end user supportWhen it comes to end user support for business analytics applications, most of us can agree on one thing – it can really suck!  Supporting users of any software platform can be a challenge but enterprise performance management and business analytics apps are especially demanding since these platforms haven’t been integrated into enterprise help desks in most cases.  This means that the person or small team that develops the apps and administers them are also first line supporters as well.    This can be disruptive and inefficient for the application team and frustrating for users seeking immediate attention.

For the New Year, resolve to make your users happier and I promise it will make you  happier too!

1.      Analyze support request data and take action to reduce them

Everyone in support has a list of calls that seem to come in over and over again.  For me, the one that stands out in my Hyperion experience is the “Missing Essbase Add-in” issue:  “I had the add-in toolbar yesterday, but today it’s gone!”   This issue isn’t a very big deal when it happens once, but when you address it 30 times in a planning cycle it can be a significant time drain.

I realize that this seems like an obvious recommendation but too often I see groups ignoring the data they have about their support efforts.  Take a look at your call log and identify the repeat issues.  Roundup your team and huddle around to do one of two things: Fix the issue or train your way out of it.  If this is a resolvable technical problem, FIX IT ALREADY!  Not doing so only ensures future frustration for you and your users.

If this is a software or process issue and something out of your control, find a way to make the resolution common knowledge amongst your user base.  You can do this by having a “Tips and Tricks” call out in your newsletter or by incorporating it into your formal training curriculum.  For issues like the disappearing Essbase Add-in though, my best success was a grass-roots effort of teaching the users to re-activate the add-in within Excel.

Reducing and eliminating some repeat issues is a great way to make users happier!

2.      The power of the handshake

One way to reduce the frustration of angry end users and customer service professionals alike is to get out from behind your desk and meet your end users.  The handshake has long been a great disarmament. It reveals that you have no weapon in your hand and indicates a willingness to partner on something.

While serving three hundred Hyperion users who were spread across the Americas, Europe and Asia, I fanned my team of four out to meet people in every time zone and geographic region that we operated in.  The result was unimaginable from a support psychology standpoint.  The purpose of the trip was training, but it ended up being so much more.

First, meeting people and building personal relationships enables transparency and trust which I consider to be the currency of cooperation.  Perhaps more importantly though, working where our customers worked gave our team invaluable “time in the users’ shoes”.  We were able to feel the pain of working when the lights were off in America, the time where all applications are offline for nightly processing.  Yes, it became clear that we hadn’t designed some applications for global usability.  We also got to experience firsthand how long it takes packets to travel 9,000 miles!  Even the best networks can test the patience of users.  Lastly, we were able to show users some shortcuts and techniques that didn’t translate well in the ENGLISH handbooks.

So what are you waiting for?  Go out, make friends and shake some hands!  (Then promptly wash up, its flu season!)

3.      Serve up the support recipe as two parts technology, one part psychology and a pinch of compassion

Chicken soup.  That’s what I tell people I’m serving up when they ask what I do in the support function.  Most users of systems like ERPs, EPM applications, etc. are reasonably good computer operators so they will usually try to resolve questions on their own first.  By the time they resort to calling you the last thing they want or deserve is someone that sounds frustrated to serve them.  You may or may not have an immediate resolution for them, but you have it within your control to guarantee a smile and some assurance that their problem will be looked at and taken seriously.

Providing great service over the long run requires you to be knowledgeable of your platform and comforting in your manners.  Next time someone calls you in a frenzy, serve up some chicken soup by showing that you understand their frustration and you’re there to help. They’ll thank you for it and you’ll be happier too!

This year, resolve to improve your outlook on support and make some changes for the better.  Fix the nagging issues, shake some hands, and serve up some technical support chicken soup!

Photo Credit: gruntzooki

Keith HarringtonPOSTED BY: Keith Harrington


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