Business Software: Don’t Ignore Tech Support

Mark Canes

When choosing business software, the availability and quality of the helpdesk / support department are frequently overlooked. Yet we've all heard the complaints and retold the jokes about technical support. You call for help with your software, and after waiting on hold for 45 minutes, you get asked a bunch of questions by a technician who's clearly never been face-to-face with the software you're calling about. After 10 minutes on the phone with this tech, you're placed on hold again, and the next person you speak with starts from scratch. "At least this person seems to be vaguely familiar with my software version," you think - but turns out "vaguely" was the operative word.

I'm not sure why business to business (B2B) software companies - those who develop complex business software systems - think that using junior staff to provide front line technical support for all types of issues is a good idea. In fairness, there does seem to be a slow trend away from this approach. But if you're using a robust manufacturing package or a powerful wholesale distribution software system, chances are that when you have a problem, it's (a) complicated and (b) urgent.

So how about this for a revolutionary concept: you call technical support, and the person you speak with is completely familiar with your software, understands the issue first time, and is able and willing to connect via the Internet immediately and look directly at your screen as you demonstrate the issue. And - believe it or not - they even provide a practical solution to your problem!

Yes, this type of person costs more - much more - in terms of salary than the junior person. And yes, that does mean that the rate per hour you'll be charged will reflect that higher cost. But which option do you think most people would select:

  1. Pay a lower hourly rate to get support from someone who will take much longer to NOT provide a solution, or
  2. Pay a higher hourly rate to get support from someone who will provide a solution in a shorter period of time?

Surprisingly, in North America, a slight majority appears to prefer option 1 - at least until they've tried to obtain support for the first time. Hopefully you're not going to fall into that trap.