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.
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.
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.
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, Support.com, and
products from Siebel Systems.
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.
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.
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.
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'
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.