Everyone loves a bargain and I’m no different. But when it comes to IT support cheaper isn’t always better. Many businesses fall into the trap of not comparing like for like when evaluating the services being offered by IT providers, and what appears too good to be true may end up costing you more in the long run.
Your initial software choice and investment is just the starting point of your efficiency journey. You will quickly want to realise the productivity benefits promised by the solution and get the most from your implementation. To do this, businesses require experienced, responsive and professional IT support. The old adage, “you get what you pay for”, is only applicable when you’re aware of exactly what your support contract covers.
So how can you be sure you are getting the best value from your IT provider?
How many support calls are you logging on average each month? Are your queries being answered in a thorough and timely manner or are you constantly wasting time by requiring further clarification to resolve a number of different issues? Check that the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in your contract are being met and clarify with your provider what any ambiguous statements such as ‘best effort response SLA’ really mean – many companies fail to review their contracts until they have a crisis and by then it could be too late.
Does your current provider ensure you are constantly kept informed about the latest service packs, patches and fixes for the products you use? Check how many full-time technical support staff they employ and whether teams are structured by product and by sector to ensure the service you receive is consistent and with the same aim – resolving your issue as quickly as possible. Can they offer programming skills and first line support made possible through continuous investment in the source code of their applications to ensure your systems and users are kept up and running at all times?
Can you access free, online, real-time support information 24/7? Dedicated online support portals enable users to benefit from quick and easy access to all information and gain an immediate overview of historical and current support issues. You can also log calls and attach screenshots, error details and additional supporting information to communicate the issues you are encountering. More comprehensive services enable you to see which one of your IT provider’s support consultants have been assigned your case, instantly check the status of open issues and view emails and telephone correspondence stored against each case. The advantages include faster turnaround times and immediate access to hundreds of product specific articles at the touch of a button.
Beware of hidden extra costs. Some IT providers offer Token Based Support, commonly referred to as TBS, which allow units of time to be purchased for issues as-and-when required as an alternative to paying annual support fees upfront. This ‘pay as you go’ option might seem like a cost-effective solution to your IT support requirements but the costs can soon spiral, particularly if the service you are receiving is sub-standard or unavailable when you really need it.
You should also double check with your provider exactly what type of work is covered in your contract as not all aspects of support may be included in your standard agreement. Some unscrupulous suppliers investigate a problem, decide it’s not covered within the terms of the contract, and subsequently charge for the work done to date which can result in a nasty surprise.
The introduction of cheaper, tiered support matrixes may seem like a bargain against traditional support pricing models. The devil is often in the detail, however. By assessing all of the criteria above it will soon become clear whether you are getting best value from your current support contract.