Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Support System: A Primer on Getting the Most out of Your Software Experience and Investment

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Support System: A Primer on Getting the Most out of Your Software Experience and Investment

Article excerpt

After a number of years as an on-site property manager I became very adept in the use of computer programs, and was soon asked to train others. Then I was tasked with setting up my management company's new sites. In time, I was recruited by a software company. After years of dealing with support and training calls, I began to develop an understanding of how to make the experience between a property management company and a software provider more positive for everyone involved.

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Evaluate the Agreement

Begin With Questions

Let's start at the beginning of the relationship between the management company and the software provider. Be certain to ask the following questions:

* How many issues, on average, does the support team handle on a daily and weekly basis?

* How many clients are currently using the software?

Study Before You Sign

Next, look at your signed software agreement when you purchase or license products.

Pay close attention to the minutes or hours of support to be provided. This time can be stated monthly or annually during the agreement term. The biggest misconception is that the software support staff will become the trainers for your sites. The agreement does not include any implementation consulting or training hours; those services are scheduled separately. Assistance provided outside typical telephone support can be an extra billable service.

Make sure the agreement states the services the support team will provide. Normally this does not include end-user support for routine operations or staff training. Some agreements will offer different types of services.

Check whether the agreement provides discounts if you have staff who can serve as your company's help desk. If you have an individual, usually referred to as your "help desk," your site personnel can contact first with software issues or who can answer questions 90 percent of the time, you deserve a reduced annual fee. If your staff can answer the questions and avoid calls to software support, you have reduced call volume and reduced staffing needs from the software provider. The help desk staff person is a wonderful idea. Typically this individual holds another position within the company and serves as the point of contact for software help. They are familiar with company policies and can enforce the way staff performs certain tasks with the software to comply with company policy.

Pay attention to the communication software your computers will need. Any computers that have programs installed must also have communication software to support the potential need to dial-in to your network and work directly on the computer. Not having the proper communication programs, e.g., PCAnywhere, Terminal Service, will hinder a quick resolution.

Anticipate Expenses

Don't forget budgets! Include your annual renewal software fees and services each year when you prepare the budget. Your agreement allows you to continue to receive software support, upgrades and other services.

Consider what other items you need to include when budgeting. Remember staff turnover; new employees will need to be trained on software.

Discuss with your software provider any services or ways their products can save you money on an ongoing basis. Purchasing software that can help you with training will save you a lot of money.

Prepare for Support Calls

All software users experience problems or errors at one time or another. The product support department at a software company is generally the busiest department in the organization. Unfortunately, many calls take more time than is necessary because the caller is not prepared with the information needed to make the call successful. Providing a support specialist with as many details as you can about your problem will help get your issue resolved quicker. Before you make that panic call to support, gather this background checklist:

Give full contact information. …

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