>Does Your Software Vendor Support You?

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By Keith Shetterly, keithshetterly@gmail.com
Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved
Support.  It’s not something that a good product can do without.  Ever.  The best training will not overcome the need for it.  So, with the products you have, do you get Product Support?  Do you know who to call?  And when?
I spent some time last week talking to a dealer who had installed a key, new piece of software at the dealership.  Training had been great.  Software was installed.  Then an issue came up:  Software was failing because of problem at the vendor.  Data was corrupted.  Support was needed.
Except you can only dial Product Support during a set number of hours each day.  And they had no answers except that it was “being worked on”–and are still having that problem, as far as I know.
I had once looked at this same product for one of my clients.  My client selected something else, but I really liked this product.  Who knew support was such an issue?
On another point, I spoke late last year to a great consultant.  A rock star in the automotive market.  I was talking to him about a different product that I’d used for years (inherited it at the dealer), and I found out that he was recommending this product to his clients–which I would NOT do.  I asked why he was recommending it, and he said he’s installed it at several of his clients, and that he was happy with it.
I asked about Product Support, because I knew intimately this had long been an issue for this product vendor.  They had JUST added a Product Support area at their company because they finally realized its importance, but that support was still young and iffy.  Anyway, the consultant replied to me, “Well, I’m not around, typically, when support is needed.  But it’s a great product!!”  Let me explain.
Before I came into this industry years back, I spent many years developing, marketing, and selling software.  Nationally and internationally.  I am still shocked at how little Product Support is understood in automotive.  Or even asked about.  If a vendor won’t invest in product support that fits YOUR needs, no matter how good they seem, walk away. 
So, before you buy a software product that you’re betting your business on, perform these three tasks and review the results:
1) Determine the hours of coverage and whether they close support at 5pm on a Friday–do you want to be down with this product before and through a weekend?
2) Insist on ten current references for the product.  Call all of them and ask them about support issues.  If you can find dealerships that are using the product but are NOT on this reference list, much the better–find out what THEY say, too.
3) Call support yourself and see what it takes to get through.  Do they create a trouble ticket so you (and they) can track the issue resolution?  Surprise!  The second product I talked about above did NOT generate a trouble ticket for reference on subsequent calls for the FIRST FIVE YEARS IT EXISTED.  Yikes!

And choose the software vendors that provide the best answers to these items–they are the ones that will support you.  The ones who know great software needs great support and provide it.  I’m proud to know a few of them myself.

So . . . it’s Friday at 5pm, and the software is down.  You need product support.  Is your vendor there for you?
They better be.

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About keithshetterly

Independent Automotive Consultant. Former eCommerce Director for large dealer group, BDC Director, and Internet Sales manager. Marketing, BDC, Internet, Phone, SEO, PPC, Reputation. Everything from a small business background to Fortune 100 experience. keithshetterly@gmail.com
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