Not all Technical Support plans are created equal

If you ask any software company whether they provide technical support for their product, the answer is just about always an enthusiastic “Yes!”.  But technical support is more than just a box that you can check off when doing a product evaluation.  And what a vendor means when they say they “provide technical support” can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful implementation.

For example, there is a popular web survey product which we use quite often to run customer surveys.  By looking at their website you would get the impression that they offer outstanding technical support.  They describe their technical support team as “passionate experts” who are “highly responsive”, which gives the image of an office of technical experts just waiting by the phone or the computer to help a customer out.

But every time I’ve submitted a request for support, I’ve received back at most a link to an online knowledge base article.  At least 24 hours after my request.  Never sooner.

And phone support?  Maybe I just never had the patience to wait long enough in the queue when I called.

In contrast, there is another software we use to run some web marketing campaigns, and this company also says they provide technical support.  In fact from their website it looks exactly the same as the web survey product. But in this case, I can call a number and reach a real person, not a phone queue.  I can ask specific questions about our account and he’ll go in to see what I’m talking about.  And if I can’t reach this person right away he will always call me back within 4 hours.

Two very different practices but both vendors call it “technical support”.

The point being that when evaluating an applicant tracking software vendor, or any software vendor for that matter, it’s important to dig deep to figure out what they mean when they say they provide “technical support”.  Here are some criteria to consider:

  • Are you able to talk to a real, live person with a question or can you only ask questions via email?
  • If you are able to talk with a live person, is that person a technical expert on the product? Note that many companies say they offer live phone support but it’s really just a call center where your question will be taken and passed along to another person to answer, so it’s not really “live” support.
  • Do you have a single Account Manager who you can contact, or do you need to contact a general support line for each issue?
  • Will the support team answer specific questions about your account configuration, or just provide general guidance and links to online help articles?
  • How quickly are you able to get an answer to a question?  Companies often will provide a response time estimate, but the only way to really know is to either try it out for yourself in a Trial period, or a no-contract SaaS plan, or talk with some current customers.
  • If you need help that goes beyond product support, like configuration help, feature customization, special training or custom reports, is the vendor willing to provide that service (usually for an additional fee)?

Whenever we talk with a person who is evaluating our ApplicantStack Applicant Tracking System, we often get the standard questions about technical support – what are your support hours? does support cost extra? do you offer phone and email support?  While these are all great questions, it is worthwhile to dig a little deeper to determine what exactly a vendor means when they say they provide technical support.  It’s one of the most important evaluation criteria and what sets apart vendors who may look the same from a website.