By Daniel Steyskal, Trapezoid Business Services
When selling technology you’re not only selling the physical items, licenses, and soft services for setup; you’re also making a customer commit to a specific channel for technical support when something goes wrong. And it always does.
Modern POS accommodates this well with reasonably-priced support services that, when combined with a software license, SaaS model, or a separate agreement, will make a VAR a few bucks. However, whether it’s in the contract, verbally expressed ad nauseum, or tattooed on your forehead, you sold the system to the end user and you will be blamed for any issues with support if you’re not already the first point of contact. Unfortunately, some software support loves to shift the blame, saying the problem is hardware, internet, Donald Trump, anything to get that end user calling someone else.
Time spent arguing with your vendor’s technicians is time not spent improving products or selling, so take the following steps to start providing level-one customer support and, believe it or not, save yourself some time.
Start Documenting Service Issues
When I first took control of service calls, clients were over the moon they didn’t have to sit in a phone que. However, no one calls in saying, “I can’t print” or “Credit cards aren’t processing”; they say, “The machine is broke” and, of course, they’re angry. However, they’re angry in the same way too many people are abusive to a host at a restaurant: They want something they really need and this person is getting in the way of them getting it.
Human psychology aside, I noticed solutions for these calls kept on repeating and, after taking the time to record and review the nature of service calls, I noticed 90 percent of them were related to the printer running out of paper. A driver change and bit of end user training resulted in a drastic reduction in the number and length calls since troubleshooting procedures were streamlined to quickly eliminate common problems. Not only did I have more time to sell, but I could take on larger projects that would have been a support nightmare.
Form A Relationship With A Managed Services Firm
Once a client sees you as a trusted service provider they will bring you everything from their home computers to help handling payroll tax filing. If you provide level-one service, clients will assume you can do anything. Countless clients have asked me for assistance with a project way beyond my expertise. One should never attempt to “figure it out” with these type of projects, but having a referral partner will be invaluable.
When working with a managed services firm I’m never looking for a referral fee, just that they are reciprocal. A real managed services firm is not going to want to get involved with payment processing and simple POS software — they are not built to provide those sorts of services. So I am more than happy to hand over referrals for services I could never provide and get access to providing payments for professional offices, industrial production centers, and other entities that are some of the most lucrative payments contracts one can get. When everyone stays to their lane, clients are happier and both service providers have greater opportunities.
Set Clear Expectations And Communicate Them
The standard SLA (service level agreement) I use states all issues will be responded to within one business day. Ninety-five percent of the time issues are fixed within 30 seconds of a call, but sometimes things will take a while, especially if I’m waiting on a vendor to respond. Sometimes a situation is just out of your control, but communicating with your clients throughout the process of a long system fix will give them the confidence of knowing that you’re working, but more importantly that you care.
While many service providers balk at the idea of texting, I personally love it. Especially in hospitality, work environments are loud and chaotic so having a clear, written message about what is going on and responding with concise 1, 2, 3 steps on how to resolve is invaluable. Furthermore, nothing beats sending a picture text of an error message, software license code, or how the hardware is currently setup for getting a very accurate idea of what is going on; especially given point one where the conversation begins with, “It’s broke.”
Google Voice has been an incredible tool for this since I can keep my personal number private, accommodates picture texts and group texts, and — best of all — runs from any computer with an internet connection. Travelling abroad I was able to maintain excellent support simply using public Wi-Fi and texting clients.
Have A Plan For When Your Vendor Changes Things Drastically
After recent consolidation of POS companies and payment providers, many VARs have seen the cost of software and services increase; some nominally, but others have seen a 100 to 1000 percent increase in the cost of using a solution. A few companies have even locked out payment processors when the software was previously software agnostic. Some clients can absorb these changes, but others just cannot and will attempt to ignore PCI requirements, run a system that breaks fairly often, or just switch to an ECR with a side terminal for cards. None of these solutions are acceptable.
There is no POS system that is so star-spangled awesome it is irreplaceable. A good VAR will know how their clients’ businesses run and likely have access to revenue data, so they are best situated to choose an affordable and effective alternative solution when the current one is unsustainable. Despite consolidation, there are countless solutions out there and every VAR should have three or four, if not more, solutions that work for their target market. Anything less and that service provider is selling solutions that work best for them, not for the client.
About The Author
Trapezoid Business Services is solely owned and operated by Daniel Steyskal. Daniel has been a POS provider and business solutions consultant since 2008 working with small to mid-sized businesses and national franchises. When he's not making the impossible possible for his clients, Daniel enjoys cooking, gaming, and volunteering in his community. Find out more at www.tpzbusiness.com.