Normally, when users call in for support, the first level of IT help desk workers are able to resolve the issue on the first call. If not, the user is transferred to the second level of support, then the third. But what happens when the ticket is not resolved after multiple escalations? What can be done when only a vendor has the technical resolution for a user’s problem that isn’t available to your help desk?
This is where vendor support comes in. There are several levels of vendor support available, and though this support does not normally come included in your contract, it can be negotiated in a vendor support contract. You just need to know how to negotiate these contracts for the best possible deal.
Levels of Vendor Support Available
The first level of support is access to a Technical Account Manager (TAM). This manager’s job is to become intimately familiar with your business and to develop relationships with your help desk team to benefit your shared user base. The TAM is responsible for guiding your help desk worker to the right technical resource to solve any given issue. The only problem with this first level of support is that it can often take longer for the TAM to find an answer than your first-level help desk team has to resolve the ticket. This means the problem can escalate to the second level of your IT service team before the user gets a resolution.
The second level of support available is a Technical Operations Center (TOC). At this level, the technical support is available to you 24/7, and this team is generally trained to offer immediate response to technical questions. Often, the contract can include the ability for your help desk to transfer the user’s call directly to the vendor’s TOC worker. Of course, this is more expensive than access to a TAM.
The third level of support available is direct access to the product developers. This is by far the most expensive, because these professionals have complete and thorough knowledge of the product, are available 24/7, and can generally resolve even the highest level of problems in a relatively short time. If a serious issue occurs, such as a major disaster, this level of support pays for itself quickly. Generally, this service is offered on a pay-as-needed basis, meaning you don’t pay for the service until such time as it is needed.
The fourth level is having vendor support right on your own help desk. Availability and cost for this service is dependent on the vendor, but with this setup, the vendor representative comes with complete knowledge of their product, and rapidly learns your business, so is able to offer a high level of user support under almost all circumstances. In the event the problem can’t be immediately resolved by this individual, they will know where to get the answer within their own company.
How to Negotiate Vendor Support
So, how can you negotiate for these services to get them at a reasonable price?
First, get as many products as possible from the same vendor. The more you buy from a single vendor, the better deal you can get. Next, look for your vendor’s up-and-coming competitors. Sometimes startups are hungry for new business, and offer great deals on high-level services. Also, get rid of software packages that aren’t being used. Shelfware eats up funds you can use to buy better vendor support contracts.
When negotiating these contracts, be sure that IT and the business work together. Have at least one IT manager with intimate knowledge of your systems and needs, and at least one person with deep business knowledge involved in the negotiations. This assures that all stakeholders’ needs are met with any contract negotiated.