Having the ability never to close your doors provides a level of convenience that smaller businesses can not match... right? Well, is it not so cut and dry. It gives the impression that you will be receiving superior service, but make sure to read the fine print.
When you are looking for a new Managed Service Provider, you need to ask yourself-- Is 24/7 support important for my company? Most companies that are looking into a 24/7 plan are not looking to pay for more hours, but they are looking to gain easy access to the help desk, get better customer services, and faster response times.
However, 24/7 support does not guarantee any of these things.
Should I pay for hours I may not use?
The most significant difference between a 24/7 IT help desk plan and ones that only includes business hour support is you pay in advance to staff a night shift help desk that you may never use or rarely use.
Most businesses are not open 24 hours a day; therefore, most companies do not need 24-hour support. Many industries start their workdays in the early morning and close their offices in the evening. IT companies are aware of this and have created swing shifts to make sure they can offer the most inclusive support hours. At Endsight, our regular operating hours are from 5 am to 7 pm. Offering a 14 hour business day limits the need for clients to call in off-hours.
What if there is an emergency after hours? Instead of paying the whole staff to sit around waiting for calls to dribble in, Endsight has one-person on-call for after-hour emergencies. If the emergence is more than a one-person job, we can always call in more people to assist, which is financially more efficient for both businesses.
Instead of paying for the time that you are not using month after month just in case something happens, you will only pay when you have a critical emergency because you are pushing a deadline and need IT support in the middle of the night.
Know what you are paying for when you buy 24/7 support
Most graveyard shifts have skeleton crews. It's the same for IT support shifts.
Some IT support help desks completely outsource their after-hour support to call centers with limited support capability or knowledge of the client network. The support usually looks similar to what you would receive when you call a major internet or cable provider, "Press one if you are having issues with the internet. Press two if you are trying to reach billing..." or "the current wait time is 45 minutes."
Getting to a real person can take hours, and it usually ends with you opting to set up an appointment time. The employees at these locations have little to no training in IT; they are just following scripts based around prevalent issues. If your problem falls outside of their script, you will have to wait till the company's typical business hours to get assistance.
You may not find a computer engineer ready to solve your problems after-hours.
After hour support is usually limited support, the person that answers the phone is not always the person that can fix your problem—leading to you having to repeat yourself 20 times as you get transferred around! There is also the common practice of telling the user they will be "right on it," but really, they are creating a ticket that will not be worked on until the next business day.
Limited support can also lead to hidden fees. If the contract says they only offer limited service between designated times, you could find that emergency fees are being added to after hour calls as the IT company will have to call in additional resources to fix your issue.
For example, recently, my washer machine broke. I called to have it repaired as I had an extended warranty that offered a free evaluation. When the technician arrived, he informed me it would be hundreds of dollars to fix it. This tactic is very similar to having a 24-hour help desk that can only identify your problems. It is not worth even a small rise in price.
What is the wait time after business hours?
When grocery stores are open 24/7, there are plenty of times throughout the day that you can go in and are the only shopper in the store. However, you will also notice that the staffing is significantly smaller during those times. According to this logic, when it comes to IT support, this should be the same. However, to be able to provide lower monthly fees, companies will take on more clients then they can realistically staff for, during the off-hours.
They see this as a calculated risk, as they know a majority of their calls will be during regular operating hours. As a consequence, instead of getting quick help, you will have to sit through the automated recordings or even wait on hold.
The question that you should be asking is how long you will have to wait! Most companies do not advertise their wait times. This is because they do not have the data, or the number is unflattering. Before signing up for a 24/7 plan, make sure their wait time is not inflated due to demand.
The bottom line, when evaluating an IT vendor's help desk service and availability, they need to be able to provide you metrics for their help desk, as well as a clear idea of what their 24-hour support offers. You should definitively know how after hour support differs from business hour support and how much longer it may take to get to a computer engineer.
When it comes to 24-hour IT support, not all hours are equal.
Make sure you are making the choice that is financially a good fit for your company that offers high-quality support. If you have looked at their plan and it does not say how they are staffing their after-hours team or does not provide a benchmark for their services, see if they have any client testimonials or ask if they have any client you can contact. The IT support company may not be able to give names right way, but they usually can email you the information once they get approval from their clients. This way, you can get a feel for how interaction with this company is from the client perspective.
IT support should align with your business model. If time is your main objective, by all means, hire a 24/7 IT support team, but if you are looking for accessibility, customer service, and limited wait time, do your research to make sure the company you are hiring can provide this. Not all technical support is created equal, and having more access to below-average service will not help your company thrive.