Defining Software Support

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

When your system is down, who do you call? Do the network people point at software, software point at hardware, everybody blame the phone company etc. etc. etc.?

When your computer system is working smoothly, you should have a very helpful tool that enhances your business operation. However, when your system is not working smoothly who is responsible and at what cost? Computer system support is a widely varying service provided by your software/hardware suppliers. Most of us have an idea of what support means to us, but is your definition the same as your software/hardware provider(s)? We operate our businesses in an increasingly complex environment where all facets of your computer system can be affected by any given component at any given time. Internet access, the configuration of your operating system (Windows, Unix, Linux etc), your hardware, your employees and your application software all interact to provide ever more powerful tools to help your business.

We have been led to believe that it’s a plug-n-play world. Hook it up, load it up and everything will work smoothly. While this is true some of the time, it is by no means the norm. When there is a problem, typically the first phone call is to your application software provider. Your DMS, F&I, BHPH or other software is the most visible component of your system; it is what you rely on to complete your work and control your business.

What we want and expect when we place that first call is a solution to the problem so we can continue our work with a minimum of interruption. When the problem is confined to an easily identifiable source your solution should be readily provided and you are back in business. These occasions are often thought of as give-me’s, expected support not really costing anyone much, available in the basic support plan at a nominal expense to your dealership; so far so good. More arcane problems are not so easily solved and many times become a cyclical series of phone calls with no one taking responsibility to find an answer. Finger pointing from hardware, software, telecommunications and dealership personnel is the order of the moment and no resolution is forthcoming. This is the wrong time to reflect on the support plan you chose to keep cost at a minimum, rather it is a time to value choosing a plan that, while more expensive, puts someone in charge to find a solution that puts you back in business.

Support/service plans can vary widely. Much like an insurance policy, very inexpensive plans offer very limited service, while more comprehensive plans offering increasingly expanded service require a larger investment. The more limited the service plan you select, the greater responsibility you are accepting for maintaining a functioning system and the greater your out of pocket expense will be for service beyond the scope of your plan. Also like insurance, the hope is that you may never need the service but you know that it will be there when you do need it. As in all other business decisions, it boils down to a comfortable level of risk and the value you place on keeping your dealership operating smoothly. Make your decision accordingly. May the silicon force be with you!

Vol 2, Issue 6

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