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Another successful year

As we start into our fourth full year as a NetSuite Solution Provider we reflect upon another successful year. We have helped four companies go live with NetSuite, added six new clients for whom we have delivered a range of services as well as adding to our number of NetSuite connector for google apps clients.

Financially the business has nearly doubled in terms of turnover and increased profitability. Keystone Data has employed two new members of staff and extended our relationships with third parties to deliver the increased services.

2017 should be an interesting year as Oracle Corporation start to absorb NetSuite. We are very excited to see how 2017 pans out and wish all our clients and associates a successful New Year.

Keystone Data - Email Case Management Process w. Decisions & Pending

Defining your Customer Case Management and Support Process

As a software implementation and development company, we provide high level support to a wide range of companies. Along the way we have refined our process to meet our customer’s and our own needs. Practically speaking, it’s important your Support system provides the best Customer Service for your customers and the upmost visibility for your company too. A truly formalised process is the best way to create a structure that ensures a case is cared for throughout its lifecycle.

After implementing Support processes for ourselves and our customers, we thought it best to share some of the aspects we think many businesses should strive for.

Some Best Practices

Effective Logging

The best way to set the ship sailing in the wrong direction is by ineffectively or barely logging customer issues. The bare necessities should be a Contact, Problem Description, Unique Case Number and the Date and Time it was received. “Obviously” I hear you say, but without a formalised Case Capture form it can be very easy to simply trust yourself to remember. The ITIL model for Service Management suggests this is the role for a Service Desk. A single point of entry to ensure communication is streamlined and the case recipient’s first priority is to effectively log and manage the problem.

Could the first contact Support User take charge of the Case to manage it to completion? This can sometimes be a good way to ensure the case is chased once escalated.

Of course this doesn’t have to be a manual process, on systems like NetSuite, Cases or Tickets can be captured from customised Online Forms. This has always been a great way for grooming customer’s queries, with mandatory fields like “Nature of Enquiry” acting as a filter to route Cases in your Support System. If Cases can be classified before they are added to a Case list, the Case list is infinitely more manageable.

 

 

We also believe a Support system should share the same database as your Customer Records, not only to link Cases to Customers, but to provide your Support Agents with the information they need to provide comprehensive support. But even more than that, in a system like NetSuite, a Customer’s Service Level Agreement could automatically set a Case’s Priority or Due Date.

Responding

First of all, we would suggest the first response is a confirmation of query receipt. For emails this is a simple automated email, but phone queries are often neglected. We’d suggest logging all phone calls as queries, however appreciate this isn’t always logical or practical. However if the query requires more investigation or cannot be handled with a first contact resolution, an email detailing the conversation is a great way to leave an open line of communication with the customer and record the query for memory on your side too.

Secondly, we’d suggest growing your Knowledge Base by encouraging your Support Agents and Technical Staff to constantly contribute to it. In a basic sense, Knowledge Bases can often offer standard responses, but could also be extended memos so that the exhaustive research that went into a great response doesn’t disappear into the realms of Closed Cases. Arranged into topics, you can give your Support Team their own, industry-specific Encyclopaedia if done properly. (There is always a chance this could be shared with your customers too!)

Could the first contact Support User take charge of the Case to manage it to completion? This can sometimes be a good way to ensure the case is chased once escalated.

Are you ready to close the Case? If yes, it’s worth updating the customer of this status change too. More than anything, this communication ensures avoiding any skeletons in the closet appearing when a customer expected a response that never came. Generally speaking, it’s difficult to ever over-communicate but much easier to under-communicate!

Time Tracking

Not just for your benefit, Time Tracking can be a great help for the customer when managing their Service Level Agreement. The logic behind Time Tracking if you charge for Support Time is simple, but it’s also a great way to view where time is being exhausted. Seeing how much is spent on individual customers can be an enlightening experience, for example.

Reporting

As a smaller enterprise it can often be difficult to see how you’re doing when it comes to Support. A huge part of this reporting is using a system that uses assessable processes and has visual reporting capabilities. Thanks to NetSuite, we are able to access a huge range of visual reports such as: Service Response Times, Cases by Customer, Resolutions by Employee and many more.

Analytics shouldn’t just be reserved for the Sales side of things though. Does a persistent Customer need a more appropriate SLA? Do the Support Team need more training on a particular Product Group with questions slowing down response times? It’s often easy to think of Support as an open and closed activity, but often a lot can be taken from delving into the detail.

In Practice | Email Case Management

Case Management is often a difficult process to map out, with Case requirements varying vastly and Support being delivered by employees who have other primary functions. These difficulties apply to Keystone Data too, and in response we all try to work to a Support process that is time-efficient, promotes visibility and comprehensive for the customer.

The diagram below details out a general, simple Email Case process that we would frequently implement for our customers. Defining your own process is a great start for implementing a SaaS, but also for helping analyse and improve the process itself. In this example we are able to show a first contact response (in white), an escalated response (in grey) and how a Case can be reopened by a customer and start the cycle again.

Keystone Data’s Email Case Management Process | Manual process are defined with a solid grey line and automated processes with a dotted teal line. NetSuite processes are defined in Navy, standard Support steps in Teal, 1st contact responses in White and escalated steps in Grey.

Keystone Data are a NetSuite implementation specialist, for more information on Case Management or implementing Support for your company please get in touch.

hints and tips

NetSuite and Training Options

The successful usage of a NetSuite instance is dependent upon the comfort and confidence customers feel using it. This means the right training. And as an organisation develops and its staff change, additional training is often needed to ensure customers are getting the most from NetSuite.

 

There are a variety of ways in which clients can acquire training, including developing their own internal courses, but when sourcing them externally there are two main sources: from NetSuite, or from a NetSuite Solution Provider. Most clients who choose a Solution Provider will use the provider responsible for implementation (at least during the implementation), but may choose an alternative for any additional training once the solution is live.

 

Training from NetSuite

 

NetSuite offer training in three ways:

1) Video or on-line free with NetSuite Answers.

2) Standard courses delivered largely on-line or via video.

3) Bespoke courses created to a client’s requirements and delivered on-line or on-site.

Below, we look at all three options in more detail.

 

Free courses available with NetSuite Answers:

 

Video-based courses can be a good way of teaching staff a particular topic. The obvious drawback to this approach is that the learning process is very much a one-way street, since their are very limited ways of interacting with a recording or receiving feedback on progress.

Nonetheless they remain a useful tool, and NetSuite provides a wide range of video-based courses that vary in time from a few minutes to 2 hours. Listed below are the categories, along with some examples of the topics covered.

 

Category & topic Number of videos Time lasted
Getting started 19
logging in and security best practices 7 minutes
administrator setup options 6 minutes
Financial management 22
period and year’s end close 2 hours
Fixed Asset reports, searches and troubleshooting 6 minutes
Order management 2
accepting deposits on sales orders 5 minutes
grid order entry for sales orders 34 minutes
Items/fulfilment/billing 43
general shipping enhancements parts 1 2 & 3 23 minutes total
work in process 21 minutes
Purchasing/accounts payable 6
multi currency vendors 6 minutes
accounts payable improvements 3 minutes
Services/resource planning 1 14 minutes
Contracts renewal 10
software industry overview 8 minutes
implementation considerations 8 minutes
OneWorld 20
multiple fiscal calendars 24 minutes
extended transaction numbering and audit log 8 minutes
Sales force automation 6
working with contacts 9 minutes
sales campaigns overview 6 minutes
Marketing 9
lead to customer life cycle 14 minutes
marketing and email enhancements 7 minutes
Support 2
file attachments on online forms 4 minutes
support and case management enhancements 11 minutes
Ecommerce 17
Ecommerce edition overview 10 minutes
google checkout third-party conversion tracking 5minutes
Saved searches and reports 21
dashboards defining user requirements 7 minutes
ODBC advanced reports overview 6 minutes
Administration/data 15
administrative notifications 2 minutes
custom mass update 7 minutes
Customisation/integration 22
SuiteScript introducing the SuiteCloud IDE 9 minutes
Sandbox deployment best practices 7 minutes

 

In addition there are a number of videos covering OpenAir, the last three new releases of NetSuite, various U.S. specific options e.g. Payroll and a number of international topics including UK online VAT filing.

 

NetSuite also delivers webinars from time to time on specific topics. Where they are felt to be useful as an on-going facility they are held on-line for later access. Currently there are 47 such webinars. These cover topics from Learn what’s new with 2015.1 lasting 19 minutes, to Building the best income statement lasting 50 minutes.

 

 

Standard NetSuite courses

 

NetSuite offers a range of standard courses, most of which are delivered on-line. Below are the ones most likely to be of relevance to a NetSuite client. These courses are aimed primarily at power users or NetSuite administrators.

 

With these “bread and butter” courses likely to meet the majority of customers’ needs, NetSuite is also on hand to help those of its customers with more specialised requirements, providing courses designed to help in configuring the system or adding little-used functionalities.

 

In both cases, clients can choose between self-study or the virtual classroom as the preferred learning method for these user-relevant courses:

 

Self-study

Self-study provides the same lecture topics, best practices and tips as provided by instructor-led training courses in a flexible format.

 

Self-Study Benefits:

As a self-studying NetSuite learner-driver, you can:

  • Access training materials 24×7 for 30 days
  • Set your own schedule
  • Validate your understanding with NetSuite Instructors

 

Virtual

The Virtual Classroom provides a rich learning experience with the convenience and flexibility of sessions scheduled in global time zones.

 

Virtual classes are designed to be highly interactive and are taught by seasoned NetSuite instructors, who are also specialists at teaching within the virtual classroom. As a cyber-student you are:

  • Encouraged to ask questions
  • Engage in text chats with the instructors or other students
  • Participate in group activities and interactions

 

The virtual environment makes it simple to share information with the class or 1:1 with an instructor.  Virtual training allows students to participate in discussions, express opinions, and even take a break just as in a classroom setting.

 

 

 

Course name Length of course List price in US $
Administration Fundamentals 2 days 1,600
SuiteAnalytics: Reports and Searches 2 days 1,600
SuiteAnalytics: Financial Reports and Searches 2 days 1,600
SuiteAnalytics: Advanced Searches 2 days 1,600
SuiteAnalytics: Building Executive Dashboards 2 hours 200
Marketing Automation Workshop 1 day 800

 

 

Bespoke Training from NetSuite

 

NetSuite’s training department can design user specific training which would usually be delivered online in the UK. It would be based on a needs analysis.

 

Training from Solution Providers

Most established Solution Providers would offer training to their clients. Some have produced standard courses that can be delivered on demand, or with some tailoring to meet a client’s needs.

 

Keystone Data, for example, has developed a standard system administration course which we usually deliver on a one to one basis. We find this enables the client to learn about the most appropriate features and gain real confidence by getting to grips with those facilities they find most challenging. In this manner, we are able to combine in a one day course the relevant features that are offered in NetSuite’s 2 day Administration Fundamentals and the SuiteAnalytics: Reports and Searches courses. Such an approach reduces the time spent training, but also eliminates the time spent learning some facility or feature that is not relevant either to the user’s company or for the specific role of the trainee.

 

We have also developed a series of role-specific courses that we tailor to meet the particular processes of a client and the individual needs of those clients’ users.

 

Whilst we typically deliver our courses on-site, we are also happy to deliver them remotely, and indeed we find such an approach can both save costs and enable the courses to be delivered more efficiently, at a time that best suits the trainee.

support help

Support Options for NetSuite

Many customers find they need some kind of support once they have implemented NetSuite but are unsure what is available and what they are going to need.

I shall attempt to classify the various types of support on offer and the type of support a customer may need in selecting the service appropriate to them. I have excluded training, bespoke development and consultancy services from this blog.

 

The types of support that customers need falls into three broad categories:

  • How to do something
  • Something seems wrong
  • Something needs changing

In turn, the three software set-ups that customers will have fall into three categories:

  • Generic NetSuite
  • Customer-specific NetSuite customisation
  • Bespoke or packaged software that integrates in some way with a customer’s NetSuite instance

NetSuite customers can choose between support from NetSuite or a NetSuite partner, or a combination of both.

The following table describes the differences in offerings. I have used Keystone Data support provision to identify the characteristics of a Solution Provider support provision.

Comparison of support options

SuiteAnswers with NetSuite licence NetSuite chargeable SuiteSupport From Solution Provider
Question how to do something yes yes yes
Report something seems wrong yes Yes (if the problem is with customer customisation the client must arrange for it to be corrected) Yes (if problem with NetSuite the Solution Provider will report to NetSuite)
Request for something to be changed no no yes
Covers generic NetSuite yes yes yes
Covers customer specific customisation no no yes
Covers bespoke or packaged software integrate with customer’s NetSuite instance no no yes
On-line submission of questions or cases Yes for questions yes yes
Telephone response to questions or cases No yes yes
Telephone submission of questions or cases No Yes (with gold or platinum) yes
Support available outside working hours yes – because only available on-line Yes (with gold or platinum) Would require special arrangement
Special support including back up for system administrator no no yes
Maintenance of customisations no no yes
Service Level Agreements no yes yes

 

My Recommendations

If your organisations employ staff or contractors able both to customise NetSuite, and to understand your own implementation of it, I suggest signing up for one of NetSuite’s standard support options and support all your customisations yourselves.

If your organisation employs no staff with any specialist IT or NetSuite knowledge and you used a Solution Provider to undertake all customisation and manage the implementation, I suggest you agree a suitable support service with the Solution Provider (or an alternative if that Solution Provider cannot provide your required service).

Support services from Solution Providers

Most Solution Providers offer a range of support services; some restrict them to NetSuite customers who have bought their NetSuite instance through them or are prepared (and able) to transfer their registered Solution Provider status.

Some Solution Providers (including Keystone Data) are prepared to provide a range of support services to NetSuite customers regardless of whether we are registered with NetSuite as the customer’s Solution Provider.

As a company specialising in delivering NetSuite associated services, like most Solution Providers, we are able to offer a very flexible range of services.

Our services cover all three categories highlighted above (how to do something; something seems wrong; something needs changing) across the three areas highlighted (generic NetSuite; customer-specific NetSuite customisation and instance; bespoke or packaged software that integrates in some way with a customer’s NetSuite instance).

NetSuite support options

NetSuite offer four options that cover the first two categories of support noted above for generic NetSuite support and some limited aspects of customer-specific NetSuite customisation and instances.

These four options are:

  • Support included within an instance – includes SuiteAnswers
  • SuiteSupport Silver
  • SuiteSupport Gold
  • SuiteSupport Platinum

Inclusive NetSuite support

The support included within an instance provides a comprehensive, integrated help facility with some pdf manuals. In addition all NetSuite users have access to SuiteAnswers which includes an online portal to get answers to questions.

SuiteSupport Silver

SuiteSupport Silver provides support during normal working hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm. Cases (cries for help) must be submitted on-line (at any time) and will be responded to either by an email or a phone call from the support desk. A customer can name two contacts.

SuiteSupport Gold

SuiteSupport Gold is an enhanced version of support which allows for phone submission of cases via a toll free number. Critical or significant problems can be submitted by phone 24 hours a day 7 days a week. A client can have four named contacts.

SuiteSupport Platinum

SuiteSupport Platinum is the highest level of support offered by NetSuite (and therefore the most expensive). It allows for submission of all cases by phone at any time and six named contacts.

In addition it provides a dedicated support team and support manager – this does not mean a team who work exclusively on one customer’s support contract but rather a team who are the only people who will provide direct support to a client. The advantage of this is that the same people will understand a customer’s NetSuite instance and gain a good understanding of the customer’s business as well as a relationship with the customer’s staff. This team also provide a range of pre-release planning help.

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Our first calendar year as a NetSuite partner

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2014 has been an excellent start for Keystone Data as a NetSuite partner. We have agreed sufficient business to be awarded three star partner status going in to 2015.

This has been generated by signing five new NetSuite users. The first client is Brother Max who has been running live since June and Specialist Group has been running live with NetSuite since early November with additional work underway to integrate with an external warehouse and replace the existing web site. We anticipate these elements being live during January 2015.

Bladez Toyz was signed in November and we anticipate going live in mid-February. Easy Composites signed in December and the project is underway.

During the year we moved into new premises in Calverley on the outskirts of Leeds and Paul Prystawsky and Matt Lancaster have joined us. They have both been working in our projects and this experience together with taking courses has given them a good knowledge of NetSuite.

In addition we have developed our NetSuite Connector for Google Apps which is now used by over 50 clients. We have plans to extend its functionality during 2015. We have also linked NetSuite to the EDI product Transalis, to a third party warehouse software solution and have developed an enhancement to NetSuite’s eCommerce offering to ensure a faster response time for well-used web-sites.

Thank you to all our clients for their support throughout the year and we wish you all a very prosperous 2015.