[Column] Menwil Gordon: Should customers pay for post-implementation software support?
After customers have deployed an ERP system, the next phase is post-implementation support. In some cases, the annual licence fee (ALF) may include this, but often end users presume the post-implementation support from the vendor is free.
Historically, support packages have not been a value-add service – customers would log their query and the provider would simply give an answer in as short a time frame as possible. It’s no wonder that many customers feel that this so-called ‘support’ is free.
So, what is needed from a post-implementation support system for customers to recognise the real value in paying for such a service for their businesses?
A new pricing model
Traditional pricing models have been based on larger enterprises, which usually take out an annual contract due to the volume of end users. For smaller businesses, this fee is often unaffordable, with many choosing ad-hoc charges, which per hour can be more expansive than an annual contract. To overcome this challenge, structuring a support contract around the number of users would offer an economical solution to small enterprises.
In addition, support contracts are usually paid for annually. Because of cashflow, some customers cannot afford paying a big lump sum once a year. A pricing model that offers flexibility in how often a fee is paid, such as monthly rather than annually, would overcome this barrier. The caveat would be a discount for those who choose to pay a once-off annual rate.
Adding value to support
Value-add support also needs to come into play. This could be benefits in the contract, such as access to an online learning channel that includes global accreditation and certification, training tailored to the issues logged by the customer, and regular reports on the status and progress of support queries.
Service providers could even dedicate a member of their team to contact customers regularly to discuss their needs. In these one-on-one status reviews, a training consultant could be available to offer guidance to customers and discuss the certification progress. With this approach, support providers are not only resolving customer queries, but empowering end users through learning and training. This leads to a win-win situation. The better upskilled the customer, the less tickets will be logged with the vendor’s support department.
In most support cases, a resolved ticket is accompanied by solution notes, which are commonly only used by support personnel. These are a wealth of knowledge with the potential to add value to a support package if they are made easily accessible to customers on an online portal. Customers could simply type in their query and the portal would provide the answer. This would lead to a much quicker response time, which may not necessitate logging a ticket at all – resulting in a ‘before-call resolution’ rather than a ‘first-call resolution’.
It could be argued that most software packages have online help features already, but through our experience end users don’t have the time and capacity to scan through the lengthy text to find solutions to their issues. In fact, 90% of tickets we received during 2020 were queries where only 10% were errors. Customers want interactive support dedicated to their specific needs that will resolve issues quickly. This is a value-add service worth paying for.
The saying, ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ can be applied to post-implementation support. Customers may think support is at no extra cost, but what is the value of something that is free.