We were recently blessed to bring on a new client via referral. It’s always very gratifying when a current customer or colleague recommends us. When we initially talked with the client about their current situation, their previous IT provider had installed a new server and two new computers a couple years ago. The bad news is the that the new server and computers literally sat idol for the last 2 years. Apparently the previous company sold them the hardware and software, did a little setup, and walked away without providing any training or documentation. When I took a look at everything, the server and PCs weren’t configured correctly and there was no documentation (except the admin password wrote on a post-it note attached to the monitor…HEAD SLAP!). Let me preface all of this by saying, there are two sides to every story. I don’t know why the previous provider left the network in the state that they did, I just know I wouldn’t have left it like that.
It got me thinking….what does it take to be a great IT provider? Now I’m not going to sit here and say that we’re the “cats meow”….but we know what we’re doing. Over the last 18 years in the IT field, we’ve learned a lot through trial and error, customer feedback, and experience with a million different environments. If you’re looking at hiring a new IT provider, here are 5 traits that you need to be on the lookout for:
- Service-oriented – Over the years, I feel like I’ve said this next sentence a million times…”You can have all the IT brains in the world, but if you don’t show up when you say you’re going to show up or you take days to respond to clients, it doesn’t matter how smart you are.” Managed IT services is a service industry. If an IT provider doesn’t understand this concept, they will struggle mightily. When evaluating a provider, you should call their help desk phone number and send a support email to test them. How fast they respond and the professional manner in which they respond, can tell you whether they have a service oriented mentality or not.
- Documentation – It’s critical for an IT provider to document a client’s network and maintain thorough support ticket notes. But I’ll be honest with you, I struggled with this one for years early on. Documentation? Why do I need to write down my notes from what I did? I’m too busy to do that. Why do I need to keep track of admin passwords or device information? I have all that in my head or my client has it all. WRONG ANSWERS. In short, not having documentation is a waste of time and costly. Having it, frankly, is a relief. It’s not “stored” in your head, you won’t forget the details, you know exactly where to find all the information, and you’ll sleep better at night. I could write an entire blog post about documentation but we’ll save that for another day.
- Communication – Let me fill you in on a little secret….technology people are not the greatest communicators. The whole introverted computer nerd personality type? Yea, there is definitely some truth to that. Some are better than others of course. Whether it’s on the sales side or service side, your IT provider should be over-communicating with you. I’m not talking about newsletters or automated responses (although those things are good too). I’m talking about phone calls, emails, face to face conversations, etc. from actual human beings. It’s not so much the initial communication that is the problem most of the time (although it can be..see number 1), it’s the follow-up. It drives customers crazy when there is no follow-up communication. There should be clear communication at the beginning, middle, and end of any engagement, whether it’s a support issue, scheduling a meeting, sales proposal, etc.
- Technically sound – You would think that all IT providers are technically sound, but you’d be surprised the things we run into. Within any IT company, you have really good techs and you have techs that are green or just not that good. Unfortunately, not everyone can be an IT rock star. Asking about a provider’s certifications is one way to go about determining if they know what they are doing technically. Another way is through details in the quoting/proposal process. If a potential IT company provides a detailed proposal, a solid project/onboarding plan, and can explain everything in layman’s terms and you understand everything reasonably well, I’d say you’re on the right track.
- “I’m smart and you’re stupid” mentality – Nothing is worse than a technician with an IT provider who thinks they are smarter than clients and lets you know. Yes, it’s probably true that they have more knowledge about computers than a client does. However, it doesn’t give them the right to look down on you. I’ll admit, this one is a pet peeve of mine. It’s hard to know if a potential IT provider has a technician(s) with this negative trait. But if you have a tech like this on your account currently, you can and should request another technician. You pay too much hard earned money to be treated like that.
Finding a quality IT provider requires research, due diligence, knowing what to look for, and patience. It’s important to get references and ask those references questions that relate to the qualities above. If the potential provider can’t provide references or sputters when asked…red flag. Move on to the next one. Remember, having an IT provider that knows how to fix a computer is all well and dandy, but it’s not enough. You deserve better. There are some good eggs out there who know what they are doing, that will respond quickly, and will do right by you and your company in a friendly and professional manner. Trust me, I know. 🙂