By David Essman
Not very long ago, I was at the checkout counter of my neighborhood retail giant buying a gift when the cashier asked if I wanted to purchase an extended warranty. Some years ago I would have responded with a definite, “No, thank you.” Nowadays, I seriously consider the purchase of such agreements, depending on the product and what inconvenience would come about if my item were to break outside the standard warranty period.
In some cases, when I purchase an extended warranty for a newly acquired laptop or television, I also receive expedited service for the product. This can mean the difference between a few days and two to four weeks of turnaround time. Although I don’t always need or reap the benefits of this type of agreement, I do sleep better at night.
Similar comforting benefits are usually available for your self-storage management software or security system, including access-control products or closed-circuit television (CCTV). Here are a few points to consider regarding technical support, as well as what you can expect from your provider within the normal warranty period, extended warranty or service plan. One thing is for certain: Without technical assistance, you’ll eventually have questions or experience problems while using the product, which will prevent you from accomplishing the many objectives you have for using the system.
Free Support vs. Purchased Agreements
When it comes to free technical support vs. purchased agreements, there are several things you should know. Following is a summary, plus questions to ask and things you can expect from your software provider.
When technical support is included with your purchase, you can expect anywhere from 30 days to as much as a full year of support after your original purchase from most software vendors. Few manufacturers offer free technical support for the life of the product. Within this “warranty period,” as some might call it, you’re typically entitled to as much technical assistance as you need.
For years, I thought extended support agreements or service plans were silly little schemes to make more money. They do make money for the companies that sell them, but they also provide a valuable service, of which some customers regularly appreciate the benefits.
Extended agreements are a great way to provide your staff with assistance after the normal warranty has expired. Unlimited, ongoing telephone support entitles you and your employees to help whenever and with whatever you need, as long as it concerns products from that provider.
It’s worth mentioning that with some service plans—mainly for your access-control or CCTV products—you could be entitled to replacements or loaner equipment. Also, if you’ve solicited help from an installer or authorized dealer to install your equipment, such as a camera system, you may have an option to purchase a service plan from that company, which could have similar benefits to those of the manufacturer.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering whether to purchase a service plan or support agreement:
- How technical or computer savvy are your managers?
- Do you have a lot of turnover in personnel?
- Are you seldom available to assist your managers when a problem does arise?
- How complex is your operation?
- Do you have more than your share of power outages or break-ins?
Whether you purchase a support agreement or choose to pay for each individual tech-support call, it’s important your staff never be reluctant to seek help from the professionals who wrote the program or designed the system. In the case of software, there’s no better way to avoid or correct costly mistakes than to let the people operating the system get the help they need from the people who created it.