Though it's not listed as one of our top 13 mistakes to avoid, anybody out there preparing to deploy a kiosk or digital signage network definitely needs to check out the support staff for the various products and services that they're about to deploy. Top-notch technical support is especially critical during the pre-install and installation phases of deployment, where there is strict adherence to Murphy's Law.
Here are a few quick tips to think about when reviewing technical support options:
1. Take into account things like timezone differences, cellphone coverage and your support plan(s) Do this before making your timeline. A late-afternoon installation on the pacific coast might leave you out-of-luck when your support provider is only at work from 9-5 Eastern Time.
2. Make sure that your installation teams know how to get in touch with your support providers. Sometimes it is more efficient to route support calls through a project manager or team leader, but other times, the only way to provide good support is to talk to the men on the front lines.
3. Get some hands-on experience with the hardware and software that you're planning to use before starting a full deployment. A lot of complex signage controllers, kiosk computers and plasma screens have idiosyncrasies that take a little getting used to. It's better to know about these beforehand, rather than trying to figure them out with support staff while dangling from a plasma screen mounted thirty feet up.
4. If your kiosk or signage software has a trial, use it, and give the technical support staff a live trial. You'll know right away whether the support level will meet your needs, and you can make a decision before making a big investment.
5. Think about how much support you really need. Software providers often have tiered support levels, different pricing structures for weekend and holiday support, and so on. On the hardware side, there are extended warranties that often come with extended support, as well as instant replacement, on-site replacement, and managed inventory options.
At WireSpring, we think about customer support a lot. We've been using RackSpace managed services for several years now, and their technical support is simply outstanding. Whether calling for a server upgrade or to talk directly to an IT professional, they always aim to please. That's why I found this article in Fast Company (and later reproduced in their quarterly newsletter) so interesting. It basically outlines the kind of culture that brings about great support, and notes that customer support is a two-way street: those customers who want to be belligerent will never feel that they received great customer support.
For about two years now, it has been our mission at WireSpring to replicate that experience for our FireCast software for kiosks and digital signs. We've extended our support hours to 9AM - 9PM Eastern time to make sure we're there for our customers in Europe and the Pacific Coast. We've also had great success using phone, email and live Internet chat together to support our customers. There's always more to do, and of course making our products and services rock-solid reliable and still really easy to use goes a long way towards reducing the amount of support that most customers need... but that's another article :)
I've really only scratched the surface on the whole support issue, but it is very important and deserves a lot of additional attention. Put it at the top of your checklist when planning your next deployment, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions!