Finding a capable computer consultant is a lot like finding a good mechanic; they both operate in fields where the technician can easily over sell a client because they play on their customer’s lack of technical knowledge. The problem is that you won’t know you’ve hired the wrong consultant until you are halfway into your project and have already invested a considerable amount of time and money.
Sometimes it’s not even that obvious. A consultant may look like they are doing a good job, but unless you are technically savvy yourself, you simply have no way of knowing if they have over-billed you or recommended technology that you could have lived without, just to pad your bill and their bankroll.
On the flip side, a good computer consultant is invaluable and can save your company a considerable amount of time, money, and frustration while increasing office productivity, lowering overall operation costs, improving customer service, and helping you avoid devastating data loss and viruses attacks.
At times, acting as a consultant myself, I recognize the importance a little information shared could be to other business owners. Armed with a few essential tips can help you avoid getting the short end of the stick when outsourcing any support or IT project.
After all, your POS and computer systems are the nerve center of your business. A strong system will affect productivity, security, and even provide you the competitive advantage over your competition. One bad decision can severely cripple a restaurant through lost productivity, data, or excessive costs.
Below are three critical things you should know, research, or ask before signing any contract or inviting a consultant to sell you a point of sale or computer system. By practicing or being aware of these three simple tips, you can:
- Begin saving your restaurant a considerable amount of money.
- Avoid making a bad decision by buying the wrong system.
- Save yourself hours of frustration and time that come with making a bad decision.
#1: Ask the POS dealer or consultant to let you and your staff to get involved with the project so you can learn to be more self-sufficient.
One of the easiest ways to save money on technical support is by learning how to handle the many basic, routine computer and POS support problems that arise in-house. That is why you want to be involved with any project being rolled out.
Many consultants or firms may want to keep you in the dark because the less you know, the more billable hours they can rack up on mundane tasks that you instead could handle in-house.
#2: Ask to speak to a few of their recent clients who have had similar installations or projects.
This seems obvious, but a lot of companies skip over this step.
Ideally, you want to speak to other clients who had a similar project to find out:
- Did they deliver on what they promised?
- Were they responsive and easy to get hold of in times of emergency?
- Did they bill accurately?
- Did they stay within the projected budget?
- Would you use them again? Why or why not?
You might also ask if there were any problems that arose and how they were handled. Not every project goes perfectly; that is why it’s important to find out how the problems were handled before you hire them. If your consultant seems hesitant to provide you with references, consider that a red flag.
#3: Be cautious if plan to do business with a “one-man-band”.
One big mistake we see a lot of business owners make is hiring a very small one-man -band consulting firm, or relying on someone who is supporting your network on the side (moonlighting). By doing this they think they are saving a lot of money because these individuals typically charge less than established computer networking firms.
The challenge comes when they can’t respond to your emergencies or complete your projects on time because they have too many clients. Or, they simply go out of business because they can’t make enough money, leaving you high and dry.
Basically, as with all things in life, you get what you pay for. If you have mission-critical applications and data that must be protected and working 24/7, then it makes sense to hire a well-established firm with a good track record and enough technicians on staff to quickly respond to any technical emergencies that arise.
Michael Tash is Vice President of Customer Relations at ESS. With over 26 years of restaurant experience, Essential Systems Solutions helps you use your technology to be more efficient and more profitable.
Michael can be reached at (301) 944-2223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.