By Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

While it is delightful to see a greater percentage of data center decision makers and IT procurement professionals choosing independent hardware support (third-party maintenance) for post-warranty hardware, we’ve witnesses far too many decision makers focus too greatly on price.

While this industry has deservedly earned a respect for service standards over the last 30 years, no longer are all third-party maintainers providing the same standards – the same service quality. Recent industry trends have caused several providers to shift their service standards so that they can effectively reduce their price. The unsuspecting buyer is then left with a termed agreement that creates an unhealthy level of buyer’s remorse.

Not every independent hardware support provider has reduced its service standards to reach the best pricing.

Parts & Logistics

Parts and Parts Logistics play an enormous role in hardware support and maintenance that meets the standards of your internal teams. “Stability” and “Resiliency” are directly attached to your service provider’s parts promise and hardware parts model. Another way to look at it, is that Mean-Time-to-Repair (MTTR) and “Met SLAs” are important to internal data center teams, yet can become areas of great angst if and when the hardware service provider has masked the reality of their parts model.

TPM (Third-Party Maintainer) vetting has become more important than it was ten years ago. Certainly, one should rely on insight from Gartner’s unbiased experts, such as Christine Tenneson. However, RFPs, RFIs and dialogue can greatly help uncover degraded parts plans, but also ensure vendors are providing an “apples to apples” comparison.

Here are a few great questions to ask during both the initial vetting and to again verify before the vendor is awarded your business:

1. Will you be transparent with us about the parts you keep nearby and within the agreement SLA? For example, if we gave you a random same of 10 or 100 models (with configurations), will you provide us a complete listing of parts stored within the SLA (assuming average travel times) for each model?

2. Will you be willing to accept random and unannounced audits of those facilities so we can verify your parts promise against the reality of your local inventory?

3. If you rely on regional depots for any of the less commonly used parts, specifically what is your logistics plan for getting those parts on-site within the SLA?

4. For any systems identified during the agreement term are found to require frequent parts replacement (e.g. drives), what will be your policy for ensuring the SLA is met? Will this policy exist in the final agreement? To save your field engineers time, do you ever keep parts on-site? What types of parts do you most often keep on-site? If kept on-site at our facility, what do you provide in order to ensure the integrity of what is technically your inventory?

5. If promised SLAs are not met, because of parts availability and not an act of God, what financial recourse will you build into the agreement? By what standards do you recommend we judge you when SLAs are not met as a result of parts kept at a depot, at a distance further than the SLA promise?

We see an incredible number of RFPs in a typical quarter. However, the quality of the questions surrounding parts and parts logistics do not always ensure that your standards for Service Quality will be met. Some of these questions create loopholes and gray areas, in which the sales solution manager can intentionally reduce service quality and become heroic to the client for having the lowest price. We would certainly like to help you end this kind of shell game.

Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

This year will be Mark’s 23rd year with SSCS Global IT Services. Beginning in sales, he was promoted to Vice President, Sales & Marketing, now responsible for all global sales activities, brand recognition, inbound/outbound marketing and primary messaging. In his previous employment in management with Ritz Carlton, Mark was highly influenced by their industry-leading customer service program, as influenced by the standards of the Malcolm Baldridge quality awards.

In his spare time, Mark is engaged is numerous activities with his daughter, plays the bass guitar and is a vocalist with a band and his church choir.

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