What is a good response time for IT support?

it support

Whenever we’re discussing IT support, the conversation always leads to response time.  Setting this expectation is without a doubt one of the most important elements when starting a new business relationship or when reviewing our performance on an existing account.

The ultimate goal of any business is to provide the best response time to its customer base.  In a perfect world, managed IT service providers have an endless amount of time and personnel to handle both their existing workload and the unexpected.  Critical and non-critical issues would get the exact, immediate response time, and services agreement would be one sentence long.

Before we get any further, let’s define response time as the time it takes a representative from your service provider to follow up with a plan of action.  This plan of action can be as simple as an email to schedule a time to work on an issue or jumping right in and trouble-shooting a major outage.

While we’re searching for that perfect world, a cohesive partnership is really the defining difference between an “effective” response time and just an “expected” response time.  All issues are important to you and your service provider, so now it is just a matter of prioritization to ensure support is delivered in a reasonable time frame.

What is a “Critical Issue?” 

This is a major interruption of standard business operations.


  • Systems Down
  • Unable to power on servers or servers unable to boot
  • Emails services not sending or receiving for all users
  • Virus and/or Security Breach (i.e.: Crypto Locker)

What to do and what to expect as a customer

  • Make that “phone call”—these are major enough where promptness is essential. Do not submit an email.
  • Response time to your issue should be immediate to within 30 minutes.
  • Even if after hours, your provider should have some means for support for these types of issues.

What is a “Non-Critical Issue?” 

These are issues that are solitary or confined to an individual or an activity or a program that seems to be not working properly or slowly.  Program functionality questions and/or modifications.


  • Reporting issues / printing issues
  • Emails services not sending or receiving for an individual
  • System slowness or computer slowness

What to do and what to expect as a customer

  • Make a phone call and/or generate a trouble ticket.
  • Explain issue and the time constraints that you might have (working around issue in meantime).
  • Response time should be within 30 minutes to 2 hours for support or at the very minimum to schedule.
  • These issues can wait until the next day. Demanding these low-level issues be addressed after hours may incur extra fees or put a strain on your relationship with your IT provider.

What kind of Service Level Contract do you need?  

There are three (3) standard types of contracts, and we define them below.  Make the right connection between your operational needs and requirements but make sure to understand and appreciate the partnership you are building with your managed service provider as well.  It will make for effective response times.

Technical Services Contract

  • These can range from diagnosis only (they’ll figure out what’s going on but you pay to fix) to all encompassing (everything but major projects are covered under contract)
  • Monthly agreed payment
  • Usually includes consultation hours and account reviews
  • Will ensure you have responsiveness based on the severity of the issue as mentioned above

Retainer Agreement / Contract

  • These are usually a block of hours paid up front and hours are allocated from the block
  • This can be a monthly retainer or a “renew when hours are depleted” agreement
  • Will ensure you have responsiveness based on severity but you may be queued behind the Technical Services clients

Pay As You Go Professional Services Contract

  • Each issue is billed individually for the full amount of time.
  • Agreed upon hourly fee.
  • This situation can put you at the back of the line for other clients with contracts

Both parties need to properly communicate what the contract covers and doesn’t cover and to set proper expectations for responsiveness.  This will ensure both parties are getting the most out of relationship.

Managed IT service providers truly want a seamless experience.  If they make the relationship a partnership for “effective” response times, there is no question that a perfect world can certainly feel within reach.

Posted on June 29, 2017. Categorized as . Tagged as , .

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