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.

systems int

When it comes to systems integration – keep it simple

Sometime when clients ask us to integrate NetSuite with another package they ask for a tight integration because they believe this will ensure that using the resulting integrated solution will be easier for their users.

For our technical staff it is sometimes tempting to want to undertake a such an integration as it may be more interesting to develop. But from my experience I would always suggest to a client that they keep any integration as simple as possible for a number of reasons.

Firstly the more complex an integration, the more difficult it is to define and design a solution that delivers what users believe they want and what is realistically achievable.

Secondly it follows that it is hard to develop and test and therefore to create a reliable solution. Devising the sort of testing necessary for the users to do is tricky, therefore it is likely that problems will emerge during live running.

Thirdly a more complex integration is more difficult to maintain and any problems in live running may prove hard to analyse and even harder to correct and re-test.

Fourthly a tightly integrated solution (for example where one package is adjusted to use the other package’s product file) may well have problems when either package is updated. At least whenever a new version is introduced, the integrating solution provider will need to consider the potential for issues.

Fifthly the thorny issue of determining the cause of a problem is exacerbated by tight integration. I always think it a good idea for a client to consider who will be responsible for determining what element in the system is causing the problem and have a support contract in place with that party which specifies this role. It is also a good idea to have all other supporting parties agree to respect the ‘problem identifier’ (with all necessary caveats). Many clients do not appreciate that this role is required and can be time consuming. They may be reluctant to pay for such a service, but without it the user client (probably without the necessary technical knowledge or skill) often has to spend time negotiating between suppliers to prove where a problem lies and establish responsibility.

In summary, I suggest that for most integrations the apparent time saved in user tasks by a tight integration is likely to be lost in the time involved in accepting the specifications, testing and accepting the more complex solution plus in time lost due to greater system downtime and discussion with suppliers about problems experienced during live running or when a new version of software is made available.

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.