A gripe I get all the time from small business owners is about IT people who charge them again when they come out to fix the mistakes they made the first time they fixed the IT problem. You have paid to have it fixed, so why should you pay again?
If you had good IT people, would you get it done right the first time?
I have been in the business of fixing computers since 1995. In that time I have seen hundreds of thousands of computer problems and the solution of them. Based on that experience, I can tell you that a good technician has a much higher rate of fixed first-time success than a poor technician.
Differences lie in the quality of training and the capability of the individual. A smart individual with good training will make better assumptions and decisions than a less smart or less trained technician. There are also advantages to specialisation and having the right person for each technology rather than a jack of all trades.
However, no matter how good a technician you have, there is always the unexpected with computers where an obvious solution has an unwanted side-effect or where the obvious just does not work.
There is also this old chestnut: ‘I spent so much time on other problems I never installed the antivirus software, so now I need to charge you to come out and finish the job you wanted done in the first place.’
However, on the matter of rework and extra fees, there are two way to look at it. The first is that the technician should get it right the first time, and if they have to come back to finish the job, it should be at their own expense. Why should you pay for their learning on the job or for their lack of knowledge or mistakes and oversight?
The second point of view is more of a philosophical point of view that I know is not very popular with small business owners; it is that if the IT person was your employee you would pay them for as many tries as it took to solve the problem, and even pay them to fail to fix the problem.
If they spent a whole week working on something that a trained technician could do in an hour, you would just pay the salary and possibly never know how long the solution really took. So if occasionally when your casual employee or consultant makes a mistake, they need to be paid for the time it takes to rectify the issue.
Now this of course leads to the obvious rort of doing a poor job and making more money out of solving the problem slowly. Clearly, it is important to find a better way of managing IT services than paying by the hour.
Today many of you will be familiar with the (managed service provision) MSP model of providing outsourced IT services for a fixed monthly price. This model allows your service provider to take on the risk of your IT systems in a way that supports the service provider’s team to ensure there are resources available while ensuring it is in the interest of both parties to fix the problems quickly.
This model makes the mistakes costly to the service provider. Now any experienced service provider will have made an allowance for a certain amount of rework to occur because, let’s face it, for binary devices computers are anything but predictable due to the layers of complexity built into them. However, you are not being sent bill after bill for additional services.
If you feel your service provider or in-house IT staff are simply not getting on top of your technical problems it may be time to seek a second opinion. Don’t put up with constant re-work at your expense – a little is normal, a lot is a symptom of a problem.
All too often technology moves on faster than the service providers can keep up. You do not want to stay with a service provider who is overcommitted and failing to keep up to date with the technology that could be giving you a competitive advantage. If it is time for a review, turn to someone you can trust to do a better job.
Things to look for:
- Current industry qualifications from technology providers like Microsoft (yes, they do mean something).
- Depth and breadth of technologies covered (make sure they have current skills in the technologies you have or need).
- Size of the team available to you. More people typically means a broader range of skills, but also a broader range of personalities to match the personalities in your business. After all, IT support is about helping people.
- Industry recognition
- Client references and testimonials
- Awards and other differentiators
After that, meet with the people and make sure you have a values match as your IT support people will become a vital part of your business as it grows. The relationship you have with them will make a difference.
As your business grows the demands you place on your IT team will change, typically this will mean that unless the IT firm grows with you, you will need to change providers to ensure the level of support you require is available.
Often one of the problems is that the IT provider becomes a trusted partner, making it even harder to move on when you need to. Ensure you have a sound plan so you don’t wait until you have been let down at huge expense before you make the tough decision to change providers.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.