Develop A Strategy Before You Buy

I think it’s pretty obvious to most people that they need to implement some kind of online support solution for their company. They believe that allowing customers to use the web and email for their support questions saves both money and time.

The problem is that many companies have been burnt to a crisp by implementing new software and related procedures. They buy software and related hardware, and then they install it. But from that point on, the trip goes down hill.

The software only does a fraction of what it was supposed to do; it doesn’t really save any time or money because half the time, it’s not working. Like the famous quote, “We had to hire three new people just to keep the customer support software running.”

These are common complaints. And the reason this comes up is that most companies don’t have a strategy for implementation, and they get caught up in the bells and whistles of a piece of software before they buy it. Let’s spend a little time discussing how this can be avoided.

Keep The Techies Away

What I am about to say is going to be considered blasphemy in most parts of the corporate world, but I’m never one to avoid the light of controversy. When you are putting together your plan for online support, keep your IT people away from the decision.

IT people (no offense to anyone reading this) have a very difficult time making software implementation decisions. The reason being that they usually go down one of two slippery slopes. Either they get extremely caught up in the bells and whistles of a piece of software, or they argue that the software couldn’t be any good because they could put it together in about 15 minutes.

Both of these arguments are usually flawed due to what I call TPE (Tech Person’s Ego). If IT people are of the “bell and whistle” ilk, then that’s where they spend their energy. They don’t think about bugs or hardware snafus or any other aspect of the infinite number of problems that could arise from a new software implementation.

If they’re of the “15 minutes of work” bent, then they’re just as dangerous. They have a serious case of TPE, and they can’t believe that anything technical in the world could be any good unless they created it. This will usually lead to great resistance on their part and no matter what solution is decided upon, they will do their best to make it not work. Although I say this tongue in cheek, I’ve found an extremely short list of IT professionals who do not fall into one of these two categories.

Plan A Strategy First

The other reason why companies often fail in their implementation of support software is that they buy the software and then develop a strategy.

This is about as backwards as you can get, and it’s one of the great shortfalls of the entire computer industry. People fail to realize that hardware and software are just tools. They are nothing more than apparatus you use to complete your task.

It’s like a carpenter who uses a saw and a hammer to complete his task. Although he needs these tools to get the job done, it’s the blueprints and plans that really make the whole thing come together. Without these plans, the best carpenter using the best tools will have little positive effect.

Your overall online support strategy is what’s most important. With this mentality, you will only buy software that fits your plan for support. Doing the process in the reverse will only create a situation where you blame your new software for not fixing your support problems.

So many companies put the ox before the cart, buying the software and expecting it to become their online support strategy. But the software buy is only the completing tool. In fact, once some companies decide they’re going to solve a problem with software, they immediately start researching vendors and products. Although this is an important step, it’s probably not the place to start.

Work out your strategy, discuss what it is you want to accomplish, determine your exact requirements, and then buy software/hardware that meets those requirements. This is the recipe for a happier software installation and a happier customer support department.

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