Before purchasing any software or piece of technology for your school or program, one of the most important factors to consider is the Support you’ll receive along with your purchase.
From updates and regular maintenance to troubleshooting unforeseen issues, there’s a good chance you’ll be spending more time interacting with Support than with any other team within the company that sells you your software.
In order to gauge how good the support will be, there are five signs you should look for before you buy the software.
1. Directly Reachable
This is at the top for a reason — nothing else matters if you can’t reach the Support team directly. Some companies will have you call into a call center staffed by men and women who don’t truly know your school/program, your history, or, sometimes, even the details of the software you’re using.
Instead, ask the company from which you’re considering purchasing your software whether they handle support requests, emails, and other communication directly, or if they outsource those interactions to a call center.
If you were to contact us at Harris School Solutions (HSS) regarding a support need, for example, you would work directly with our Support team members who understand not only all the details of the software you’re using, but also any history of issues you’ve experienced previously. This makes a big difference because we then can put your specific needs at that moment in context. We’ll know which updates you’ve made, when you’ve made them, and more, which can help to get your current issue resolved much more quickly and with less of a hassle.
2. Specific Knowledge
Taking the last point even further, you not only want your Support contacts to have a knowledge of your school’s or program’s history, but also of your specific needs currently. A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work with educational institutions because each school has its own unique set of requirements based on factors such as, for example, location.
If you select a company that’s so large that their Support staff doesn’t have time to worry about the intricate differences in laws, regulations, etc., from state to state, then you risk facing compliance issues down the road.
To give you an idea of the level of knowledge you should expect, our Support teams at HSS are well versed in the full range of needs of our clients. We know that financial reports in Kansas, for example, need to be formatted differently and include different data sets than they would in, say, California. That’s why we’re able to include in most of our software built-in state reporting that is tailored to be compliant based on your specific location.
3. Understandable Communication
It can be difficult to understand the technical side of your software because that isn’t your job. That’s the job of the Support team and its programmers. But a big part of that job — a part that all too often goes overlooked or undervalued by Support teams — is the ability to communicate with you, the client.
When a client encounters an issue, the Support team needs to understand what you’re saying and translate it to the programmers, and then translate to you what the programmers are doing to fix the issue. This communication is the only way to overcome errors, glitches, or other problems.
Some companies, however, will have clients communicate directly with programmers, which can result in misunderstandings if the programmers are speaking in technical terminology in which the client isn’t trained.
It’s important, then, to make sure that your software company’s Support team features not only IT specialists, but also business analysts who can help make the back-and-forth communication understandable and easy. This will save you time and stress and will help you to get better overall service from the Support team.
We actually just awarded two of our Support team members — one a business analyst, the other a programmer — our internal #WeAreHarris award for their ability to work together in just this way.
You can click here to read about how they work together to make communication between clients and Support very effective and clear.
4. Proactive Help
When you think of software support, do you imagine encountering an issue, emailing the company, and then getting the issue resolved?
If so, you may have the wrong idea of what good support looks like.
While there certainly will be times when you need to reach out to your support team for help, good support is a two-way street.
A stellar Support team will be proactive, meaning they reach out to you from time to time just to see how things are going, if you’ve had any sort of issues that maybe you felt weren’t major enough to require logging a support request, or if there is any way, small or big, that the software could just be better.
Even if you can’t think of any specific changes that could be made, an astute Support team will consider your needs and think through anything you do tell them, reading between the lines in a constant effort to improve the software in ways you may not even have realized were possible.
Some companies don’t place as high a value on Support, and so they don’t make the investment to hire the best talent available for their Support teams. Ultimately, you’ll be the one who suffers as a result, so be sure that the company you choose for your software places an emphasis on its Support staff and focuses on bringing in the most skilled team members possible.
Keep in mind, though, that when a company hires talented individuals, those men and women tend to get promoted to management or other positions within the company, or even find amazing opportunities as leaders within other companies because of the very reason they were hired by Support in the first place — their talent, work ethic, and other valuable characteristics.
The result? Clients may experience some level of turnover, meaning they end up working with new team members from time to time. While this may mean some changes as far as the people you work with, the new faces are a small price to pay to have your software support needs in the hands of a highly competent, highly skilled, knowledgeable Support team member. The difficulty associated with change, then, goes away because a talented new representative — mentored by the rest of her expert Support teammates — will acquaint herself quickly with your account history and be able to understand your needs fully. Your software and your processes, in the end, will continue to improve at an astonishing rate compared to if you were working with a company that hired less-talented individuals. So, consider: would you rather work with a new, highly skilled Support contact, or would you rather deal with consistently sub-par support?