You rely on your agenda management software. If it fails, you could be in serious trouble. Yet customer service is not the top priority of all software providers – far from it. Once they’ve got your business, some really don’t care anymore. However, customer service is absolutely essential to the full functionality of any integrated agenda management solution.
Why It’s Important
Imagine you’re the chairman of a public board that is holding a meeting in three days. As chairman, you’ve been preparing for the past two to three weeks – collecting agenda items, inviting speakers, confirming agenda items and reminding committee chairs to get in their reports. Now that it’s all ready to go, you log on to the public-facing website of your board portal to post the agenda and any attached readings.
When you click where you always do to upload files, you get an error message that you’ve never seen before. You have only an hour to spare, though, before your posting would be too late to meet the 72-hour requirement of open meeting laws. Frantic, you pick up the phone.
The voice on the other end of that phone call determines the fate of your meeting. These scenarios are all too familiar:
- You might be sent to an inbox for voicemail; then, you don’t quite know who will receive the message that you leave or if and when they’ll call you back.
- You might get a recording telling you that they can’t get back to you because it’s a weekend or an evening or a holiday or a lunch break.
- Even if you do get through to a person, he might be a receptionist who seems curiously disinterested in the whereabouts of the technical staff. You wonder if they even work in the same building, if they’ve ever met in person or if you’ve reached a call center overseas.
In any of these scenarios, you won’t be able to meet your posting deadline. You may have to reschedule the meeting – which would mean contacting everybody whom you’d asked to make presentations.
While you waited, you would wonder if the disruption was caused by a technical error or if your board had been hacked by a ransomware outfit, like the cybercriminal ring that attacked Atlanta’s inadequately secured computer system. It cost the city over $2 million to restore its services. Or, you’ll fear, maybe you were targeted by a ransomware ring with an ideological motive; ISIS broke into SchoolDesk software, seizing the “airwaves” of over 2,000 school districts relying on the service for their websites. ISIS used the captive audience of students to air recruiting videos. Until you got an explanation of what had gone wrong, you would fear the worst.
Lackluster customer support would be comparably crippling if you used your public-facing website to conduct any transactions like bill payments or scheduling parent-teacher conferences. Then, some of your basic operations would be suspended until a solution was found. Again, you’d be stuck – losing money and/or public confidence by the minute while you waited in the vain hope that the voice on the recording might call you back.
How to Tell If a Software Company Will Provide Good Customer Service
When you shop for integrated agenda management software, therefore, it is crucial to demand uncompromising customer service. It matters every bit as much as other features that you require, like role-based authorizations or collaborative editing capacity. Your challenge: The lazy vendors are not so honest as to print, “We don’t really care!” on their materials! How do you know if they’ll be there when you need them?
The smart shopper can ascertain a vendor’s commitment to providing prompt customer support anytime it is needed by asking three questions:
- What do they claim about their customer service? Here, you’re looking for specific promises, not pretty words. A software provider should be able to tell you what will happen when you call for customer support: Who will answer the phone? How long will you have to wait? Does it matter if it’s after-hours? The best possible response would be: “A technically trained member of our customer support team will pick up your call within five minutes.” Coverage should be all 365 days of the year and all 24 hours of the day. They should be able to tell you how many calls they receive and the historical wait time for those callers.
- Have they received recognition for customer service? Plenty of business organizations recognize companies that really deliver with outstanding customer support. The Annual American Business Awards, for instance, has a category for Best Customer Service, and the Best in Biz Awards International recognizes companies with excellent treatment of customers. Other business organizations confer similar awards. A good software company should have several such prizes under its belt – from recent years, not the 1970s.
- How long has this company sold this product? The software industry has seen many years of record activity in mergers and acquisitions. That’s bad news for customers, as good customer support is a common casualty when big companies gobble up smaller companies. Consider: If a product is still with the company that invented it, that company likely has the technical staff that knows the software inside and out. They have a better chance than anyone else of figuring out what’s gone wrong and how to fix it. Apart from technical expertise, the “mother” company of a product will also have a deeper commitment to the product. They have a long-term commitment to its reputation and quality. A new parent company can’t touch that level of emotional investment, and there’s a good chance that when they bought the software company, they were already plotting how to get rid of it at a profit. The long-term reputation of the company is of little concern to them and is not central to their business plan.
Responsive, knowledgeable customer support is a necessity, not a luxury, in agenda management software. Fortunately, finding a sound company with a record of excellence is not a game of chance. Look for software that promises trained responders to all calls immediately – regardless of the time or day. Check if the software company has been recognized for a track record of customer service. And check the long-term ownership record of the software brand; continuity is essential. Armed with these criteria, you can buy software from a company that won’t leave you stranded when you need them the most.