You’ve finally made the decision to buy management software. At first glance, it seems all you need is a good product. But while software quality is of utmost importance, there’s something else to consider: technical support. For most buyers, software support is an afterthought, an add-on many believe to be necessary only immediately after the sale. But the truth is technical support—initial and ongoing—is as critical as the product itself. The question is how to make the most of it so your software can be operated to maximum potential.
Do Your Homework
Often, the person who buys the software is not the person who will use it. This is especially true in the self-storage industry where the primary decision-makers—owners and investors—are one step removed from a facility’s day-to-day operations. Site managers are often the last to know when new software is being installed, despite the fact they are the ones who will use it the most.
It’s imperative for your managers to familiarize themselves with the software by practicing on a demo and reading the manuals provided—before you install it on your facility computer. The first few support calls your managers make should not be exhausted on fundamental, how-to questions that could have been easily addressed in advance. For the same reason, you should be as familiar with the software as you expect your managers to be. Support technicians are qualified to answer questions from people with various levels of expertise, including operational employees. It’s your duty to take advantage of that distinction in service.
Many vendors offer training around the time of installation. Being educated about the product beforehand will be beneficial for you, your staff and your vendor. By not entering the training cold, you’ll retain information more effectively. And those conducting the session will be able to delve into more advanced topics, ultimately helping you optimize use of the software.
Know Your Specs and Keep Current
Your vendor should provide you with a list of the hardware and software you’ll need to use its product. Your management software will be rendered useless if you don’t have the right equipment to run it. That being said, if you know of a deficiency in your system, share this information with your support staff if a problem arises with your software. More than likely, the deficiency and problem will be related, which means your issue can be easily identified and resolved.
Your vendor will also release regular product upgrades. Although you have the option of keeping your current version, upgrading to the latest edition is always best. An upgrade typically includes new or modified features that enhance the product and improve the way you do business. Support technicians are trained to provide customer assistance for the latest version of their product. By the same token, few support teams are willing or able to assist a user operating an outdated version of their software.
A History Lesson
Before contacting technical support, there are things you can do ensure your issue is handled in the most appropriate manner and least amount of time. Inform the representative if your problem is one that has occurred in the past. Any respectable support department will be able to quickly identify your account and scan a history of your calls. A previous inquiry on a similar matter can shed light on your current situation, regardless of who handled the call—which means you can spend less time on the phone with a support technician and more time servicing customers.
Error Messages: What, When and Why
Support teams are frequently contacted as a result of an error message that appears during operation of the software. Error messages should not be ignored. Programmers deliberately encode them into software to warn users when something unusual has occurred. In a best-case scenario, the message is simply a result of a single event that can be easily reversed or resolved. In a worst-case scenario, the message is an indication of a problem that, if disregarded, can lead to more trouble down the road.
Contact your support department as soon as an error message appears, and try to recall exactly what you were doing before the message came into view. It’s the support technician’s responsibility to determine why it occurred, and any information you provide will improve the likelihood of a quick resolution.
If you must move past an error message, it’s critical to write down its contents word for word. No matter how confusing a series of numbers or letters may be to you, it means something to your technician. If possible, take a screenshot of the message and fax or e-mail it to your support department. (On most computers, you can create a screenshot by pressing “Print Screen” on your keyboard and copying and pasting the image into your word-processing software.)
Don’t Cry Wolf
Some software users will call a support department with minor issues that don’t require immediate attention to continue facility operation. These callers will typically have their calls answered in the order they are received within a specified time frame. If your computer is down, meaning you cannot do anything until you receive help, a good support staff will give your call priority. But don’t take advantage of this policy by claiming your problem is worse than it is to jump to the front of the line. Not only will you be cheating the customers who really need immediate assistance, you’ll also risk losing credibility with your vendor.
You and your employees should take full advantage of all the software resources available to you. Technical-support services are vital, and learning how to use them effectively can only add to the success of your operation.
Veronica Hsia is the director of marketing for Domico, which has provided management software to the self-storage industry for more than two decades. For more information, visit www.domico.com.