Six Things to Avoid When Selecting an IT Service Provider

Craig Pollack | Jul 03, 2018

I can only imagine what it’s like when you realize it’s time to change your IT Service Provider (ITSP) — you're fed up because your current IT provider is failing you to the point that you know you need to change. Now, the challenge is finding the right Managed Service Provider (MSP) in a market like Los Angeles littered with too many to count.

To the untrained eye, virtually all IT companies look and sound the same. Everyone's selling the same solutions, the same way, and offering themselves as being different from everyone else.  So, ultimately, you're left in the position of "how do I tell the difference? IT sucks, so whoever sucks the least – I'll go with them!” I've had this conversation with prospects time and again. What a horrible position to be in.

Deciding to spend an appropriate amount of money by partnering with the right IT service provider is difficult because of several factors:

  • The immaturity of IT in general - which has only been around for a few decades
  • The (lack of) maturity of the leadership of IT service companies (most ITSP owners are “techies” who’ve morphed into business owners)
  • The perspective about IT and the industry itself (as a cost center, not very professional, hard to deal with, etc.)
  • The horrendous level of service that many companies have experienced over the years only lowers the expectations of our industry in general.

However, selecting the wrong IT Service Provider to support or manage your network will no doubt be frustrating and expensive and, ultimately, become detrimental to the overall operations of your business.  So, here are...

Six Things to Avoid When Choosing an IT service provider

Choosing a Vendor Solely Based on Service Costs

If I had a nickel for every time a client told me that they made this mistake when previously looking at IT Service Providers… I would be a wealthy man. It’s human nature to want to get the best deal possible, but at what cost? Cheaper doesn’t necessarily equate to higher value — and this is especially true of IT services. You get what you pay for. And lower prices really means you will actually end up spending more and receiving less value. High-quality IT professionals are not cheap - because they are in high demand, just like any other professional service provider, and they recognize their worth.

Rather than focusing on price, it’s important to focus on and evaluate the value of an IT company by what it brings to the table. A quality professional can require significantly less time to fix an issue — and, they make sure it is done right the first time. With your company’s information, your customers’ sensitive data, and other critical information at stake, do you really want to trust the lowest-priced company to protect the integrity of your organization?

To put this in perspective, consider the following:

Weigh the costs of these risks against the cost of paying for a quality service provider for your IT management and security tasks and you’ll see why partnering with a top-notch IT Service Provider pays for itself.

Choosing Companies That View You as “Just” a Customer

The types of Managed Service Providers that refer to you as a “customer” instead of a “client” not only is scary but, more importantly, quite telling.  You may wonder why this is important. The language of customer vs. client is an important distinction that says a lot about how they value your business relationship. A customer is someone a company can sell things to; a client, however, is someone the organization has a relationship with. You and your organization are important and should be treated as such.  This (use of the word client vs. customer) also is a key indicator of the maturity of the IT Service Provider.

Rolling with a New or Inexperienced IT Service Provider

While it’s true that every Managed Service Provider’s business has to start somewhere, it doesn’t mean that they have to start by working on yours. Even when they honestly try to do a good job for you, their inexperience can cost you dearly in terms of network speed, performance, and the risk of diminished cyber protection for your network, servers, and related computer systems.

Partnering with an established, experienced IT services company can make a significant difference in both the quality of service provided and the knowledge and experience they can tap into. This is the difference between a professional and a “tech.” In his book “True Professionalism,” professional service firms consultant and author David Maister defines a “technician” as the opposite of a “professional,” meaning that techs lack the key attitudes and character traits professionalism embodies in terms of competencies and the ways they work with and care about their clients.

Clients don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. Good IT service providers convey a strong sense of care and compassion in everything they do.

Dealing with Disorganized, Uncommunicative IT Services

No one wants to feel like they’re pulling teeth to get information out of the managed service companies they work with. However, it can feel that way when dealing with some managed service companies that don't have their internal process documented and can share them with you. Some companies won't willingly provide you with written documentation/data about your network and related systems without you metaphorically twisting their arm first.

You shouldn’t have to fight to get the information that they should have readily available — in fact, the top managed service providers give you this information without you having to ask for it. You should receive all documentation in written and electronic formats at no cost. Furthermore, you should never allow an IT person to have that much control over your company. This is not only unprofessional, but it is flat-out unethical and dangerous to your organization.

Using Companies with Support and Operations Outsourced Overseas

This is a big one too many people aren't aware of.  It’s surprising just how many of the help desks for IT service providers are actually outsourced and located overseas. They typically aren’t upfront about this information because it's certainly not a selling point. In fact, it can result in delivering poor customer service to your own customers. What makes the situation worse is that some companies even outsource their network operations centers (NOCs) — the critical hub for IT service providers that helps them to ensure network uptime for clients — to overseas third-party providers.

This means all of your updates, reboots, firmware upgrades, and related tasks are being performed by a company who you really didn't hire and is located in another country — if they’re completed at all. And, unfortunately, this is just one of several things they don’t want you to know.

Falling for Misleading and False Certifications and Qualifications

A trick that unscrupulous IT managed service providers use to mislead customers is list the logos of companies for whom they sell products (such as Microsoft) on their website in a way that makes it look like they are certified by or partner with the organization(s). This tactic is used to lull prospective customers into a false sense of confidence that the IT service provider is trained, certified, and equipped to meet their needs when they aren’t.

Leaving the safety and security of your network and sensitive data to an ill-equipped or untrained managed services company is like leaving the keys to your new car in the ignition and walking away.

How to Identify a Top tier Service Provider? - by The Quality OF THEIR STAFF

We believe nothing can tell you more about a company than how it hires, develops, and retains its staff.  And there are several questions to ask yourself about a prospective company when trying to decide between Managed Service Providers you're considering:

  • What is their hiring process like?
  • Do they have a formal evaluation process?  What does it look like?
  • Retention: How long have staff members been with the company?
  • Do they have a formal training program for new hires?
  • Do they have a training budget for ongoing staff training?
  • What certifications, if any, do their staff have?

The FPA Approach to Managed IT Services

Ultimately, it's all about trust.  So,  you need to ask the right questions to help you build up that level of trust before you even begin the relationship.

Since 1991, our team has been operating FPA as a professional services firm. We hold ourselves to the same high-quality standards as certified public accountants (CPAs), medical professionals, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. We are focused on providing the best possible service to our clients. As we like to say, "IT The Way It's Supposed To Be!" 

Selecting an IT Service Provider doesn’t have to be a horrible experience when you know what to look for (and avoid). Hopefully, this has provided you with some valuable insight as you start or continue your search for a new IT Services Provider.

For us, "A Nordstrom in a sea of Walmarts" and “Redefining what it means to be an IT Service Provider!” aren't just catchy marketing phrases — they're really a reflection of our driving purpose!

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below or give us a call if you’d like to hear more about how FPA really is different. 

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Author

Craig Pollack

Craig Pollack

Craig is the Founder & CEO of FPA Technology Services, Inc. Craig provides the strategy and direction for FPA, ensuring its clients, business owners, and key decision makers leverage technology as efficiently and effectively as possible. With over 25 years of experience building the preeminent IT Service Provider in the Southern California area, Craig is one of the area’s leading authorities on how small to mid-sized businesses can best secure and leverage their technology to achieve their business objectives.

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