Let's Talk Support
Let's Talk About Support
With a little due diligence, you can stop support issues in their tracks before they play out.
In our business, support offerings - initially considered an add-on - quickly becomes necessary to survive. Support is so important that ScanData believes delivering rapid issue resolution in a near-100% uptime environment is not a differentiator, rather it should be a minimum customer expectation. In many cases, ongoing support is more important to the critical path than the performance of individual feature sets.
We find it quite surprising that in Forrester's 2015 Global Business Technographics Software Survey, only 50% of respondents cited customer support as very important in vendor selection. From our observations, we believe that while in initial selection almost half of decision makers undervalue support, they quickly witness the need for high grade support. This increased reliance on support stems from scarcity of talent when deploying logistics solutions, forcing shipping managers to look to partners for system monitoring and proactive risk management.
Even if you are in the party that rates support as "very important," it is often hard to grade options. Vendor claims of "awesome support" don't help you make an informed decision. While there is no crystal ball that will help you predict how a support issue will play out, there are some concrete questions and scenarios you can pose to vendors to help you make better, more informed decisions about the quality of their support:
Who's on point? Don't be satisfied with general responses when asking who will support you (such as the technical sales team sitting before you on a sales call). Rather, ask vendors to identify the specific individual(s) responsible for answering the phone during peak seasons (when you're running three shifts and intense weekend schedules). Ask for a high-level org chart (who do they report to?), and how the escalation process is invoked if you don't get your expected resolution. Find out how long they have been with the organization, and the support team's turnover ratio.
How is the support team educated and supported? Get details about the training your support professional gets from the engineering team. Do they become certified in your product? If so, how, and is it periodically renewed? Do they work from a generic call center script, or are they trained to listen and follow a customer-specific decision tree?
What's the escalation path to those responsible for the system? Pose other scenarios, for example, dealing with a first-line support individual won't solve your problem when you require support from the experts that actually maintain the system. If an issue shuts your line down, what is the escalation path to system administrators and system maintenance professionals? Who manages their participation in the resolution process? How long does it take to escalate issues?
What is the scope of support? Get a clear understanding of what's included (and what's specifically excluded) from your support agreement. Again, pose "what if" scenarios. For example, if an initial problem diagnosis is sourced to the carrier, your network, or your "host" (WMS, OMS, etc.) will you be referred to the third party to solve the problem, independently of the vendor? Or will your support team collaborate with you to bring a third-party issue to resolution?
Which support scenarios fall squarely on you? For example, what does the vendor expect you to resolve independently on your own (versus as-a-service)? Cite your minimum expectations. Get clarity on who will be responsible for things such as system data maintenance and rate table updates.
How is the system's health continually monitored? Has the vendor invested in an industry-accepted, reputable Health Monitoring service? If so, how does it warn or alert you to problems before they become customer satisfaction issues?
Practice risk management. Create a list of risks and the impact they will have on your business if they rear their ugly heads. Work with your vendor to attach a resolution to the 3-5 risks that will have especially high impact in the event they play out. You can also use this scenario planning session to proactively prevent a risk from occurring in the first place.
Finally, fully document your expectations. Document your expectations in the support agreement. Any gray areas are certain to cause pain and dispute in the future especially in those dark hours when you just need to get the issue fixed.
We hope you have found value in our advice for how to make better, more informed decisions about vendor support. Feel free to reach out to us anytime if you have any questions on trends or even if you would like to deliberate or dispute some of our insights/recommendations. You are an expert and we'd love to speak with you.