We all have maintenance agreements with our vendors, and when we signed the contract the table listing the response time is likely the only service level agreement that we review. The hardware, software, and solutions from your vendors that support your contact center agents and self-service channels act as mission critical elements to your overall customer support. We need to ask ourselves if our vendors are providing value through the support contract and contributing to the ongoing success of customer service, or do vendors provide no value and consider your support contract nothing more than a revenue stream.
Critical Elements of a Value Based Support Contract
Your support contract and the SLA needs to go beyond defining the response time for ‘high’ – ‘normal’ – ‘low’ issues and problems with your production environment. Vendors need to provide mission critical services and the following list provides a sample of the elements required to drive value from your support investment:
Are the technical support resources employed by your vendor – avoid partnering with vendors that outsource your support to a 3rd party company
Proactive issue resolution – your technology vendors need to access your production systems to gather logs, recreate the errors, and resolve the problems – do not put the burden on your team to set logs to ‘debug’ or ‘trace’ level, recreate the production issue, and upload the logs to a support portal
Dedicated support contact – partner with vendors that provide a dedicated resource to monitor your account and serve as your advocate within the vendor’s organization
Align with your business hours – make sure that the support contract mirrors your critical business hours, up to 24/7 support services
You want to make sure that your support contract provides access to not only break-fix and maintenance releases but also new product versions – this extends the return on investment of the original project as you can avoid costly upgrade fees in the future
Adding the items above to your negotiations with vendors on support contracts ensures that they will add true value and become a partner in driving world class service to your customers. Do not allow your vendors to collect 15%, or even 20%, of the original solution price without putting more value into the support contract than just bug fixes and response targets.