The IT company you choose is only as good as the actual support technician(s) that come to your place of business. In the past you’ve probably experienced a computer technician that has been difficult to work with. Especially in the early years of IT support, when computer geeks were kind of in a world of their own, and you had to struggle through trying to communicate your problems to them.Often times they would either talk so far over your head that you couldn’t understand them or they’d be visibly irritated at your inability to understand their high-tech terminology. Either way, it made for a difficult situation, especially when you were footing the bill!So how do you protect yourself and guarantee that you will get a person with the proper technology knowledge, and also have the ability to work with and communicate with all levels of your company? First let’s look at…
How to find a technician who will become a trusted IT adviser for your company
A “trusted adviser” will have these characteristics:
- Reliable, trustworthy and professional
- Broad range of excellent technical skills
- Accessible and available
- Attentive listener who asks appropriate questions to determine causes of issues or solutions for a business’ needs
- Communicates without using confusing tech jargon and is capable of explaining complex technology issues so non-techs can understand
- Researches new technologies and is willing to offer advice when new technologies present themselves that might truly help the business
Reliable, trustworthy and professional
These are characteristics that you would want to find in anyone – and they are all characteristics that are not truly revealed without the passage of time. When considering a new IT Support company or a new technician, the best way to get a feeling for the person is to talk with another company who is serviced by that technician.
Important questions to ask
If you are able to contact a reference or two, have a short battery of questions ready. The questions should be direct and ask for examples whenever possible. A few of your questions might be:
- How often do you talk with or communicate with your tech?
- What is the typical response time once you make an initial call/email?
- Do you call/email the tech directly or do you go through a level 1 support person first?
- When the tech arrives on-site does he follow a routine (check in with onsite admin, asks questions about the issue, notifies users of potential downtime while issues are addresses) or does he just go to the server and work?
A “professional” technician will be well dressed and well groomed. And knowing that they will be going into businesses, they understands that while there they will be a representative of them self, the IT Support company they work for, and the customer.
A “professional” technician will be well be prepared for each visit. Because they have questioned the customer about the issue at hand, they will have a plan for addressing the issue. They will have the appropriate hardware or software to help resolve the issues.
They must have a broad range of excellent technical skills
The list of the technician’s certifications might be a place to start when determining their level of competence, but this is only a small part of having excellent technical skills. It is very important to determine how much in-the-field experience the technician has – especially when dealing with businesses similar to yours. If the tech does have experience with customers who do what you do, ask them if they have experience with specific applications that are vital to your business.
It is also important for them to have experience working with hardware that is critical to your business. If you work primarily with Microsoft applications running on PCs, you don’t want anything to do with a tech who primarily works with Macs.
It is also very important that your tech be highly skilled in more than one specific area. Any technician who is working with small and mid-sized businesses will need a solid knowledge of the entire networking environment. They will need to have experience with servers, desktops, backups, security, firewalls, switches, remote offices, cell phones and PDAs - they will need to have experience with them all. A technician who is a server genius and lacks other skills will eventually fail, and likely cost you lots of downtime and money.
The bottom line is this – real world experience is critical
… and it can’t be learned in a classroom!
They must be accessible and available
This will be more a factor of the “system” that the IT Support Company uses to service their clients. Nonetheless, this is critical. Your tech may be the greatest tech on the planet, but if you can’t get a hold of them or if they are always with other clients and you get “the other guy” all the time – there will be issues.
Another very important item that relates to this is: who will be your main tech’s backup? What if they are sick, on vacation or on another project that will take them out of the lineup for a couple of days? I can guarantee that you do not want the tech of the day to come and do some work on your server when you are having problems. This is a recipe for disaster. Your tech should have 1 to 2 co-workers who are intimately knowledgeable about your network – just in case your main tech is unavailable for a period of time.
Are they good communicators – are they easy to understand?
Typically, computer technicians are not the greatest communicators – that’s just the nature of the beast. You should be able to get a very good feeling if the tech you are talking with is a good communicator as you interview them. Don’t be afraid to ask them to explain a few very technical things to you. Maybe ask them what the advantages of a real firewall is compared to a basic router, or what brand of anti-virus they prefer and why? While they provide their explanation, see if they use acronyms like “DHCP” or “TCP/IP” (tech guys are really bad with this), and see if they can get you to a point where you actually understand what they are explaining. This can be a little uncomfortable, but is one of the best exercises you can go through when you are choosing your tech, and it will save you from having to go through painful future conversations relating to your network.
Do they continually research new technologies?
This is another very important skill that many technicians lack. You are looking for a trusted adviser who will be able to advise you and steer your business to new and exciting technologies that will help your business grow and be more competitive in your business environment.
In order to act as this adviser, your tech needs to know what technologies are on the horizon and how companies and industries are taking advantage of them. Some of these technologies may have perfect applications for your business and many will not. For you to take your time to research and evaluate this ever changing technological world is a waste of your time and is a perfect way for your tech to further assist in the maintenance and development of your business network.
Do they promote “The Hero Factor”?
The last note that you need to consider when evaluating your IT Support company and their technicians is the “Hero Factor”. Historically, computer technicians have been passionate about computers. The basis for their understanding of computers and computing developed by just getting in there and “doing it” without a lot of discipline around the process. The best technicians developed discipline out of necessity – but still had their individual preferences and processes for addressing different issues.
This is a problem when it comes to vacation times, illness or other instances when your tech is not available. There should be standardized processes in place that identify how technical tasks are performed. Examples would be:
- Server installations and configurations
- Desktop installations and configurations
- Firewall configurations
- Password policies
- Backup strategies and processes
This again is a reflection of the IT Support company, but is carried out on a daily basis by the technician. Many companies have these well-documented processes in place, but the technician prefers to do it their own way anyway. This is a mess when other technicians are required to assist and follow through.
This brings us back to the “Hero Factor”. One of the most pervasive problems, especially with new technicians, is the desire to be a hero. While it’s often times very stressful and difficult to deal with a user who is frantically trying to get a network resource to work, it is immensely rewarding for the technician to fix the problem and literally have people call them “superman” or “my hero”.
Sometimes the tech does a slick “work-around” to fix the issue, which has the short term advantage of being a ‘hero’ but can be only a band-aid covering a larger problem. Technician “hacks and work arounds” are difficult to track and are often times only temporary fixes – beware!