Hello? Is Anybody Out There? – IT Responsiveness Can Make or Break Your Business

IT Responsiveness Can Make or Break Your BusinessHave you ever been stood up by a plumber? I have.

I had an appointment scheduled between 8am and noon for a plumber to come fix my kitchen faucet. I took time away from work to stay at home and wait for this guy to come fix the leak.

At 12:30, when he still wasn’t at my house, I called the plumbing company. Turns out the plumber got stuck at another job that was taking longer than expected. When I asked why no one had called and communicated this to me, I got a brief apology and an offer to reschedule.

The earliest appointment they had was three days away.

Thank goodness my kitchen wasn’t flooding, or I’d be using a lot more graphic language here.

Responsiveness: We expect it in the people around us. In a business, it can make or break you.

In a recent poll we conducted on over 25 businesses, we discovered that responsiveness was one of the top 3 most important aspects of their relationship with their IT vendors.

So why does it go to the wayside with some IT service vendors?

There Are Different Types of Service Commitments

In the service industry, there are different levels and types of service commitment.

For example, at home you may have Internet service from Verizon FiOS or TimeWarner Cable. If your internet is down they will schedule someone based on what they call “best effort.” They will make their best effort to get someone there soon, but make no guarantees or commitments. This often means days before an appointment.

In a business you may have “business class” Internet service from Level 3 or AT&T, who offers a 4-hour response time guarantee.

In both situations, these are covered by Service Level Agreements or SLAs. Most consumer or residential services, whether that’s a plumber or Internet service, have SLAs that state “best effort,” if anything at all. Business-level services typically have SLAs with much more defined rules and guarantees regarding response times.

Know What Your SLA Is Before You Purchase

Educate yourself on the service provider’s SLA before you buy.

If it is a mission-critical service to your business, you likely will decide you must have at least a 4-hour SLA, so look at vendors that can provide this.

If it is non-critical, the “best effort” level might suffice. Anything with a 4-hour SLA will cost more, so it’s best to discuss and agree on what the business really needs before you sign any contracts.

SLA needs can vary based on business operational area as well.  You may require a 4 hour SLA for your accounting system, but next business day for your marketing group.  Defining SLA’s at a more granular level by operational area can help manage expectations at more refined departmental level.

Knowing your SLA also helps to manage expectations proactively. If you have a service with “best effort” you should expect that it will take the vendor days to respond to your needs.

Responsiveness Is Everything in IT

As an IT services company, we have a staff of technical professionals manning the helpdesk at all times to receive and respond to the thousands of tickets (service requests) coming from our hundreds of clients. Every client is equally as important as the other, regardless of size.

As with any service, the customer usually wants and expects an immediate response and rapid resolution. Although a very noble goal, responding to and resolving every request in minutes is not possible and many times unnecessary.

Going back to SLAs, there can be different service levels based on the client, based on the ticket or based on the service. It is critical that both the Fluid team and our clients understand any service level agreements in order to properly manage expectations on both sides.

Is the ticket to add a printer as critical as a ticket reporting a system is down? Not at first glance — but it also depends on the service level the client is paying for. Ultimately, everyone involved would like them resolved as quickly as possible, but some amount of triage and escalation is likely to play a part in how and when resolution takes place.

So Communication Is Critical!

Responsiveness is different than resolution.

All of our clients, regardless of the criticality of their problem, deserve a rapid response to their request — or at least acknowledgment of the need and our plan to address it. Actual resolution of the problem may come later in the day or may in fact need to be scheduled up to a week later if we’re waiting on parts.

In either case, responsiveness requires consistent communication on the status of the request.

As the case with the plumber, it’s not good enough to have rapid response when the request comes in only to let the situation lay idle for three days with no communication. Without constant communication to provide updates, clients feel unimportant or forgotten about.

To really provide excellent service, you need to have rapid response with consistent and continual communication regarding the service request until it has been resolved.

This is a challenge that requires a culture of continuous improvement because there is no finish line. We can always be faster, always communicate more, and always resolve issues sooner.

This is why, when recommending non-Fluid services to our clients or selecting services for our own business, we focus as much on the support the vendor will provide as we do the product itself. It is inevitable you will need help and you need to feel comfortable and confident you will receive the service and response that warrants having your business.