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Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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9 Questions to Ask Service Providers to Find Out if You Want to Work With Them

 

When you own your own business, it’s a given that you’ll want to be selective about the service providers you choose to work with.After all, you don’t want to rush into a situation that could end up negativelyimpacting your business finances. To start, you can check out online reviews of the provider you’re considering working with, but you need to take extra steps beyond your preliminary research. Keep reading to find out nine questions you should ask service providers to find out if you want to work with them on your next project.

General Questions for all Service Providers

1. How many years of experience do you have in this industry?

You’ll want to ask this question to find out if you’re dealing with someone who is seasoned in the field or if they just started providing services. Although the length of time someone has spent in the field isn’t a directly indicative of the quality of service they can provide you, it does give you an idea of how many times they’ve actually provided their services to others. And, generally, the more experience someone has, the more likely they will be able to deal with any issues that arise.

2. Do you have a list of references I can contact?

Ideally, you’ll want a list of 5 to 10 vendor references that you contact, but a provider who is new to the industry may only be able to provide one or two. A provider’s past performance is a good indication of their future performance, so you should definitely ask for and contact references.

3. What is your projected timeframe for completion of the project?

If the service provider can’t give you a timeframe, you might want to look elsewhere. Anyone who is experienced should be able to project how long it will likely take them to complete the project, barring any unexpected problems or changes you request.

4. How often do you finish a project within your projected timeframe?

This is an interesting question to ask because of how the service provider may answer. His answer to how often his scheduled projects are completed on time will let you know whether or not he tends to overextend himself. Of course, a provider might just tell you what he thinks you want to hear, but that’s why you should verify his answer with any references you contact.

5. Who will be my point-of-contact person, and how often will I see them?

If you’re not going to be working with the person you initially consult with on your project, you need to know the name of the person who will be tracking the progress of your project. For example, BDynamix, a leader in custom deployment solutions, states on its website that they assign dedicated and experienced project managers as a single point-of-contact for clients with larger and more complex projects.

 

6. Do offer any sort of guarantee, and, if so, what does it consist of?

The answer you always want to hear to this question is “Yes,” and you’ll also want the specifics of the guarantee as well. The service provider should give you a written copy of the guarantee that details what will be covered and for how long.

General Questions for IT Service Providers:

 

7. What credentials and experience do the team members have who I’ll be working with?

When working with an IT service provider, it’s important to know the credentials and experience of the team members you’ll be working with. You’ll want to know that the team members are experienced in dealing with the specific challenges of your organization and are on board with helping you achieve your goals. It’s important to confirm who you’ll be working with instead of just assuming you’ll work with the best the provider has to offer. Otherwise, you might be disappointed.

8. What are the terms of your SLA agreement?

If you’re unsure of what an SLA agreement is , it’s essentially a contract arranged between the provider and you. It outlines everything from the services that will be performed, the metrics that will be used to measure the services and what will happen if the agreed-upon services don’t meet with your satisfaction. It’s important to not only have an SLA but also that all the terms are clear, in your best interest and don’t leave any room for misinterpretation. Many providers have standard SLAs and are open to negotiating them up to a certain point. If they are not, be concerned.

9. What kind of automated monitoring does your service provide?

If the answer isn’t 24/7/365, consider looking elsewhere. When you run a business, you can’t afford extra downtime when an issue arises, so around-the-clock automated monitoring is something you must insist upon. Automated monitoring can help pinpoint issues more quickly. Without it, it could take a much longer time to troubleshoot and diagnose the problem, leaving you and your business hanging.

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