Call centers run on information technology. While most businesses today need technology to thrive, call centers are one of the few business entities that simply can’t function at all without technology. Phones may still ring, but incoming calls won’t be routed to the proper customer service or sales rep; the call center reps answering those calls won’t be able to access customer’s account information or address any issues those clients may have—and sales reps can’t close sales because they won’t be able to determine which combination of products and services are the ideal fit for their customers.
If call centers need information technology to survive, there’s one thing that’s even more vital to their success: the right IT support and services company. Inevitably, even the best IT systems go down. Sometimes, the issues are minor and just need a few minutes of time from an IT support consultant or an IT support center to rectify. At other times, they can be quite major and impact multiple areas of a business for quite some time. Such downtime translates into lost revenue and increased expenses.
Regardless of the scope of the problem, the right IT support business can come in, minimize damage, and get a company back on its feet serving its customers quickly. The wrong IT support firm, on the other hand, can cost a company time, money and business by not providing prompt and comprehensive solutions to any looming IT issues.
How do you ensure that you are choosing a responsible IT support business? Here are some things to look for in a professional IT support consultant.
Are they qualified?
It is essential that the IT support and services firm a company selects is qualified to do the necessary work required by a call center. Hiring an IT support business that is not proficient in handling the type of issues faced by call centers can result in significant increases in downtime as the IT consultant gets up to speed. How does a company know if an IT support firm is legitimately qualified?
- Check their website. A solid IT support firm should have a professional website that describes what they do and the type of clients they have served.
- Do they have a physical address? It may seem simplistic, but many IT consultants are small one-person firms. While they may be ideally suited to work with small companies, larger organizations will typically require 24/7 support that is only available through a larger firm.
- Consider the company’s IT support certifications. Make certain that they are proficient with the systems that your company has in place.
- Ask for testimonials from previous clients, and then follow-up with those references to ensure that the experience they had with the IT support firm was positive.
- Don’t neglect the basics: Check their local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the company that were not satisfactorily addressed. Examine online reviews given by previous clients and look for any red flags. Don’t neglect to look at the good reviews to help determine whether the skills they are being praised for are things that your company needs or requires.
Have they done this before?
Once a company determines that an IT support and services firm is qualified, the next step is to determine if they are a good fit. One of the first questions to ask is whether the IT firm has supported a company of similar size in the past. That is essential because different sized call centers have very different needs and typical challenges. A large company, for example, may be dealing with legacy technology issues that won’t impact a more nimble, medium-sized firm. A small company that is just getting started may be trying to determine which IT products will work best for them, so their technology needs may be in a state of flux.
Next, companies will want to determine whether the IT support team has experience dealing with both the software they use and any hardware that they have in place. Technology is continually evolving, and a good IT support team must not only be able to deal with any new updates and/or security challenges as they arrive, but they also must be able to deal with software and hardware that may not be up to date. That flexibility to meet clients where they are and deliver exceptional service is what sets quality IT support teams apart.
Likewise, how the IT support center typically functions can be a deciding factor. Companies should determine what level of support they think they’ll require and then match that to the IT support firms they are considering. Some may provide 24/7 service throughout the week, while others have only limited support on evenings and weekends. Companies that don’t require the extra level of support because they’re not operating outside of typical business hour may not want to invest in an IT support plan that provides this extra support. However, if a company opts for too little IT support, there’s a chance that glitches can pop up at unexpected times and seriously hamper a call center’s ability to function properly.
Is their staff qualified?
Ultimately, an IT support company is only as good as the employees with which its clients are dealing. Ensure that the IT support center being considered only hires qualified IT support team members. Ask about the certifications and skills of the people who will be handling incoming calls for assistance. Do they receive a standard level of training and have a depth and breadth of knowledge of the systems they will be dealing with? Or are they simply looking at a list of predetermined, common issues and giving customers canned responses?
Ask whether the IT support business dedicates a senior level technician to each client, and will they dedicate one to your company? Dealing with the same technician gives this professional a level of familiarity with your systems and your unique set up. This familiarity allows them to quickly diagnose issues because they may have dealt with them in the past and know how your systems operate and handle changes.
At the same time, companies want to be certain that their IT support teams have trained back-ups in place. Things do happen. Employees do take vacations or move on to other organizations. A call center should never have to feel as if they are at a disadvantage because their regular IT consultant can’t be reached.
How do they handle the routine – and emergencies?
A good IT support company should be regularly looking at a client’s systems and processes and making recommendations on how to improve them. They should be analyzing the reasons for frequent or common calls and proactively working to suggest solutions. Routine, non-emergency requests should be handled professionally and within a specified amount of time to ensure that normal call center workflows are not hindered. The IT support center’s business hours should closely match those of the client they are seeking to serve.
Emergencies, however, rarely happen on schedule. The odds of a major system crash happening at 9 a.m. Monday morning seem far less likely than a crash during the Black Friday shopping rush, over a weekend, or whatever a particular industry’s peak calling time may be. Find out how the IT support company typically handles emergencies and how quickly they anticipate finding a workable solution as well as permanent resolution. Remember, every minute that call center systems are down results in lost revenue and/or unhappy customers. The quicker a solution can be found and implemented, the less impact an IT crisis will have on financial reports.
Ultimately, the IT support and services firm that a company selects will have a huge impact on a call center’s business. It impacts both how efficiently the center runs on a routine basis as well as how quickly it can return to normal in the event of a technical emergency. The level of proactive support they deliver also impacts how well call center employees can do their job on a daily basis. Unlike traditional brick and mortar businesses, call centers rely on technology for virtually every aspect of their business. For the best results, make certain that the IT support company your hire is ready, willing, and able to address your specific needs.
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