Great Plains Taps The Web To Deliver Product Support

  • Written By: L. Talarico
  • Published: December 5 2000

Great Plains Taps The Web To Deliver Product Support
L. Talarico - December 5, 2000

Event Summary

Great Plains Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: GPSI) delivers ERP and CRM applications to the mid-market. The company recently announced the expansion of eSupport, a web-based technical support service that complements its traditional telephone support. Great Plains develops ERP and CRM applications aimed at the mid-market. (Explore the Business Applications Research Channel to see TEC's extensive coverage of Great Plains). The expanded service promises to make it easier for partners and customers to obtain self-help and assisted support from Great Plains' support engineers. New automated solutions and support tools build upon CustomerSource, Great Plains' four-year-old secure customer web site. CustomerSource already featured a searchable knowledgebase, an electronic support submission process and online case histories for each customer.

eSupport has a number of features that make it more sophisticated than FAQs or a searchable knowledge base. The primary distinction between eSupport and a knowledge base is that Great Plains has connected its customer web site to its internal incident tracking system. Customers that cannot resolve problems via the knowledge base on CustomerSource can initiate a service request online. Great Plains delivers personalized service by automatically identifying the customer and the nature of the problem regardless of whether the customer calls technical support or submits a request online.

The company has the same guaranteed response times for both support calls and online requests because its systems are integrated. Customers receive coupons for future services when support engineers do not respond to requests on an incoming basis or reply to e-mails within one to three hours. Great Plains states that it meets 98% of its guaranteed response times on average.

The self-help and assisted support functions of eSupport were enhanced through the use of technology from Motive Communications. A new tool called the Great Plains Support Tuner enables customers to receive automated fixes directly from an engineer or the eSupport web site. The tuner also assists customers in detecting product configuration, system settings, and other pertinent information, which can be shared with Great Plains so that support engineers can resolve their problems more efficiently. Great Plains considered web support software from a number of vendors including Motive. Vendors given close consideration were RightNow Technologies,, and products from Siebel Systems.

Early data collected by Great Plains indicates the new system is reducing costs and increasing the operational efficiency of its call center. The company recorded a reduction in cost per fulfilled service request from $32 to approximately $25, on average. Use of eSupport has grown significantly over the past twelve months. In October of 1999, 4% of all service requests were initiated via eSupport compared to 42.5% in October of 2000. Great Plains also states that service data quality, engineer job satisfaction, and customer satisfaction have all improved.

Market Impact

Great Plains is among many business applications vendors that realize customer support is an important selling point to the mid-market. This upgrade should not dramatically change the competitive landscape of mid-market ERP and CRM vendors, but it does put pressure on these vendors to enhance their customer support services.

Great Plains states that one unique aspect of its service offering is its collaboration with partners. The company relies solely on partners to resell products, and has therefore expanded its collaboration with the partner channel to share information collected in the support process. When customers contact Great Plains support, the corresponding partner automatically receives e-mail with links to case history. This provides partners with incident information before being contacted by their customers, allowing better support for cases that require the expertise of a partner. Furthermore Great Plains encourages partners to supply eSupport with service fulfillment information, ensuring that case histories incorporate partner knowledge.

Great Plains states that later this winter diagnostic data collected by support engineers during the resolution process will be shared with partners online. This will provide partners with up-to-date information on their customers' systems.

User Recommendations

Organizations with overburdened technical support staffs should react positively to this news. Great Plains states that it has augmented telephone support with web support rather than replaced it, but be sure to get references from current eSupport users. Specifically ask the references if the quality of telephone support has remained the same (or improved) with the addition of web services. Great Plains states that the pricing of current service plans will not change with the new improvements. Be sure to get a long-term commitment to current price levels as part of your purchase.

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