Implementations of advanced support software typically fail between 25% and 80% of the time, with the difference mainly in how those facts are interpreted.
The failure rate is probably only 25% or lower if you only consider instances where the support software system never goes live and is completely abandoned. Still, if you also think of significant cost overruns, production delays, failure to meet expectations, and skyrocketing post-production costs, the failure rate may be higher than 80%.
The most common and preventable cause of these problems is selecting the incorrect vendor. In this white paper, we outline a thorough procedure for choosing the best support software provider to guarantee a successful installation. To do this, we compare the typical strategy used by most businesses with a suggested improved approach at each stage of the review process.
How to Be Secure in Numbers
Some businesses choose a vendor with the most significant market share rather than thoroughly comparing support software options. Undoubtedly, there are compelling arguments in favor of selecting an experienced vendor over a brand-new startup. Yet, taking this path carries several risks. Secondly, a company with a declining market share is intrinsically unstable. Its market share may have been acquired using technology that is now outmoded. Second, market share is frequently attained by concentrating on typical clients. You might need to search elsewhere if your business does not suit that description. Second, the rationale for such suppliers’ success may have more to do with aggressive marketing than a superior product. Thirdly, you can anticipate that market leaders would impose a price premium merely because of their success.
The Perils of Being the New Child in Town
There are compelling arguments to go with an established vendor rather than a young startup that needs more rounds of VC funding to stay afloat: A reputable vendor has more time to perfect its support/maintenance and update procedures, the software has had time to stabilize and is less likely to be buggy. They also have less risk of going out of business.
In conclusion, you should compare HelpDesk providers that have been in business for some time and concentrate on product quality/applicability and company profitability/debt levels rather than just market share unless you need some brand-new technology exclusively offered by a startup.
Let’s look at how each selection process step is usually carried out and how it might be improved.
Writing down the business goals and defining the HelpDesk ROI is step zero.
Purchasing, implementing, and training your personnel on adequately using a new system takes time and money. Start it only once you know the business goals and the processes you wish to enhance.
Put them down and discuss them with relevant parties, such as the VP of Support. Ask for their opinion on the importance of non-quantifiable goals. You can use that statistic in your ROI study; for instance, if the VP claims that halving the turnaround time for support inquiries will improve customer satisfaction to the point where it will boost sales by 10%.
The trick is to base your HelpDesk ROI calculations on actual figures or top executives’ predictions rather than your convictions. The assistance program could:
– Be sure that nothing slips through the cracks while reducing expenses and the time needed to complete a procedure.
– Automate procedures like email follow-up and customer support.
– Give clients with 24/7 access to submit/update issues and track status – Offer a complete audit trail for regulatory or internal compliance – Keep stakeholders informed with automatic reporting – Reduce data duplication and cut down on time needed to obtain information – Identify constraints and staff productivity – Sync processes across several departments. By integrated sales processes, assist in converting assistance into a profit center.
You are prepared to create an RFP that details the business processes you require the system to support once you have determined which methods are most important, how they should operate, and the value linked to improving them.
The system you select should be able to completely implement the business processes you have defined as being most important at an affordable price. Only by focusing on the specifics will you be able to identify their limitations because every vendor boasts about how their system would boost sales, cut costs, etc.
For instance, instead of stating that “The HelpDesk system must assign tickets automatically,” you might specify that “When a request arrives, it must be assigned to the support team for that issue or time-zone automatically; the rep should receive an immediate notification email with a link to view/edit the topic; this email and association should be accessible from their smart-phone; if the rep does not update the record within two working hours, it should be re-assigned to their manager.
Step 1: Compose and distribute RFPs
Numerous businesses send lengthy RFPs with qualitative rather than quantitative inquiries to various bidders. This strategy suffers from two issues. One is that posing such broad queries leaves out crucial information like precise time frames, functionality, and restrictions. Two lengthy RFPs take up both your time and the time of vendors. If you do not receive equally thorough responses, your efforts will be for nothing, and the reality is that many businesses will not take the time to react. Vendors who respond to such RFPs frequently feel eager for business or ask for exorbitant fees to cover their time costs.
The answer is for businesses to initially send out a mini-RFP, which most vendors will finish. Take the time to consider what you want and then articulate it carefully. Your top 10 to 20 questions should be covered in this document, which should also be available online and take no more than 20 minutes to complete. The specific inquiries would depend on your requirements, but they should include the following:
Can you put all of the specified business processes into practice?
What will it cost over the following few years? (The vendor should be able to give a general estimate here; they may require further information before providing firm prices.)
How long will it take to implement, and how many consulting hours?
Can you test the system before deciding to buy it?
What level of skill is required to update or modify the system?
Remove HelpDesk providers who don’t answer promptly, and then reduce the list of vendors to three to five based on the responses you get from the remaining ones. Send detailed follow-up RFPs to these businesses after notifying them they made the shortlist. These vendors will probably respond as they know they have a 25% chance of winning your business.
Ensure that the follow-up RFP includes probing, quantitative questions. Instead of stating flatly, “The system must support the construction of custom tables,” for instance, use questions like the one in the example below. As you’ll see, precise responses can significantly impact both timing and cost.
How long does it take to make a custom table, and what training is necessary?
The truth is that it takes take anywhere from a few minutes to a few months to create a fully functional custom table. Consulting fees could cost tens of thousands of dollars if the latter is the case. The vendor won’t give you such information until you specifically request it.
Are custom tables identical to native grasslands in behavior?
Ask more probing inquiries, like: Can you link between native tables and bespoke tables? Can you search through the fields in custom tables, produce reports, and develop business rules?
Can custom tables obstruct system updates in any way?
Contact the vendors if you are unsure of the probing, numerical inquiries to use when comparing HelpDesk software packages. “I am happy that you support feature X,” you should tell them. What questions should I put to your rivals? I’m attempting to ascertain the extent to which the vendors I’m evaluating support this feature and whether or not its implementation is subject to any constraints or extra expenses. What they tell you will reveal flaws in their rivals and perhaps themselves.
Step two: Request demos
Currently, most businesses choose one of two options for a HelpDesk demo. Attending a “normal” demo is the first option, which enables the salesperson to highlight the aspects of his system that he wants you to see while hiding its flaws. This type of demo has the drawback of not letting you know whether the system can genuinely satisfy your specific demands and, if so, how difficult it will be.
The second option is to request a demo of your desired solution from providers. Yet, most vendors won’t spend man-weeks tailoring a system to satisfy such a request; as a result, unless your requirements are straightforward, they will insist on taking you through a standard demo.
The cost of designing, executing, and maintaining the first installation to consider the experience and adapt to evolving demands might easily exceed the product’s price. Hence, it’s crucial to learn how simple the software is to configure and how much assistance you can count on from the vendor for designing processes and automation. So what can you do in a demo to learn these things?
There are two ways to fix this:
1) Set a deadline for the vendors to create a unique demo that only showcases one business process of your choosing. Choose the procedures and specifications that, in your opinion, are either the most important to your business or are the most specific to it. A vendor can probably manage the more common ones if they can map these processes. To see how quickly the product can be customized to your needs, keep the time required to prepare the demo between one and five days. You are free to extend this date, but keep in mind that if it takes the vendor a week to fulfill your requirements before a sale, it will undoubtedly take them at least that long once they have your money.
2) Request they change the system to accommodate another requirement during the demonstration’s second half. Let them know in advance that you’ll need them to set up the design for the demo. They’ll have access to technological resources that way. Nevertheless, don’t provide them with enough details so they can plan everything ahead of time.
You can skip the second part of the demo if they don’t match your stated requirements during the first half. Even though it may seem harsh, this is entirely fair because your reputation and, perhaps even the future of your business depends on you making the right decision.
A significant advantage of employing this procedure is that you can tell how simple it will be to work with the vendor based on your questions before the demo regarding your process and requirements. Do they demonstrate a quick knowledge of your needs and an awareness of what you’re attempting to achieve? Do they ask you questions that allow you to more accurately and effectively develop your process? Are they proficient in process design and automation, in other words? Or will they sell you a software program and hand you a remote control?
Check to see if your personnel could implement these adjustments during the demo. You can assess the vendor’s integrity as well. Assume, for instance, that when you asked two suppliers for their estimates on how long it would take to construct a custom table as part of the HelpDesk RFP, one said it would take five minutes but took twenty. The second gave a “30 minutes” response but finished in 25. Consider the second vendor as a more trustworthy prospective partner, or at the very least, modify the first vendor’s previous RFP responses in light of their propensity for optimism.
3. Obtain references.
Get at least one recommendation from the vendor’s other clients, then speak with them privately—without the vendor’s sales or PR employees present. Consider the vendor’s insistence on starting and joining the call as a serious warning indicator.
Inform the vendor that you are still considering a few other options (even if they are way ahead in the evaluation). This is due to two factors: If the vendor does not understand why they are not chosen, the consumer is more likely to give honest feedback, and you keep your influence during the final price negotiation. But remember that positive testimonials are not always to be believed, nor are they guarantee a job candidate’s future success. They make up only a tiny portion of your due diligence.
In addition, you should never believe online testimonials published by “current customers” in response to online searches for vendor recommendations. Nearly many of these are explicitly provided for the sellers. While they should be used cautiously, customer case studies on the HelpDesk vendor’s website are at least truthful about what they depict. They can generally be trusted in proportion to the quantity of complex quantitative data they include. The statement “We went online in two months” has meaning. The word “the implementation was incredibly rapid” does not.
Step 4: haggling over the price
Avoid being surprised by “discounts” at this point in the process. If you buy a $200,000 solution for $75,000 instead of a $75,000 solution for $50,000, you could think you are getting a better deal. Though you will be forced to stick with a premium solution, remember that the vendor will have complete control and charge you a total price for implementation services, support, updates, and additional licenses. The dealer will undoubtedly devise a plan to add interest to the $125,000 “discount” to recuperate it.
Therefore, you should choose the product that will completely meet your needs at a fair price rather than the least expensive one. Software that doesn’t meet your needs will ultimately cost you a lot of money. Either it won’t support your business, or you’ll have to spend money on the maintenance and development of custom software.
Avoid the following frequent pitfalls while haggling over prices.
Bait and switch 1.
Several suppliers provide entry-level, inexpensive, free products but lack the features necessary for long-term success. Before you learn the bad news and have to pay to upgrade, they want to get you trained and committed to their system. You may avoid falling into this trap by starting with their most expensive options and determining when you will have what you need. “May I require functionality X in the future?” is considerably simpler to answer than “Can I think of functionality I might need not covered by this low-cost option?”
Nickel and Dime
In a variation of the practice above, some businesses offer packages before nickel and diming buyers for extras. For instance, “Software as a Service supplier may provide their base offering with so little disk space that they know their clients would overrun it quickly and need more space. You can avoid falling into this trap by requesting that vendors disclose ALL “optional” items and that they do not charge extra for any functionality not on this list.
3. Price of Implementation
Some vendors would underestimate the implementation costs and then double or triple the actual expenditure during the operation, a strategy that appears to have been adopted by the construction industry. They might explain each price increase by saying, “We are 80 or 90% there, but there were ‘unexpected’ issues.” You may avoid falling into this trap by outlining your requirements up front, requesting fixed price quotations, and ensuring that the system is simple for your personnel to configure.
4. Upkeep Charges
Similar to what was mentioned before, some HelpDesk vendors may undersell the first implementation, knowing that you would have to pay extra for adjustments down the road. According to the industry standard, only about 20% of the software cost is allocated to initial development, with the remaining 80% going toward bug fixes, support, and maintenance. You can avoid falling into this trap by ensuring that your staff can modify the system independently. Because they will know you are not at their mercy and could always perform the work yourself, they will likely charge you less for consulting services if a vendor’s system is simple to configure.
In general, seek a deal or package to pay for upgrades and additional licenses for at least the first year. Look at the list price and figure it will be quite similar to what you will be paying once the discount period has passed. After that, complete your thorough definition of the ideal system and request a fixed-price proposal for its implementation. You might miss it. Even yet, the vendor’s refusal to commit to a two-month completion on a fixed price basis when they predicted a two-week completion in their RFP response could lead to an insightful discussion.
You might send the initial RFP to one of the top HelpDesk vendors on the list below. More providers can be discovered at this site and at sites like helpdesks.com, comparecrm.com, and support-software.org.
Be aware that nearly all websites that prominently include or commend certain suppliers receive payment from those sellers for such placement.
Microsoft \sSiebel \sConclusion
Finding the ideal dealer requires following these four steps:
Choose what you want and give a thorough description of it. Regardless, you’ll have to do this someday, and doing it now will prevent you from making a costly error.
Send a concise version of your RFP to a list of potential vendors.
Reduce the number of probable vendors on the list, and then pose the whole RFP to the final 3 to 5 of them. Ask the other vendors for advice if you are unsure how to measure.
Soon after submitting the complete RFP, request a demo of your desired procedure from the remaining competitors and ask them to make changes as they go. Consider whether you could make these improvements on your own without their assistance. Demand a fixed-price implementation, and agree on the cost of extra seats in advance.
It’s crucial to pick the most excellent support software software.org] provider. Even while it can be difficult, it requires far less effort than recovering from a poor decision. Adhering to the recommendations above will significantly improve your chances of a successful deployment. Feel free to contact me if you require additional assistance with your selection process.
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