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Support should be a key decision point when looking at software, or any product that requires ongoing assistance. Knowing someone is available to answer questions or fix issues should influence the decision to purchase a product. When looking for a product to purchase you will sometimes find companies that will make all kinds of promises just to close the deal. This usually means when you do actually have an issue with their product and need technical support, you're out of luck. This is why it is vital to research the support you will receive before purchasing a vendors product. Find out the types of support they offer. What do they cover in their support contracts? Under what circumstances will you be charged additional fees? Do they offer support for issues outside their standard support agreements? Will you need to have a different support entity for hardware or software not covered in their agreement? Do they have an escalation process for advanced issues? Who handles their support? Is it an in-house team or do they outsource? Types of support Phone The ability to speak with a trained, experienced support technician is extremely important for your mission critical products. These are products that will prevent you from running your business. Having an online only support option doesn't help much if your computer won't start. Knowledge Base A knowledge base is an online forum of questions and answers that can be easily searched. Using a knowledge base requires the issue you are currently experiencing to have happened to another of that vendors customers in the past. It also requires that issue was documented, using the same type of verbiage, description and keywords you are using to conduct your search. WIKI A WIKI is basically an online bulletin board that anyone can post to and edit. This allows for the vendors customers to post issues and solutions. Wiki's can be a good storage of knowledge however, much like a knowledge base, it requires your issue to have taken place in the past and to have been written in such a way, using the same descriptions and language that you use, so as to be easily found. Email Can you email your support technician? Many companies (especially outsourced support companies) block email for their employees. You may need to send screen shots and other attachments to your technician. Not being able to do so could delay you getting a resolution to your issue. Email only support, while helpful in non-emergency situations, can be a challenge in emergencies. Make sure you have some way of contacting a person directly during those critical times. Website Usually used for non-mission critical issues, the ability to submit a support ticket after hours using a web form can help you in your time management. Online Videos/YouTube While not a support channel per se, easy to follow videos for common questions, best practices and "how to" can give you a…

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Support should be a key decision point when looking at software, or any product that requires ongoing assistance. Knowing someone is available to answer questions or fix issues should influence the decision to purchase a product.

When looking for a product to purchase you will sometimes find companies that will make all kinds of promises just to close the deal. This usually means when you do actually have an issue with their product and need technical support, you’re out of luck.

This is why it is vital to research the support you will receive before purchasing a vendors product. Find out the types of support they offer. What do they cover in their support contracts? Under what circumstances will you be charged additional fees? Do they offer support for issues outside their standard support agreements? Will you need to have a different support entity for hardware or software not covered in their agreement? Do they have an escalation process for advanced issues? Who handles their support? Is it an in-house team or do they outsource?

Types of support

Phone
The ability to speak with a trained, experienced support technician is extremely important for your mission critical products. These are products that will prevent you from running your business. Having an online only support option doesn’t help much if your computer won’t start.

Knowledge Base
A knowledge base is an online forum of questions and answers that can be easily searched. Using a knowledge base requires the issue you are currently experiencing to have happened to another of that vendors customers in the past. It also requires that issue was documented, using the same type of verbiage, description and keywords you are using to conduct your search.

WIKI
A WIKI is basically an online bulletin board that anyone can post to and edit. This allows for the vendors customers to post issues and solutions. Wiki’s can be a good storage of knowledge however, much like a knowledge base, it requires your issue to have taken place in the past and to have been written in such a way, using the same descriptions and language that you use, so as to be easily found.

Email
Can you email your support technician? Many companies (especially outsourced support companies) block email for their employees. You may need to send screen shots and other attachments to your technician. Not being able to do so could delay you getting a resolution to your issue. Email only support, while helpful in non-emergency situations, can be a challenge in emergencies. Make sure you have some way of contacting a person directly during those critical times.

Website
Usually used for non-mission critical issues, the ability to submit a support ticket after hours using a web form can help you in your time management.

Online Videos/YouTube
While not a support channel per se, easy to follow videos for common questions, best practices and “how to” can give you a simple and fast way to not only resolve an issue but also help you learn more about your product.

Some vendors use a call center to provide support and the representatives use scripts for the first level of support. These “support technicians” follow a script and a specific process. They lack knowledge about the product and can only follow the scripted process they have been provided. You will almost always work with a different person each time you call.

What are the average response times for support? Some vendors will promise a first response within 48 hours however for mission critical products, this can mean your business is down for up to 2 days. Do they have emergency support for nights and weekends? Just because their office is closed doesn’t mean you may not need assistance. Make sure they are available during your primary business hours.

Does the vendor have a priority process in place? If your issue is preventing you from conducting business you don’t want to be waiting in line behind someone who is just looking to learn something new.

What is the structure of their support department? Do they have a tiered team, each tier specializing in specific areas or does every technician answer every type of call? What about escalation procedures? If your technician can not resolve your issue in a timely manner do they have a process to escalate you to a more knowledgeable resource?

When making a new purchase, you will usually have a list needs you need the product to address. When you experience an issue with that product, the support the vendor provides you will long outlast most other factors you considered when you first made that purchase.