Selecting an Information Technology Consultant for your Business: Expertise is Key; Customer Service is Critical

Choosing the right information technology consultant for your business can be a critical business decision. The computer and network support company you choose directly impacts your productivity, your flexibility, and even your bottom line. Technology plays an integral role in today’s business world. Blackberries, laptops, email and instant messenger have all become tools of the trade when communicating with clients. But what happens when your email goes down? Or when you can’t connect to the internet to collect time-sensitive data for a customer? The benefits of technology can come at a price, and it is times like these when businesses, especially smaller companies, need a reliable IT partner who can reduce downtime. You may think the number one criteria when selecting an information technology consultant should be expertise. Although expertise is definitely a deciding factor, a potential computer and network support company’s customer service approach should be considered closely as well. After all, what good is an expert when you can’t get in touch with him to fix your critical IT issues?

The Difference Between an IT Partner and a Vendor

It may seem like semantics, but there is a real difference between a network support company that signs on to be your IT partner and an information technology consultant that is just another vendor selling applications and services. An IT partner should have a customer service model that aligns with the long-term goals of its clients and is focused on helping to grow clients’ businesses.

Many computer and network support companies’ approach to customer service leaves something to be desired. You call to schedule an on-site visit because your network is having issues, and it is slowing your turn-around time down to a snail’s pace. You get a call back four hours later from an employee that you have never spoken with before. They can come, but it will have to be tomorrow or possibly Monday, because all of their guys are working on a network issue at a major law firm. To these vendors, your company is just another small fish in a sea of bigger clients.

To an information technology consultant that is a true partner, your business, whether large or small, is their business. A network support company that takes the partner approach does not take technical issues lightly because they understand that IT can make or break a company. A partner takes the time to get to know the ins and outs of your business from day one. They understand what your company needs, from a technological perspective, to be successful, and they will not only provide that, but also offer advice on how to use technology to grow your business. Overall, this type of information technology consultant provides much more than services – they act as an extension of your business.

Signs of a Dependable Computer and Network Support Company

When searching for the right computer and network support company, you should keep an eye out for some tell-tale signs that will provide insight into whether the partner you are considering is a good fit for your company. First, ask the following questions when researching potential partners:

  • Will my company be assigned one individual who will act as our primary information technology consultant? If the potential computer and network support company says no, then there is a good chance that you will be talking to someone different every time you call in with an issue. This can get tricky because when more than one person is responsible for your account, your requests can slip through the cracks. Also, the blame game will likely occur with this scenario – “I thought Bob said that he was going to call you back.”
  • Can you tell me about your escalation process when dealing with client issues? This is an essential question because some issues are more time-sensitive than others and, if your information technology consultant is unavailable, you need to know what back-up plan measures are in place to expedite resolution of your issues.
  • Will my IT contact be able to break down technical jargon into something I can understand? Most of us are not as technically savvy as our IT consultants – after all, that is why we hired them! There is nothing worse than paying top dollar for technical expertise but not being able to understand a word the expert says. And, some consultants come off as down right egotistical when they fail to notice that you are lost as they are describing your network infrastructure. A good information technology consultant has the technical smarts but knows how to communicate so that even the least technically savvy person in the group can follow.

Use your instincts – you can usually glean a lot from your first conversation with a potential IT and network support company. If your questions seem to stump them or, if they act as if they are hurried, expect more of the same behavior in the future. A network support company whose focus is on partnership will likely play an integral role in achieving your company’s long-term goals. That is why it is essential to treat the research and selection process as if you are hiring on a full-time employee.

Conclusion

There are many factors to consider when searching for the right information technology consultant. The selection process will be unique to a certain extent for each company, but asking key questions about the potential computer and network support company’s service should help single out the best candidates. Most companies will agree that a blend of expertise and a dependable customer service model make for a good IT partner.

About the Author

Woodrow Cannon is the founder of Thought Streams, Inc., a computer and network support company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Woodrow has more than ten years of experience as an information technology consultant for a wide range of hardware and software packages. Thought Streams, Inc. specializes in affordable Atlanta IT support for small and mid-sized businesses. To learn more, visit http://www.thoughtstreams.com.