When you buy technology for your business, you're not just buying systematized 1s and 0s and boxes with blinky lights. You're buying an extension of your workforce.
Information Technology is now the backbone of modern business. Without it, orders go unfulfilled, bills go unpaid, and workers go unemployed. It takes multiple teams of humans to run IT smoothly, no matter what size or market. Can you rely on each of your partners to quickly and proficiently resolve an issue you're having right this second?
Choosing competent, responsive, and stable technology vendors is just as important as choosing your own employees.
Increasingly, tech providers are supplying less and worse personalized support for their products in favor of knowledge bases, call tree IVRs, document repositories, self-service widgets, and the like (the leading example of this phenomenon being the bookseller turned cloud services provider). Good luck getting immediate or personal support without having a few commas in your monthly tab. To be fair, they're not the only ones guilty of this. Many software and IT infrastructure outfits are following suit, burying limited support underneath cheap prices.
As a sales engineer and buyer of hardware, software, and related services, I have a fairly unique, cradle-to-grave view of support from both a sales and buyer perspective. I've learned to always consider the cost of receiving support quickly when issues arise—because they always do. I ask myself:
- What's the impact to my business if X goes down?
- How much does it cost my business if it takes 24 hours or longer to resolve the issue?
- How irate will IT Johnny be if he's asked to work another 16-hour burner?
- Did I really save money buying technology versus a technology provider with a rich support ecosystem?
It's not all gloom and doom, though. There are bastions of magnificent support across every branch of technology, and thankfully these providers are easily vetted. Does the company advertise its support email address? If so, send them a friendly note letting them know that you're evaluating the responsiveness of their support. Time their reply. Award bonus points for a non-template response. Again, do they advertise their support phone number? If so, ring them up and time how long it takes to talk to a real person. Gauge their liveliness and demeanor. Ask them a couple questions. Some of my favorites are:
- "How long have you worked there?"
- "What's your favorite pizza topping?"
- "Do you like your job?"
You'd be surprised how many companies flub this simple test.
Perhaps the most powerful tool is asking your peers about their experience with the vendor you're considering. This is the true litmus test for any support organization.
This leads me to some obligatory horn-tooting. ServerCentral has been providing 24xforever support for well over 15 years. Our customers can reach a smart, onsite human being at any time of day, any day of the year by email or phone. And perhaps just as important, we all love pizza.