Last September I wrote a post entitled “Customer Support in an SAP Integrated World”. In that post I discussed the (positive) impact that our “On-Demand” model has had on our ability to respond to our clients from a technical perspective. Today I’d like to take a look at the impact that the On Demand model has on our client services from a business model perspective.
Here are a few things that we’ve learned over the last couple of years:
- none of our clients are consuming their monthly 5 hours of free technical support
- the vast majority of support issues end up pointing to data issues in SAP
- all other issues are typically resolved rather quickly…explaining the behavior of the website, minor bug fixes etc.
The bottom line is that once a client goes live, from a production perspective, our help desk has become a very lonely and boring place to work. 🙂
However, aside from managing the daily operations of our client’s B2B websites, that’s not to say that we’re not constantly providing post Go Live value added services to our clients. We do so in three major ways;
- Increase adoption – we help our clients to extend our existing service to new users and/or to leverage additional capabilities that we offer.
- Develop customizations – each of our clients are unique and we work with them to customize our service to deliver maximum business value for them. (We see the ease of our customizability(?) as a competitive advantage and I’ll write about that more in a future posting.)
- Release new features – we roll out quarterly releases of our service, each of which offer new ways to provide better customer service and to become more efficient.
Here are a few examples of how we’ve helped our clients increase adoption after their initial GoLive period:
- With Blount, Inc. we developed microsites for their European business and extended Order Entry capabilities to their US business. (The US initially rolled out with Order Status only, since the majority of orders were being transmitted to Blount via EDI.) We’re now also rolling out the service to Japan.
- For DriveMedical we are in the midst of rolling out our eInvoice capability to their users.
- For Nordson/EFD we rolled out our DigitalPrint Catalog capability earlier last year and are currently folding Hong Kong into their B2B website.
We also spend a reasonable amount of time helping our clients customize our service to fit their business as best as possible. We have customized all aspects of our application including:
- How we present product availability
- How we integrate with external product catalogues
- How/when and to whom we display order confirmations
- The behavior of a material search
- Which order conditions will generate a web hold
- How we handle free goods
- How we handle credit status
- If/when and to whom saved cart notifications should be sent
- Display plant on availability check
- Which SAP text fields web order texts are mapped to
- Allow for material search by old material number
- Automatic email to warehouse manager with invoice attachment
- Support for pre-configured configurable items
From a business perspective, after our initial fixed price GoLive implementation, all of the time we spend helping our clients to increase adoption and to customize their application has always been considered billable consulting time. However, as of today, I’m going to suggest that we break up these initiatives into a planning component and an execution component. The planning component will now be covered by the monthly 5 free hours of support that we provide. Once the decision has been made to execute a project, either a Statement of Work will be written or, if the solution is small enough (which many of them are), will just be invoiced during the next billing cycle. The goal here is to reduce the cost (and friction) of looking for ways to get more business value out of our service.
As far as supporting our clients as they consume our new releases is concerned, we have always had the policy that the entire process of educating them on the release, holding their hand through the planning/testing/piloting of the release, and uncovering any customizations that they may require, was part of our standard service and free to them. That will not change.
In summary, we now have two years of experience with our Client Services and feel it’s time to tweak or policies to reflect our new found knowledge. Our tweak is a minor one. We’re going to allow our clients to use their “unused” hours of Tech Support to fund the exploration of new ways to derive value from their investment with us.
We may be losing out on a little bit of revenue in the short term, but we are 100% certain that it is in everyone’s best interest to get the most out of our service in the long term.
Frankly, I much prefer giving away strategic advice than charging for technical support anyway :-)!