Choosing an IT Company
Good help is hard to find…
Its hard to find companies that will take good care of you. That’s true whether you’re selecting a pediatrician for your child, your regular lunch spot or a service provider for your business. But when it comes to a major purchase that will remain in place and require maintenance like choosing an IT company it becomes even more important to make the right choice the first time.
If you’re buying a telephone system or signing a contract for some other type of service, one of the most important factors in your decision is customer service. But if you’ve never worked with a company, how do you judge its customer service? It’s a catch 22!
While you can never fully know if someone is a good fit until you’ve spent time together (whether we’re talking about business or a personal relationship) there are some factors to consider that will help point you in the right direction.
Being a business tech blog, our language and scenarios will focus on choosing an IT company but many of the principles can easily be generalized out to other business relationships. Just change out some nouns and you’ll be on your way.
How available is your IT company?
How fast do you need help?
It depends on the scenario. And appropriately companies will have different response speeds depending on the severity of your IT problem. But a few good questions to ask are:
- What is your average response time to a service request?
- What is your average response time to an emergency service request?
- Do you have an after hours emergency response line?
Depending on the nature of your business, a no to number 3 can be a deal breaker but the answer to number 1 and 2 are also essential pieces of information when making your IT or business technology company selection.
Emergency service should be taken care of immediately – at least within 24 hours. And if the entire system is down or something else catastrophic has occurred, you should really be looking for something within a few hours.
Other types of service calls, like repairing a simple malfunction that is only causing an annoyance can take longer, but you still want to ensure that your IT problems will be resolved in a timely manner.
Even if a company claims a fast response time, you should consider how far away they are. There are many technical problems that a phone call or remote dial in will not be enough to easily fix.
Which brings us to the next factor to consider when choosing an IT company…
Does your IT company have onsite service?
This one is really key. A lot of companies that sell phone systems don’t even have a physical presence in town. Some will send someone out for a day or worse – some just send you the phones in the mail!
What do you think happens later when you need some help? If you’re lucky… a phone call.
If you are a super technical person, that might not be a problem, unless of course you’re busy. For less technical people, you may not relish the prospect of being painstakingly walked through how to reprogram a device you don’t fully understand.
Again though, a phone call is if you’re lucky. You may just get an email or told to look at an FAQ page.
I would not buy any kind of technical equipment from a company that did not have a local representative.
How long has the business technology company been in business?
Here’s an easy one. How long has the company you’ve been speaking with been in business? A new business is not necessarily a bad business. They can be innovative and skilled. So do your homework.
But, if you have a track record to look at, that’s even better.
How long has the company been in business and are they on solid ground? A company can do a great job but if they go out of business they can’t really help you anymore.
A related question is how long have they been working on the specific technology you are purchasing. Sometimes companies add on a product but that doesn’t make them experts. For example, some IT companies have added on telephones but don’t know them well.
So although it’s not directly a customer service question it’s good to know if the company you’re dealing with has a solid history and is likely to be there in a year or five to help you when you have a question.
And by the way, you will have questions.
Does the IT Company have a known and Predictable Procedure?
Finally, you need to know what to do when you have a problem.
Be sure to know before you sign a contract what the procedure is for getting help later. Is there a number to call? Do you have to fill out a form? Do you always talk to the same person? How long until you hear something back?
What do you value in the help you receive? Make sure the company you’re hiring reflects that value.
It’s also important to know that the company has thought their procedure through, particularly if they are a new company. If they have something in place, they will not have to figure it out at the same time they are trying to figure out your specific issue.
Don’t wait until you have a problem to find out what the procedure is for fixing a problem. To put it more colorfully, don’t start making your parachute when you get pushed out of the plane. And make sure the company you’re working with has bought the fabric. Metaphor over. Blogger out!
What questions do you think are most important to ask when choosing an IT company? Did I miss anything? Is there anything you wish you’d known before?