Tech Support

When shopping for technical support providers, here are some things to consider:

  • Office Location
  • Remote Tools
  • Response Time Processes
  • Help Desk Staff
  • Billing Arrangement
  • Issue Tracking System
  • Field Tech Ability (evals)

Office Location
Firstly, if you are a business that relies on computers to run smoothly, you need to engage a tech support company, not an individual.  Our justification for that statement is that computers are too important to your company to depend on a solo IT guy working out of his home.  You see, a solo IT guy can only be in one place at one time.  In contrast to a solo IT guy, an IT firm has multiple techs that can respond to your issue rapidly.  So, when shopping for tech support, it is a good idea to ask about the office location.  You'll want to be sure that the office location is in close proximity to yours to help with response time.  It is even a great idea to meet your prospective tech support in their office rather than yours.  You'll be able to get a sense of the stability of the company as well as get a sense for how reliable and responsible they are.

Remote Tools
Remote support technology is very effective for certain issues.  Providing effective and comprehensive tech support requires a balanced combination of on-site visits and remote support.  It would be a good idea to ask about the remote support tools that your prospective IT firm utilizes, and here are some issues to discuss.  First, you want to find out if the remote support tools require any configuration or pre-installation.  If so, the remote tools may not be the best available since supporting an employee remotely can only be done after installing the proper software.  Better remote support tools allow for the tech to support any employee at any time from any location without pre-installation or pre-configuration.  Also, it is important to ask when the tech will be able to gain access to your computers remotely.  Can he get in at-will?  Can he get in only when authorized?  We feel that at-will access is good for servers, but not for desktops.  Also, you'll want to make a note somewhere that the tech has enabled at-will remote access and document how he gains access so that if anything happens in the future you know how to seal him out of your network.

Response Time Processes
Response time is critical.  When your computers are down, your employees are not working and your business effectively halts.  You need fast response time.  It is insufficient for a prospective tech support provider to say "I have great response time".  This issue is so important that you'll want to dig deeper.  You'll want to find out how response time is ensured.  You'll want to find out the procedures and processes that are in place that enable fast response time.

Help Desk Staff
In tech support, there are two types of techs.  Field techs and help desk.  Field techs provide on-site support, and help desk techs generally provide remote support through phone and remote support technologies.  You'll want to find out about each type of staff, and if there are dedicated field techs and dedicated help desk techs.  You see, if your prospective provider only has field techs, or their field techs are their help desk techs, then you may find yourself in the awkward position of needing assistance while your tech (field tech) is at another client.  Or, that another client needs help while your tech is at your office.

Billing Arrangement
You'll want to inquire about the billing arrangements.  Does the prospective tech support firm bill for hours up front?  Are there pre-paid hours that expire if unused?  What is the hourly rate?  Does the rate change depending on the time of the support?  After hours?  Weekends?  There are some unfair pricing practices out there, and you'll need to inquire about them. 

Issue Tracking System
You'll want to find out how the prospective tech support firm handles issues, and ensures they are tracked all the way to resolution.  When one of your employee's has an issue, is the issue tracked verbally?  On scratch paper?  Mentally?  Often, if a formal issue tracking system is not in place, issues will slip through the cracks.  You'll want to ask about the prospective tech support firm's issue tracking system, and how it works.  Is it web based?  Do you have access to it 24/7?  Can you add new tickets yourself?

Field Tech Ability
Try to assess the ability of the technicians.  Are they good?  Do they spend a lot of time researching your issues on Google?  How is their communication?  Can you talk with them?  Making sure you can communicate with your tech is critical for success.  Does your personality match with their personality.  Can they explain technical issues in easy to understand plain language?  Also, you'll want to inquire about the prospective tech support firm's formal procedures for measuring their tech's abilities.  Do they have a formal eval system in place?  Is there a tool in place that enables a direct line of communication between you and management?  You may want to ask how the techs annual compensation is correlated with their performance and their client satisfaction.

Tech Support