Web to Print Guides - Support and Training

Amazingly people rarely consider support and training before they sign up, probably with the incorrect assumption that all companies are the same. Just by way of an example, one of our software suppliers (that's right, even we have to buy in software!) has a five day service level agreement for answering support questions (and it feels like they wait 4 days 23.5 hours before they respond). We have a good understanding of the software so most of the time this is completely fine. Do you know when it is not fine? When we actually need support.

Of course providing support and training is not free and in general the more instant it is the more expensive it is to provide. The more expensive it is for the software supplier, the more expensive it is going to be for you. So what you are actually looking for is the happy balance, good support and training, in ways that you wish to get that support and training and provided in a time frame that you can deal with.

Training

Everyone has different learning styles, so this is more about understanding your own preferred method of learning. Some people like to be shown, some like to read and learn by themselves and some just like to press every button and see what happens (if you have never read a manual for anything you own, you are probably this type of person).

So in the demo you need to find out what the software supplier recommends, how much it costs and to make sure it matches up to the person in your company who will be using the software the most.

There is an important side note here if you are using a system that is constantly updated with new features. One to one training is not really practical for ongoing training. Companies will typically cover this by group webinars and preferably with online lessons for you to use when you need a new feature.

Support

Most software companies divide support into front line and technical. Front line (which confusingly can deal with very technical questions) is normally going to be your point of contact for support. Again in the auditioning stage of Web to Print software providers you are on a fact finding mission. Here are a few things to consider:

Where are they based?
The more crossover with your time zone the better.

Methods of contact:
A lot of software companies like to use online support ticket systems to help track all sorts of parameters and make sure the support query gets in front of the person best suited to deal with it. You should also ask if the company has secondary points of contact for support (phone number, email address etc).

Support Hours:
Another benefit of online support system is that the support function can be transferred to other offices, extending support hours greatly (someone can work on your issues while you sleep!).

SLA:
You should be able to be told two numbers, the maximum response time (quite often the time expressed in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) in your contract) and the average response time. We would suggest you want the maximum to be a business day or less and the average to be measured in a small number of hours. Be wary of anyone who hasn't at least committed to the max time in their contract or terms and conditions and run away from anyone who doesn't know.

Out of Hours:
As it is a 24 hour connected service things can occasionally go wrong outside of standard support hours. Every company deals with this differently from automated monitoring to escalation policies for issues. Our recommendation here is that you are comfortable that your supplier has a plan and not necessarily be too concerned at the technicalities of what it is.

Bug Fix Policy:
All software has bugs (even ours!), most will never have any impact on your use of the software at all but if they do then you want to know how they will be dealt with. This is where the Technical Support normally comes into play as bugs normally need a developer or team of developers to fix. There is a recurring theme here but you are really looking for suppliers that have a policy to deal with this and to make sure this policy sounds reasonable. What is reasonable? Well the policy should split bugs by severity and have a time frame for them to be fixed. So a critical bug should get all hands on deck and be resolved quickly, non-critical bugs might go into a queue that has a more structured fix schedule, such as a weekly bug fixing day.

Non Software Related Training and Support

Everything up to this point in the guides has been focused on the software, i.e. the platform, the pricing, the support and training. It is about finding out the facts in a structured way that lets you compare the systems you demo. Going forward from this point we are going to focus on your business and yes that probably means you are going to have to do less reading and more thinking!

It really all starts in the next section on B2B and B2C considerations, however there is a logical bit to quickly cover here. What you really need to do is critically look at your company for weaknesses (this can be knowledge or resources) in relation to your Web to Print plans and then decide if you need your software supplier to fill in those gaps. These tend to be shorter term issues due to everything being new. No one expects you to know everything that your new software can do but lack of knowledge does make it harder to sell. Maybe it is a resource (normally time) issue such as not having enough time to build your first site and templates but once that is up and running it should free up time to do this in house going forward.

With this list in hand you can ask at the demo stage what support you can get to fill in these gaps. For example do you get an account manager that can attend a sales pitch to cover knowledge gaps or can the software company build your first site and products. Of course always remember to ask how much?

Summary

We have come to the end of the software focused part of the pre demo guide with a bit of fact finding about the training and support on offer. Then we have switched it on its head and asked you to start thinking about your business, even cheeky enough to ask you to think about the weaknesses you have in relation to your Web to Print plans (no, not weaknesses like you give in a job interview that are actually strengths, real ones!)


Prv: Pricing Next: B2B v B2C