By Dan Sadler and André Rocha –
Customer support for retail management software can sometimes be a moving target. Too often, vendors are slow to respond to user support tickets or unable to address needs in the moment, and clients are left wondering what to do next.
As a maker of mission-critical consumer goods software applications, we’ve developed a unique approach to customer support. We believe it is better – both for our customers and for our customer service team – to engineer performance into our product design in the first place.
In other words, we think it makes more sense to prevent tickets altogether rather than highlight how quickly we can resolve issues that could have been avoided. Here’s what we’ve learned:
1 – Improve Data Accuracy
When it comes to service tickets for our CPG mobile applications, the #1 user complaint we faced back in 2012 was that the data our users were seeing from their own sources was wrong. This amounted to roughly three-quarters of our service tickets.
If data integrity is the main source of tickets, we thought, why not just address this in product design and deployment and avoid these issues altogether? We knew we could accomplish this by mapping the interfaces to the sources of data. We set monitoring alarms that could monitor the flow of our data transfers and the quality of the retail analytics data that passed through.
We used machines to monitor the flow of data, and we kept highly skilled staff on call to address issues quickly when alarms went off. With our retail POS system, we realized that since the transfer of most of our master data was happening overnight, our goal was to ensure that any issues were addressed before the field force started work the following day so that their work was not interrupted or compromised in any way.
Between our sales force automation apps, our retail POS apps, our van sales apps and our DSD mobile apps, our products have a lot of data transfers that happen hourly or in real time, so we adjusted our monitoring and response approach for those processes accordingly. Problems are inevitable. The key is to make sure that the data keeps flowing so that the field users get the most up-to-the-minute information and never notice an interruption.
Based on our efforts, we have been able to eliminate the vast majority of service tickets that were based on ‘wrong customer data.’ This is just one of many reasons why we feel ours are the very best retail solutions on the market.
2 – Solve the Problem of Data Syncing
Retail management professionals often complain about data being out of sync between their mobile devices, their ERP system and the actual field reality. Our default sync setting is five minutes. Occasionally, our sync can be slow. (This happens primarily due to network issues, but it can also be due to software issues or bad data loads.) Since our sync time impacts the user experience, we monitor this constantly on an individual user basis across our entire user base. This enables us to identify and fix anomalies or delays before users even have a chance to notice or complain.
We do our best to anticipate syncing issues that may be out of our control and communicate these with our customers. With any retail application, network performance can degrade during certain peak periods each day. By simply educating our customers as to what’s happening, they can learn to expect it or work around it, rather than blame the device or app.
3 – Prepare for Device Issues
Devices sometimes don’t work. They can also get broken, lost or stolen. For customers who we manage devices for our goal is typically to repair or replace devices in less than four days. For one of our clients, however, replacements need to happen in less than two hours. In that case, we have set up a ‘store’ in their building where their employees can come to pick up new devices as needed. When it comes to retail execution tools, you cannot leave things to chance; you have to have a plan!
4 – Address Usability Issues
We believe CPG apps (or any type of B2B order-management software for that matter) should be as intuitive to use as consumer apps. With consumer apps like Uber, there’s almost never a need to call support because you can just figure out how to use the app on your own. They’re designed to be easy to use. The same should apply to business apps. Any user should be able to get going and be productive with only minimal instruction.
Ideally, users should self-support, and power users should help guide new users in case they get stuck. This is why – when we get calls asking for instructions – we always look for ways to make our retail application software more intuitive (or else work with our customer on improving training).
When a user is having a real issue, we do our best to fix it as fast as we can. It’s not our style to pass the buck and place the blame on the network, on a store’s retail inventory software or on climate change. It’s on us, and we get after things as fast as we can. This is why we always look for patterns in what’s causing people’s issues.
One thing we know is that upgrading from one platform version to the next should always be seamless. Troubles arise when a customer has a custom-built solution. This is why we generally discourage custom features and why we build our CPG software to be complete enough to cover almost all the processes our customers could want to automate.
When customers need something important, we try to make the solution part of the core app so that others can benefit from the same capability and we can support it as a core feature. It’s just one of the many ways we are constantly improving our offerings to create the very best retail management software. Not to mention eliminating the need for service calls.
Please contact us if you would like find out more about Spring’s approach or to request a demo of our mobile applications for retail management, sales force automation, merchandising or delivery.