I run eVantage Technology in Singapore and we find ourselves competing frequently with fly-by-night IT support providers who offer “unlimited” support at a very low rate.
Our response is always “you get what you pay for” or “there’s always someone who will do it cheaper” but I thought I’d do a thought experiment; what would I do if we wanted to partake in this race to the bottom?
Eight Steps to Unlimited
First, I’d hire a team of unqualified, junior support technicians; they’d be willing to work for very little money because they were getting experience for their CV. So what if they can’t actually provide the best fix possible for a problem; nobody’s counting because the support is “unlimited”.
Second, I would stop using our centralised issue tracking and helpdesk system which is a large financial and (unbilled) labour overhead.
Third, I would remove the idea of a dedicated account manager who is responsible for making sure our existing customers are happy and just hire new-business salespeople.
Fourth, I would remove the idea of our procurement function being a service to our customers and make them a revenue-generating department.
Fifth, I would stop doing any type of free consultancy for our customers where we work to make sure the IT is right for your business, sign an agreement with a few technology vendors and sell their high-margin solutions to any problem.
Sixth, I would remove the idea of any type of proactive support to ensure problems were caught early and just wait for the phone to ring; nobody’s counting.
Seventh, I would remove the idea of doing centralised vendor management; we would look after the operating system and standard applications on your PCs and servers, nothing else. No hardware, no external vendors, no telecoms, no ISPs. None of these are directly under our control so I’d make them your problem, not ours.
Eighth, I would make it as hard as possible to get hold of my team; no mobile numbers for account managers (well, they don’t exist anymore), no out-of-office hours call forwarding, no individual contact details on emails.
Then I would be able to offer “unlimited” support to my customers.
What you end up with now is a team of engineers that don’t know how to solve the problems they encounter and that don’t have the certification from the software providers. Yes, we’re providing “unlimited” support but we take 5 times longer to not actually solve the problem. Doesn’t matter, nobody’s counting. We’d also have significant engineer turnover as our engineers grow the experience they need on their CV to go and work somewhere with more structure, focus on qualifications and respect for their craft.
We’d have an uncoordinated and messy system for recording your problems and issues and making sure they get closed. You would hear things like “I thought we already looked at that” and “I don’t remember getting that email” a lot.
If you did want to escalate an issue to somebody other than the engineer there wouldn’t be anybody to speak to. If you needed a new piece of hardware or software then you would be sold it at the highest possible price from a small list of vendors that give me the highest margin; there’d be no consideration for what you actually need.
We would look to delegate the responsibility for anything possible to an external party wherever possible. It would always be an ISP problem or a hardware problem or a network issue.
Instead, with eVantage Technology, you get certified and experienced engineers who are dedicated to individual clients and issues and who are measured weekly, and incentivized, to solve the problems as efficiently and permanently as possible. Not just that, but also to ensure everything they do learn during their troubleshooting about your systems and that issue are recorded in our Knowledge Base system or shared in our weekly engineering meetings.
You get a 1-hour response time, meaning that when you need us we move mountains to be there for you. Per-minute, remote-first billing means we focus on providing the best resources possible at the lowest cost to you. Yes, it’s not unlimited. It’s capped, it’s measured, which means somebody’s counting. You’re counting so we’re counting which means we’re under pressure to get it fixed as quickly as possible. Take away that cap and everybody stops counting – where does the pressure to get it fixed come from? You’re not actually paying for “support”, you’re paying for productivity. Support is just a by-product of the inherent fragility of IT; you’re paying for the productivity increase that working technology gives you. “Unlimited support” is just window dressing.
You get a state-of-the-art issue tracking and helpdesk system that we pay (a lot) for that ensures that every email, every phone call and every question to an engineer is recorded and tracked through to your satisfied conclusion. Nothing slips through the cracks and we can measure and see how well we’re doing.
You get a dedicated account manager. Technical expertise is only 50% of the job. IT services is a human business, not a technical one. Your dedicated account manager will be your single point of contact for anything IT related and ensure that we live up to our promises.
You get access to our procurement function that gets you what you need at lower cost than you can buy it in the shops yourself. We have established relationships with the IT channel in Singapore which means that we can provide you exactly what you need at no additional cost, without the hassle.
You get access to our senior technical consultants for free to ensure you’re business strategy and your IT strategy are aligned. We’re just a phone call to your account manager away. For free.
You get proactive onsite visits where we identify and fix the issues before they impact your business and regularly have a friendly face for your users’ IT questions.
You get a partner that owns problems regardless of whether they are “in scope”; if it’s a ISP issue or a hardware issue or a weird third-party software issue we’ll own the problem for you; it’s not your job to know what part of your technology is broken. That’s our job.
You get the contact details for everyone in the company, including your account manager and my mobile number.
You get what you pay for.