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Shopping for new software

Test-Driving Legal Software’s Technical Support

Before handing over your credit card, pop open the customer service hood.

By Chris Monaghan

When evaluating new software for your law firm, features and price are probably the primary items on your mind. But be sure to give some thought to the quality of technical support the vendor provides. It’s not a good feeling when the vendor has your money and seems disinterested in your success with the software.

Let’s start with a hypothetical situation:

You are using the new law firm management software that you recently purchased or subscribed to, and you’re working on a critical task with a tight deadline. And … uh-oh … you’ve hit a stumbling block.

Not. Sure. What. To. Do.

It’s Customer Support Time!

You know how you want this to turn out: You want a quick answer with minimal aggravation. That’s what everyone wants. No one wants to try three different ways to get help only to hit three dead-ends.

Meanwhile, back at the stumbling block with your new software, here’s what good support should look like:

1. There is a help link on the form you are working on.

You click the help link and a dialog window pops open containing the very information you need. You close the dialog window, hurdle the stumbling block in a single bound, and finish your project with time to spare. What just happened here? Most likely the publishers of the software noticed that the stumbling block you hit was a frequent problem among their users, so they put easily accessed guidance exactly where it was needed. The result is happier users and fewer calls and emails to the people providing support at company headquarters. It’s a win for everybody.

The takeaway: When you are evaluating software, be on the lookout for easily accessible — and actually helpful — online help. If you type a simple question into a search window and it comes back with “nothing found,” that’s not a good sign.

2. You decide you want to call the company and talk to someone.

A perfectly reasonable plan. You look for and quickly find the phone number and place the call. A live person answers the call. You ask if they can answer a question about using the software. They reply yes. You ask your question. A bit of back-and-forth occurs. You get your answer. Awesome! This is an excellent outcome. It should also be considered a win to go through one layer of recorded message or live receptionist if the next stop is the person who can answer your question.

The takeaway: When you have an easy and helpful interaction with the company that feels natural, that’s a good sign. It shows that user success and happiness is a company priority. You are a valued member of their universe, not just a credit card to be charged monthly. They probably also realize they can learn from your question and the questions of other users, and improve their software accordingly.

3. You use an alternative method of seeking help.

Not all companies provide technical support by phone. But all is not lost. There are effective ways to provide quality support via email, chat or a support ticket system. Let’s assume the company is using a support ticket system. All you should have to do is go to the support ticket entry screen and type in your support request. It’s important that you describe your issue clearly and succinctly. You should now be able to keep track of your request within the support ticket system, and you should also receive an email when new activity occurs on your ticket. Shortly after you submit your request the system will typically inform you that the ticket has been assigned to a representative. Ideally, you should quickly receive a solution to your technical issue. Another nice feature of the support ticket system is that it provides a detailed history of all your interactions with the support team.

The takeaway: If a company doesn’t provide phone support, don’t automatically assume they care less about your success. If your issue gets resolved in a timely, hassle-free manner, then that’s quality technical support. If, on the other hand, you have the feeling your online help request was sucked into a black hole, that’s a flashing warning sign.

Features and price are important when selecting the software for your law practice, but keep support in mind. Don’t hesitate to ask the salesperson specific questions about how their support works. Even better, test it out during the sales process and during your trial period. If you feel like you need to reach out to support constantly during your trial period, this may be a sign that the software is not user-friendly. Trust your gut. Don’t rush. Choose the product that feels right.

More Tips on the Transition to New Technology

“New Software: Facing Up to Training Hurdles” by Josh Taylor

“The Purge! Data Migration Hurdles When Changing Software” by Josh Taylor

 

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Chris Monaghan

Chris Monaghan is the owner of Time59 web-based time and billing software for solo and small firm lawyers. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter @Time59Billing.

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