When you outsource ICT services, it’s easy to get stuck with an IT support provider who doesn’t meet your expectations in terms of performance or results.
You may have been promised fast fix times for your problems and shown glowing customer satisfaction ratings. But these may quickly be supplemented with a list of exceptions and get-outs after you’ve signed on the dotted line.
It’s important to ensure that you avoid some of the obvious scams and pitfalls. In this article we give you some tips to help.
Protect yourself from the performance scams
There will be two types of claims that you will come across:
- Those that make promises before you sign-up
- Those that purport to demonstrate value-for-money during the life of the contract
You should investigate both as a matter of diligence.
Some common issues with performance promises
The first thing to note is that the information could be estimated. Many ICT Services Providers (MSPs) don’t have systems that record the information that go into their reports. As such the figures may be out-of-date and even estimated.
Similarly, those who do have a mechanism for recording this information aren’t careful to ensure that the data contained is complete or accurate. When Service Desks are under-resourced compiling detailed performance information soon falls by the wayside.
As with all Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) it’s very tempting to paint a prettier picture than the reality of what’s being measured when trying to prove value-for-money to clients.
People don’t overtly “cheat” but there will always be exclusions and exceptions in the reported information – people have a sense of what should “count” and it’s usually more to do with whether they think it seems “fair” to them than about service performance from your perspective, the paying client.
Some of the less scrupulous MSPs use some “license” with published performance figures. There are standard industry measures, around customer service, times to answer calls, and average time taken to resolve your issues.
Typical IT industry KPIs
Typically, IT industry KPIs that are published to potential clients usually fall into one of three categories:
- Customer satisfaction
- Response times (e.g. how long before a call to Support gets answered),
- How long on average for issues to get fixed
These last two points are often bunched together under “SLAs” (Service Level Agreements).
What to check for when considering ICT Service providers
A few straight-forward and non-technical questions will help you eliminate the chaff and get you some way towards ensuring you get the service you’re expecting as well as good evidence of performance.
Ask to see a few examples of reports sent to clients
- Ask them to explain what the numbers mean in business terms and how they will help you. If you’re outsourcing part of your in-house ICT function, ask whether the reports can be tailored to align with your own statistics.
Ask about the systems used to do the measurements
- Are there automated systems that report information directly from the Service Desk phone system, or from time spent on your issues, or is the information compiled manually? Manual numbers are usually inaccurate, incomplete and can be manipulated to give a favourable picture (it can be tempting to exclude factors that people deem to be “beyond their control” – but that should be no excuse).
Ask what sorts of issues are excluded from the statistics
- Ask whether there are any provisos to the targets stated. Ask what is included. A common practise is to count an automated email as a response, so that it is practically impossible to fail to meet SLAs for response times, but that’s of no benefit to you.
- Quick response should indicate a real response before a technical person either speaks to you or starts working on sorting your request.
Ask about the process for actioning your requests
- When you make a call does work begin straight away on resolving issues or is the call usually simply logged for attention later? When you phone support, will you have to spend minutes navigating a menu system before you hit that actual call queue?
Lastly, ask yourself does the information placed in front of you mean anything to you – does it prove anything?
- Does it demonstrate service quality? Does it indicate how the Service Provider is saving you time or on the costs of outages? Does it help you make strategic and operational decisions about your IT and communications systems and what you do with them?
Honesty the best policy – even for public facing KPIs
Honesty and two-way communication are critical to any sort of partnership. Watch out for ICT service providers who hide behind numbers. The old saying applies – if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Air-IT Published Service Delivery KPIs
We publish six of our KPIs and update them at the end of the month. We’re scrupulously honest about them. We worry sometimes that, being honest, our numbers can appear comparatively low. On the other hand, as industry insiders, and as a Service Provider used by many other MSPs as a centre of excellence, we know that we’re actually very good – without wanting to sound immodest, we’re exceptional.
We think it’s better to set expectations and then exceed them, and to be honest, even if it does make life a bit harder for our account managers. And once we get to know you, you’ll understand where we’re coming from and our culture of honesty. And we work very hard to provide excellent service quality in practice and not just in statistics.
Need help with your ICT?
Air-IT are Nottingham’s number 1 Managed ICT Service provider and offer a range of award-winning services to SMEs, internal IT teams and larger enterprises. We provide IT and Communications, Technical Support and help with projects, wherever you are in the UK, and whether you want us to handle the whole thing or just provide additional expertise.
So if you think the service from your existing ICT Managed Service Provider isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that perhaps it’s time for a change, then please contact us today and call 0115 880 0044 to speak to a member of our team.