What You Should Expect From Your IT Service Provider: Responsiveness

Remember in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie (yes, I’m giving my vintage away, here) when Varuca Salt screams to her father, “I want it! I want it NOW!” Given how often we hear similar sentiments on our helpdesk line, my guess is you probably feel that way about your IT support. In fact, the survey we conducted with business owners told us that responsiveness is one of your top 3 concerns.

Often vilified and rarely praised, providing good IT support is hard. Providing great IT support takes hard to another stratosphere. It requires a culture of continual improvement.

Why? Well, that would be a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say that every client, every user and every technician has a different skill-set and personality. And every situation is different. If you get the wrong combination, a request for a printer installation can turn into a high-stakes drama.

But you’re paying for support. You might even be paying extra for a faster resolution time. So what should you expect from your IT service provider? What constitutes “great service” and what constitutes tearing up the contract?

Response Vs. Resolution

There is a difference between response and resolution.

A response starts with an acknowledgement of receiving the support request. In my humble opinion, if you have a great IT service provider, this should happen within 15 minutes. But double-check your SLA (service level agreement) with your service provider, because they might state that 2 hours or even 2 days is their standard response time – and you might need better than that for peace of mind.

Great responsiveness doesn’t stop there, though. Ongoing communication is the second and equally important component. Does it really matter if you got an initial response within 15 minutes if the technician then doesn’t contact you again for 4 days? Great responsiveness really is the combination of initial response and continual and frequent communication.

I have never heard a client say “Hey, you guys communicate too much and just too darn well.” That will never happen.

To some degree, you get what you pay for. If you pay bottom basement rates for a “Geek on Wheels” you probably shouldn’t expect stellar responsiveness. But if you use a professional, business-class IT provider, you should expect not only rapid initial response and continual communication, you should expect it consistently. It’s not good enough to do it well a few times and then fall back into mediocrity.

Set Your Expectations Internally First

If you are a rocket scientist calling a Level 1 Junior Technician for help with your overheating flux capacitor, you may get the responsiveness you hope for, but you certainly won’t get the resolution you need.

Before you sign on the dotted line with an IT service provider, first determine internally within your business what you expect in terms of response time and resolution time.

  • What does the business really need?
  • What are the business’s technical requirements?
  • What capabilities does the IT service provider need to have to meet those needs and requirements?

Go through these questions department by department.

Even with great response time, you may still not be happy with your service if your issues aren’t getting resolved in the expected amount of time. So separate out response and resolution when you are setting your business requirements. Department by department, situation by situation, determine what you really need.

  • What is your expected turnaround time for a printer installation request?
  • What is your expected resolution time for a “911” – that is, all systems down and your business can’t operate?
  • What is your expected resolution time for computer repair for a marketing person? What about for an accounting person?

You should actually be able to assign a dollar amount to each situation. How much does it cost your company when you’re down to one printer? How much does it cost you when your accountant can’t boot up their computer? Every tech support issue might feel like an emergency, but when you assign a dollar amount to it, the real emergencies become apparent very quickly.

Your IT vendor should actually help you define and refine reasonable expectations. It’s part of their job, so don’t be afraid to ask. And if they don’t want to help you with this, well, you have your answer as to whether or not you want to work with them.

SLAs Will Tell You the Rest of the Story

Now compare your expectations with the various IT vendors’ SLAs. You might find out you’ll have to pay a higher price for a faster resolution time for “911” requests, but that may be balanced out by slower resolution time (and less cost) for non-emergencies, like printer installation.

In other words, don’t get scared off when faster resolution time costs more.

Faster resolution time should cost more. It means you won’t get juggled from junior tech to junior tech – your emergency will get handled quickly by the appropriate person. And by now you’ve already determined what that’s worth to your business, right?

Why Geeks Keep Their Office Doors Closed

When was the last time you called AT&T just to tell them how much you love your phone and the how quality of your calls is just awesome!? You’ve never done that — because you expect to love your phone and have a high-quality voice connection 24/7/365.

This is also the case with IT support.

Expectations keep rising along with reliance on technology and Internet connectivity. Businesses can’t live without those things anymore, and when something goes wrong or even when something new is needed, the pressure to resolve the need quickly and efficiently is profound. No wonder our beloved geeks are often kept in the closet; they’re scared to death!

So set your expectations internally and hire an IT service company whose SLA matches your expectations. If they don’t live up to their SLA, this is the time to start looking for a new company to work with.

Is your IT support company meeting your expectations? Have you had a bad experience or a great experience that you’d like to share? We’d love for you to tell us about it in the comments below!