What is Software Support?

Danielle Lobo

Software support, or customer service is a service typically offered to customers after a sale. The purpose of the service is to provide customers with the aim of offering assistance in addressing issues, particularly those of a technical nature. Whether you’ve called your software support line in the past or any other customer service line, we’ve all been there. Needing after-sales assistance is not uncommon and yet we tend to have the same experience. Do any of the below sound familiar?

  • You were re-routed to a representative in another country
  • You waited on hold for a long time before speaking with someone
  • When you finally reached someone they spent a considerable amount of time looking up your account and orienting themselves around your business and problem

The good news is that good ERP software support does exist; you just have to look for it. When evaluating a software system, do not ignore tech support; it is just as important as other decision criteria.

Sometimes smaller and more specialized software companies can provide a level of personalized support that just isn’t available from the so-called “brand names” of the ERP world. With off-the-shelf horizontal software vendors, you and your business are just numbers – numbers among many others.

Let’s take a moment to examine what good software support looks like:

  • You call in to one number to handle all problems
  • After selecting a single menu option, you are immediately connected with a support representative located in the company’s head office along with the rest of the team
  • This “support representative” is, in fact, one of the people that assisted you with your software implementation. They know your business inside and out and you will continue to deal with them for support requests going forward
  • They help you work out your issue on-the-spot without having to determine who you are and how your business operates

Believe it or not, some software solutions offer support in this way. If you are not getting this level of support, you should know that you should be – that there are options out there.

Not only do you want to look for a software vendor with good support practices, but you’ll also want to take into consideration the future of the software support. I’m not talking about their vendors team expanding and you having a different support representative, I’m talking about Software End of Support.

We’ve all received that ominous notice that the software we are using will soon no longer be supported – with the most recent example coming from Microsoft in regards to the end of support for Windows 8.1 Even though this news tends to be received negatively, it doesn’t always have to be, as there are many legitimate reasons as to why a company would discontinue software support and benefits that can come as a result of having to upgrade. The worst approach to dealing with the end of support is to “do nothing”, and it is important to fully understand the reasons behind the decision and your options for moving forward.

What does “end of support” mean?

Before we begin, let’s first take a look at what the dreaded “end of support” means, and why many software companies choose to do this. When companies discontinue a site or service and stop development and support, this is referred to as “sunsetting” the product. Many large companies do this as a way of herding customers into larger concentrated groups of users.  For smaller companies though, this is usually performed when several newer versions of the software have been released, and the cost to support older systems outweighs the benefits of maintaining them.

More specifically, vendors who offer several versions of software must have their support team trained on all versions in order to manage any issues. Once a system has reached a certain age, and only a minimum number of customers are using it, it becomes cumbersome to train new employees on old versions and load applicable technology in order to continue to support them.  There may also be several improvements to the system or inherent reasons why the product was never good from the start, which would validate sunsetting the product and ending support. Not to mention, applications tend to run on various technologies and so as those technologies also upgrade, this can cause compatibility issues.

Do I have to upgrade?

Although no one will force your company to upgrade, once you have received an end of support message, not taking action will lead to other issues down the road.  Without support, your company will no longer be able to receive outside help for bug fixes, error messages, custom work or any other issues.  In addition, your system may not be compatible with other newer technologies and could cause your business to lose valuable company information in the case of a system crash.

What to do?

The first step to take with an end of support message is to ask yourself why you’re still using the old version of the system.  Is it a budget issue? Has your business completely changed? Are you even still using the software? Answering these will help you better determine if you need to replace the system and with what type of software.  This is the perfect opportunity to evaluate current processes with a view to increase efficiencies and reduce costs and to look for system features that have been on your wish-list for the past several years.   Assess how the business and technology have changed over the years and what implications these have for finding a new software system. Technologies that weren't previously available such as cloud implementations and wireless barcode scanning may provide new benefits to your company.

Download Now: Software Buying Guide (bluelinkerp.com)

How to avoid "end of support" in the future.

Many software vendors include maintenance costs built into the cost of software licenses. Typically, businesses pay a small percentage of total license costs on a monthly or yearly basis (known as maintenance costs) to keep the application in warranty and guarantee regular system upgrades. Paying these nominal fees means you never have to worry about losing support for your system as it will be regularly upgraded once new versions are released.

As with any business investment, the cost to implement a new software system will be significant, so make sure you look at all your options and not just upgrading to the latest version of the system you’re on.  Be prepared to make the investment and consider systems that offer maintenance programs which will give you access to regular upgrades in the future in order to keep up with the latest versions and technology.  End of support does not have to be a bad thing - take it as an opportunity to improve your processes and grow your business!