Is the MES or Paperless Manufacturing Help Desk really a Help?

Here are 3 Tips to help you evaluate. Don’t wait till disaster strikes to discover the truth.

A few weeks ago, my cable went out.  This wouldn’t have been a problem, except we had 15 friends coming over to watch a football game. We had wings, dip, chips, beer and cheese, but no football game.

The exercise in solving the problem taught me the importance of evaluating customer service before disaster strikes.  When confronted with disaster, your goal should be mitigating risk and getting service back up as soon as possible.  You need to evaluate your help resources with that in mind.

Here are 3 tips for evaluating service provider help resources:

Taking the Help Desk for a Spin

How quickly can your Help Resources get your business back up and running? Photo by www.colourbox.com

How quickly can your Help Resources get your business back up and running? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Many companies offer a 1-800 help line.  They advertise 24/7 availability with “knowledgeable” representatives.  Before you need a solution, give the help line a call and test the process.  See how quickly you can get an answer.  Is there a long “log-in” process?  Do you need to have information at hand before you call? How knowledgeable is the representative?  The best help service is the one who knows your account before trouble comes up, saving you time and effort as you find a solution.

In my quest to get cable back, I went through an automated questionnaire, then another automated menu that went over common problems and solutions, before I finally reached a representative.  All told, it was 30 minutes to speak to an actual person.  If I had followed the instructions, it would have been another 45 minutes.  The representative didn’t even have my account information, and then proceeded to go over the common problems again. No help.

Unravelling Paid Customer Service

Some vendors will offer paid service plans. The more you spend the higher level of service you will receive.  I didn’t realize this was an option, but as I discovered while on hold, if I had “packaged” my home phone service or cell phone with cable, I would have access to a higher level of service.

Options are nice, but selecting a “service” plan can lead you into a dangerous money pit. How quickly are you going to need a solution?  How much downtime can your business afford?  How much are you willing to spend for a service you may never use?  Look at what is offered for each level of service and determine the best ROI for you.  Take charge of your service, and then be accountable for the decisions you make

It would be nice if everyone offered inclusive service when and how you need it.  You need to be proactive in selecting a plan to ensure you have the service you need, and you aren’t overpaying.

Deciphering Online Support

There are a variety of “online” support options. For some, online support can be as simple as an email address.  Other vendors operate in the cloud, using a remote service with access to your system.

Start your evaluation by asking what is meant by “online.”  Does your service have remote access to your system?  Will this affect data security?  If online support only means an email address, then plan how you use the service accordingly.  Don’t expect a quick answer.  Some services advertise online “help” that’s just a FAQ. Investigate your online option so you know how to best use it when disaster strikes.

In my case, the cable company had an online questionnaire that led me back to those (now infamous) “common” problems and solutions. There was also an email address I could use to have my request heard, “as quickly as possible.”

Have a communication plan ready in case of disaster. Photo by www.colourbox.com.

Have a communication plan ready in case of disaster. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com.

I was able to get cable back up before the football game, but it took some creative storytelling and an application engineer to reboot the system remotely.  Not every Help Desk experience will be as comical as mine, but it does illustrate the importance of a plan when disaster strikes.  Have an internal communication plan in place for progress updates. Work with the service provider on the best process for solving problems.  Update your system with data and system security, service patches, and updates.

It wasn’t until I was on the phone with a knowledgeable person that I knew a solution was possible.  It took 3 hours to reach the application engineer.  In my evaluation of customer service and capability of the vendor, I’ll keep this experience in mind.  As you look at potential software vendors, consider how quickly you can reach a knowledgeable solution provider, and how much your time is worth.

Let us know your opinion.  What is the best Customer Service option a vendor can give?  Do you have any stories you’d like to share? How do you plan for disaster? You never want to use a disaster plan, but that doesn’t make them any less important to a business.

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