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10 signs you should switch IT support provider right now

Last updated on September 27th, 2019

IT support - 10 signs you should switch IT support provider

Switching IT support provider is not a decision to be taken lightly but it is often a decision born from necessity rather than from choice. The perceived pain of changing support providers often paralyses businesses – leading them to endure the inept service until things become too costly to continue.

Often, the incompetence of a provider becomes apparent immediately after their service begins, but it can also arise part way through the contract if something changes within their business. Worst of all though is when signs of incompetence are hidden or the business is unaware of what these signs even are.

Finding out if your provider is up to scratch is hard. Reviews can be faked and asking them will give an inevitably positive answer. But there are some red flags you can be on the lookout for which indicate it’s time to switch.

10 reasons you should switch IT support provider

1. They don’t deliver tangible business results

Your IT support provider should provide you with a measurable return on investment (ROI).

If their strategic consultancy consists of pushing the latest tech and something amorphously labelled as ‘the cloud’ or you can describe their technical support as ‘keeping the lights on’, they’re not worth the money you’re spending on them.

Additionally, if the ROI they deliver is defined in vague terms rather than strict measurements, it can signal problems. Whilst you may be “more available” thanks to that second Internet line they installed, what matters is whether they can tell you when it saved you from an outage and how much money you avoided losing due to reduced downtime. If they can do this, it shows they not only understand your business enough to provide you with these hard numbers, but they’re focused on the metrics which matter to your business and not just tech for tech’s sake.

For the most value to your business, your provider should also follow continual improvement frameworks such as ISO 27001. Without continual improvement, their strategic guidance will eventually become too diluted and you will be better off moving to a new provider.

2. They don’t understand your business sector

There is an oversaturation of generalist IT providers on the market right now and whilst they might be able to fix your PC when it breaks, they’re unlikely to be able to advise on implementing a law firm’s practice management system or fuelling a manufacturer’s lean initiatives with technology.

To provide effective guidance, your provider needs to understand the challenges and opportunities available right now within your sector. That means they should be attending events and expos in your sector, hosting events relevant to your sector and speaking in your sector’s language.

At its simplest, it may be better to look at it from the other way around. If you’re in a regulated industry and your provider doesn’t understand your industry, their lack of awareness will prevent them from creating solutions which are even allowed to be implemented. And if they can’t do something as basic as that, how can they make changes which drive value for your customers?

A provider who doesn’t understand your business is fine for day-to-day maintenance since that only requires an understanding of tech. But for even a modicum of business value, you need a provider who understands your sector. If you get this, you’ll be able to form an IT partnership which motivates true business outcomes, driving you and your business forward.

3. They don’t take security seriously themselves

It’s genuinely alarming to see the number of IT support providers who are not cyber-secure. An immense amount of trust is needed between a support provider and their client and if a support provider isn’t covering their own security, that’s a grossly negligent breach of that trust.

If your IT provider isn’t following security best practices (Cyber Essentials Plus, patch management, zero-trust e.t.c.), then it’s best to leave before a disaster occurs. Imagine how angry you would be at your IT support provider if they left your client database misconfigured and allowed for those details to be stolen and sold by criminals. Now take that anger, multiply it by your number of clients and direct it at yourself. Not a fun thought.

Knowingly using an insecure support company makes you just as bad as them if something goes wrong. And when your clients get angry at you for leaking their data or the board demands to know who is responsible for the ransomware infection which took down operations for a week, they are completely justified in that anger.

4. They won’t accept responsibility

There is a shared responsibility between an IT support provider and their client. The support provider is responsible for understanding the client’s risk profile and ensuring systems are kept at optimal performance and the client has the responsibility to act on the advice provided by the support company and operate to the standards given through the provider’s consultancy.

If one party is not completing their responsibilities, then relationships can easily break down. When something goes wrong, clients are obliged to prove how they adopted the provider’s advice and operated to a certain level and providers are obliged to explain why things went wrong, how it’s being fixed and how it will be prevented in the future.

If whenever something goes wrong, they instead blame you (and you have taken their guidance) or indicate it’s not their problem or refuse to offer solutions whilst insisting the fault lies with someone other than themselves, it’s time to move on.

5. They focus on contractual details

All good IT support providers know that when their clients are successful, they are successful. So, if you often hear “we don’t cover that” or “that’s not in your contract”, it indicates they aren’t interested in supporting your business or they are incompetent.

Of course, if you signed on for a contract which specifically doesn’t offer support for phone lines, don’t expect them to help you with your phone lines. But if they treat their relationship with you as purely transactional rather than as a partnership, it’s an indication you should switch.

For edge cases, a good provider will lean on your side and assist with the issue since they understand the importance of building their relationship with you. Providers who abide by strict contractual details are often the ones who only see your business as a source of monthly recurring revenue instead of as a partner and so would only see this help as an ‘expense’.

6. You have outgrown them

If your business goes through a period of rapid growth, it’s possible to become too big for your current IT support provider to handle. Since the alternative is purposely stagnating your business to let your provider catch up, changing support provider is the obvious course of action.

It’s not easy to measure if you have outgrown your provider. But judging by how you’re currently reading an article about switching providers, it’s possible you’re already at that point. There are a few things to look for which indicate you’ve outgrown your provider:

  • They are falling behind on tickets and are starting to miss SLAs
  • There’s less confidence in the support provider amongst your staff
  • They aren’t helping you with your IT strategy anymore and are solely focused on fixing problems
  • Their strategic guidance looks at things from too much of a narrow viewpoint

If you’re seeing any of these, it’s possible that your provider is unable to effectively manage the requirements of your business. If that is the case, it’s time to switch.

7. They talk tech

It’s easy for someone without a technical background to get overwhelmed by the acronyms and terminology used by IT support companies. If your support provider is speaking in tongues, it may be time to get an exorcist, if they’re talking tech though, it may be worth looking for an exit.

Tech for tech’s sake is what brought about the downfall of Business Intelligence in the 80s and 90s and so any provider who is still pushing the latest shiny gizmos is either still stuck in the 90s or hasn’t learned that what businesses want is results, not new hardware.

Your IT support provider shouldn’t just be speaking in the language of business though, they should also be talking the language of your sector. If they understand the unique risks and rewards your business has, they will be much better equipped to deal with those and create optimised solutions.

8. You aren’t learning

When was the last time your IT support provider told you that you were wrong (and not in the “you don’t get tech” way), explained why, then helped you create a better outcome with their guidance?

Have they ever done that?

If you aren’t learning by working with your IT support provider, they either aren’t challenging you enough or they don’t know any more about technology than you do. In either case, you should consider switching to a different provider.

Innovation only comes when the status quo is challenged and so if your support provider isn’t bringing new ideas or thinking of ways technology can help you exploit opportunities in your sector, you’re likely to stagnate.

It’s key though that the things you are learning are relevant to your business. If your provider is just going too in-depth with tech then that comes back around to point 7.

9. They’ve been bought out or merged

The acquisition of your support provider by another company should put you on high alert. Not only will there be a period of disturbance during the merge, but culture, leadership, pricing and SLAs can all shift – leading a drastic change in the quality of the service you have come to expect.

With the sudden convergence of the two providers, you may also find yourself becoming a lower priority client – further impacting your response times and availability of resources.

Shortly after a merge is also a common time for members of the leadership team or founders to leave the company. If this occurs, you may find for example that the CEO who prioritised long-term relationships with clients is replaced with one who prioritises short-term profits instead.

If after a merger or acquisition of your support provider, you find yourself dissatisfied with the service, it’s time to look for a new provider.

10. They’re cheaper than the competition

This final point may seem like a reason to stay with your provider, but it absolutely isn’t. IT support is not a commodity, it’s a knowledge-based service and therefore follows the rule of cost = quality. Saying you have the cheapest IT support just means you have the worst IT support.

If your IT support provider is the cheapest on the market, ask yourself what corners are they cutting to reduce prices? Of course, you have a budget to keep in mind, but when you’re presented with a cheap break-fix provider and a more expensive proactive supplier, don’t immediately discount the latter based on flat costs.

What next?

It’s unfortunate to see that 69% of businesses change support provider every year. This raises serious concerns because without a long-term relationship, how can a company get genuine results and coherent strategic guidance from its IT provider? The relationship between a company and their support provider has to be forged on partnership. But this statistic indicates support providers aren’t doing enough to create value for their clients.

If you think it’s time to review your provider, we believe you should choose a new one who is able to engage for the long term.

There are a few factors to consider before choosing your new provider though. Location, sector focus and service-scope.

Location

This used to be one of the most important factors to look for, but modern support providers can fix most problems remotely. What’s more, having the ‘IT guy’ swing by each morning to see if anything is broken is a sign your provider lacks proactive maintenance and monitoring capabilities, rather than indicating anything good.

Whilst it’s wise to keep your support provider local enough to send an engineer in an emergency, you no longer need to limit yourself to just providers in your town, city or even county.

Sector focus

This is now a far more important factor when choosing a provider. With a glut of generalists on the market, if a support provider focuses on your sector, you should give them real consideration. Their specialist knowledge and experience make them much better suited to assist your business and their connections to people in your industry may provide additional benefits.

Service-scope

Finally, service-scope means what the provider defines as IT support. If the provider defines IT support as fixing things when they break, they aren’t worth your time or money. If they define it as keeping systems running and always in peak performance, they might be worth consideration. But if they define it as keeping things running, always in peak performance and backed by an ongoing strategy, you’ve hit gold.

If you’re searching for a better IT support provider, our Total Service package provides the comprehensive support and consultancy you’ve been searching for. If you’re not quite ready to make the switch yet, give us a call to discuss what we can do to help you and your business going forward.

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