Services & Support - FAQ

The following should answer many the questions we get asked about our support service.

How do you prioritise requests?

Those dealing with your request are trusted to prioritise requests appropriately based on the guidelines we have set. Priority is given to service subscribers first, partners who don’t subscribe second and then non-partners. Within those parameters, priority is then given to issues that either affects many people or is time critical in nature (e.g. a court appearance). We will always ask you how important the problem is or when you need it resolving by to help ensure it receives the correct prioritisation.

If a matter falls outside the service we have subscribed to, will you still help us?

Yes. Depending on what it is you need we will quote you for the work, so you can, if you wish, get comparable quotes.

If it is a small matter (e.g. occasional web site updates) we want to be flexible and so will absorb that within our existing service. However should the matter become excessively time consuming we will raise this with you.

Do you provide hardware support?

Yes (and no). We deal with most PC and peripheral hardware issues for you from replacing hard drives, screens etc. to upgrades and minor repairs. However we have taken the decision not to provide hardware maintenance for network servers. This is a specialised area of support that requires access to a substantial stock of parts. We will still deal with the matter however if needed we will arrange on your behalf a maintenance agreement with our preferred supplier and deal with all aspects should issues arise.

How do we justify your service?

In most cases you are being asked to make the leap from having little or no formalised IT support to effectively having your own IT department. Although we make our charging as flexible as possible it can still be hard to justify a new and substantial expense.

As well as all the benefits of having your own IT department to call upon, we aim to offset our costs by reviewing many of the agreements you already. We will ensure you are not paying for the same service twice or for services we (or those we know) can provide you with at a cheaper rate. We would also aim to identify redundant services and use our buying power to reduce costs to you.

We recognise we are seen as an “overhead” and so take the view it is up to us to justify our service. As a result we will work hard to ensure that we always remain cost-effective.

What happens if we disagree about whether or not a request is covered by your service?

If the matter is urgent or critical in nature we will do the work first and then discuss it with you later.

How can we be certain we are getting value for money?

One of the benefits of being a partner is that you are sharing costs with others. Providing that we are prudent in our accounting and management practices and fair in how we calculate charges, this should ensure you are receiving value for money. Our open policy also allows you to see what is happening to the money you pay and question us on aspects of how the business is being managed and run.

We have freely available pricing policy which describes how we calculate charges for goods and services we supply you with.

We usually add a 15% "mark-up" to the cost of goods we supply to you and only in exceptional circumstances would you be charged for delivery. There is a minimum fee of £2.50 and the maximum is currently capped at £500 based on the total value of the item or service purchased.

We also charge a fixed fee of £75 fee to set up a new PC for you however if you order your PC through us, we aim to use our buying power to offset much of this cost when we buy the PC from our supplier.

Our policy is open and flexible, for example those who join you from elsewhere and bring their PC with them would not be charged.

What happens if your income is either excessive or falling-short of expectations?

If we are generating more income from partners than expected we will look to reduce our charges. Conversely, if we are not generating enough income to sustain the company we may need to raise our charges. These are both decisions that are taken in consultation with you.

How can we be certain you are doing a good job?

Although we hope that you trust us, we do feel it is important to get an independent view of what we are doing. We are therefore committed to gaining appropriate quality assurance accreditations along with retaining the services of independent technical and managerial consultants to regularly review what we have done or are proposing to do.

We also operate a random satisfaction survey system that invites those for whom we have done work to comment on the service they have received. The results of this survey will be sent to your quarterly showing our satisfaction rating for your organisation and across all the organisations we support.

What does it mean when you say "partner?

We work in a very different way to most IT support companies. We aim to forge a strong relationship with our clients and in particular with those who have our staff based with them.

And so we use the term partner to indicate those clients for whom we deliver not only a re-active support service but one that is proactive as well. Partners effectively share an IT Department and as such can be sure of receiving the highest quality of service.

This arrangement also makes it possible to draw upon the experiences of other partners, for example when relocating or changing systems or to facilitate sharing of services and resources.

If we withdraw from the partnership what happens?

The loss of a partner is something that we are obviously keen to avoid but should you decided to withdraw we will work hard to ensure that the hand over is as smooth as possible.

Is there a minimum subscription period?

Yes. You are committed to an initial 6 month subscription after which there is a 3 month notice period for cancellation. We believe 3 months is the minimum amount of time necessary to provide a successful handover to any new supplier you appoint.

For optional subscription services, there is a minimum of a 3 month subscription period followed by a 1 month notice period.

Do you also deal with home PCs or those of family members?

Yes. Up until now we have been happy to deal with the PCs you have at home providing that they were brought into the office and we had time available. Given that almost every one now has a home PC and increasingly broadband/wireless networks we are finding that we are spending more and more time dealing with these issues.

We have therefore decided to continue supporting home PCs however this will now be chargeable work. As a partner you will still receive preferential rates depending on whether or not you bring the equipment to us or we come to you.

I work from home, how will I be charged?

Our service doesn’t just deal with day to day support queries but also managing the systems and services that are used to run your organisation however we need to reflect that your circumstances are different.

We aim to take a flexible approach to home workers but also need to reflect that when we are visiting you we cannot deal with multiple requests which will be the case when we are working in the office.

Our remote support tools allow us to work on your PC (or Mac) from our offices however if we need to visit you, you are charged our usual Pay As You Go Rates plus our travelling time.

Are the rates negotiable?

No. It is a principle of the partnership that our approach and costs are open and fair. The combination of per person subscriptions and pay as you go services are designed to ensure that we can meet the different technology service needs of different Chambers in the most cost-effective way.

Are there any other benefits to being a partner?

Yes - many. One of the aims of this partnership is to share where it helps all but without compromising the individuality of each partner. So other benefits include off-site archiving of your backups, bulk purchasing of equipment and consumables, sharing information on best practice, disaster recovery assistance, identifying common needs across the partnership and negotiating with suppliers at that level, sharing resources with other partners if you need extra capacity or have equipment problems. The range of benefits is only limited by the partnership itself. At present we are focussed on the technology service and support side but in the future we may grow into other areas if we all agree.

What happens to the costs when the number of people changes?

Unlike other support companies we charge on a 'per person' rather than a 'per server' or 'per PC' basis. As a result the monthly charge varies as people join and leave your organisation.

We adapt to take into account these fluctuations. For example, if you take on a substantial number of people we may assign an additional member of our staff on a part-time basis. However if a number of people depart, your existing support may be asked to undertake other duties for other clients to ensure they are fully utilised.

The goal is to ensure you pay only for the resource you actually need and use.

Do we have Service Level Agreements (SLA) with you?

No. In order to ensure we remain both as flexible and cost-efficient as possible we do not operate strict SLA’s. However we do recognise that some requests are more urgent than others and that some requests must be completed within a certain timescale. By having staff assigned to you, they get to know you and how you work and so can adapt and even anticipate your needs.

At any given time we might be handling 30 different requests, waiting for some activity to complete before the request can be moved on. All of these factors make SLA’s difficult to implement and measure. The people who will be providing your support are highly trained and experienced individuals who recognise what is important to you and your business and so react accordingly. For example if there is a problem with your E-mail server, we aim to have someone looking at the problem, preferably on-site, within 15 minutes.

How does day to day support work

The number of people on the subscription and the services subscribed to determine how much time we spend on-site.  For larger organisations with comprehensive subscription a member of our support team may be with you on a full-time basis.  For smaller organisations it can range from 50% of the time, half a day a week or as and when needed. Problems and support requests can be passed to your support team and are recorded in our web-based Request Management System to which you will have access.

Work which falls outside of the scope of the day to day subscription will be quoted and charged on a Pay As You Go basis.

What happens if our nominated team member is away?

During periods of absence, cover will be provided by other CTS staff on an ad-hoc basis along with any required systems administration and management.

How do I know what is going on?

Our staff will maintain an accurate and up to date record of all requests received, their progress and resolution. This will be used for general reporting and monitoring by their manager and permit any recharges to be easily attributable.

Corrections or suggestions