performance commitments, such as preventative network maintenance.
Contractual obligations are vital to establishing the boundaries of service delivery, but if that’s all you’re getting from your provider you should consider whether the relationship is a good value proposition.
Recurring issues are crippling your network
Remote monitoring and maintenance is a vital component of IT support. Assuming your IT provider has such capabilities, they should be managing software/operating system updates, monitoring the health of your network and applying security fixes remotely to maintain the overall integrity of your environment. The objective in all of this is minimising downtime (a period of system inoperability) and ensuring your environment remains defended against cyber threats.
If your business is suffering from excessive network downtime, or if the same problems are arising time and time again, then it’s likely that your provider is employing a lax approach to preventative maintenance. They could also be implementing stop gap fixes, and failing to solve more complex underlying issues.
They promise too much
Businesses often outsource their IT to tap into a broad pool of expertise and knowledge that would be cost prohibitive to develop in-house. It is of course extremely useful to have a provider with a range skills and specialisations, but it’s also wise to be sceptical of providers who claim to ‘do it all,’ particularly if they’re operating with a very small team. In the vast, complex world of business technology, maintaining technical competence in every conceivable field is a serious challenge without a team of specialists. If your provider asserts the ability to do everything and anything, enquire about accreditations, vendor partnerships and even case study examples to determine whether the bold claims have any veracity.
Conversations are too product-focussed
Ultimately, technology exists to serve your business, your business doesn’t exist as a consumer of technology. Astute IT providers realise this, and start a dialogue with their clients in order to understand the pressures, constraints and problems they face. They then work back from these business problems to source or tailor solutions which most aptly address these issues.
Unfortunately, some providers take the opposite approach. Starting with a product they offer, they open every conversation with a sales pitch, endlessly pushing products and services that aren’t receptive to the needs of their clients.
Your IT provider will never understand the inner workings of your business as well as you do, but they should have taken the time to gain a broad overview of how you operate, any commercial and regulatory pressures you face, logistical hurdles you have to overcome and the working arrangements of your team. If your provider has taken no interest in your business, they likely they won’t be able to fulfil the role of your strategic tech partner.
If your provider is failing on many of the fronts listed above it may be time to re-evaluate the relationship, and determine whether they can be the supportive tech partner your business needs in the years ahead. Stay tuned for our next article, where we’ll explore 5 vital traits you should seek in an IT provider.