As a member of the City of Thornton Fire Department, I have many years of experience evaluating, managing, and using software to support fire departments. During this time, I learned that the performance of any software product is only as good as the level of support the vendor provides to meet your department’s needs.
For me, the quality of support is as important as the product itself since it directly impacts how we use the software, but also maximizes the information we extract for future budgetary considerations. Furthermore, when you think about the software you choose, consider how long do you expect to use the software within your organization and that changing systems is not conducive developing long term trends. Below are the things I look for in software vendors:
1. Easy to Reach
When we look for support from a software vendor, we appreciate certain aspects of their service. Hopefully, we as users understand and respect some boundaries in requesting service like observing hours of operation, troubleshooting ourselves first, and remembering what we have already been instructed about the system. Here are some simple things that I think are important to consider regarding software support:
- Is their support center open when you need it to be?
- Do they actually answer the phones?
These things add up and start to matter when you think about the importance of the product to your department.
2. Easy to Log Issues
However, when issues arise as they inevitably do easy access to the support team is highly valued. For example, being able to send an e-mail without having to log in and create a ticket number makes it smoother and more direct. If we have to jump through hoops to get help or to get somebody to simply pick up phone then that is a big issue for us.
3. Knowledgeable Staff
Having an informed person who knows the system and can effectively communicate the simple fixes is very important. We always appreciate knowing that the vendors that we choose have support staff that are well-trained and highly versed in the product. Some of our vendors have support staff from fire or even EMS backgrounds. They truly “get” our needs and realizing that every department and organization is different, are more likely to help us make the software work for our unique needs.
4. Positive Attitude
The ability of the support staff to work with you by logging on remotely to help solve most issues is great. Sometimes we just don’t have an IT resource available to look at the issues. When we have a partner that has the team, technology, and training in combination with a real problem solver attitude, our department is more likely to get back to our daily tasks as quickly as possible.
5. Dedicated to the Product
And finally, a much appreciated characteristic of support staff is a desire to make the product better. Only the best support teams ask, “what can they fix or add to any aspect of the program to make the product work better for them.” I have seen numerous user requested improvements in the software that I have used over the years. The best software products are the ones that have great support teams to back them up.
Over the last 10 years we have progressively used the “RescueNet” system more and more and we have not had a failure of the system. We rarely have issues with the upgrades and are only limited in the time we, ourselves, can devote to developing the system. Our success in using the software is due in part to support staff like Mike Magliozzi who have been around for years and are always there and available.