Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I, EnvisionWare 3: Return of the Native

I must confess that I’ve never actually read Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native, the classic English novel that describes as “a tale of doomed love, passion, alienation, and melancholy.” However, it sure does make for an awesome movie title, doesn’t it? And since we are now at the third installment of the immensely popular I, EnvisionWare series, I thought, hey, why not? Return of the Native is in the public domain, after all. So what if it has nothing to do with today’s topic of software support? This is what they call a “bait and switch.” If you’ve read this far then it’s done its job.

Let’s close the door on that native now, shall we? We know that he has returned and he’s gotten our attention. If you want to know more about him, his story can be purchased for $8.95 from the Modern Library. Or you can opt for the film version starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Clive Owen.

We are now walking down a long hallway. The next door we pass is for Professional Services. Remember them? Give those good-looking folks a wave, but let’s not let them chat us up right now, okay? We’ve got another appointment.

(Insert sounds of footsteps to signify our long walk - Clop, clop, clop).

Ah, here we are, the EnvisionWare Support Department! Let me tell you, there is no group at the company that I place on a higher pedestal than these folks. In an age when many businesses outsource their support responsibilities to clueless unseen third parties in far-flung locales, EnvisionWare employs an in-house team that is thoroughly trained on its products. There are no scripts. These are real people with real brains, and they will spend as much time assisting you as you need them to.

A typical Support toolkit. (Pink Floyd coffee mug: optional;  Snacks: essential).

Through my own work with Support over the years, I have come to recognize the enormity of the job they do. It takes a special kind of person to be able to dive headfirst into an issue, do the necessary research, troubleshoot it, and emerge with a solution, then turn around and do the whole thing again, and again, and again—keeping up continuous communication with the customer during all stages of the case. Quite frankly, it's a marathon. Imagine Sherlock Holmes completing a difficult investigation, then beginning another one right on its heels. Working in software support, he would not have the opportunity to kick his feet up and play violin for a few hours between cases. And actually, I think the long suffering Dr. Watson would appreciate that.

There are two ways that EnvisionWare support cases can originate. The Customer Center (located in the “Support Tab” at the EnvisionWare website) is a powerful tool that enables customers to create and monitor their own support cases. Via the center, they can also review current and previous case history, and download software installers and documentation. The Customer Center is in many instances the best way to get a support  case started; it enables customers to give a detailed description of the problem in their own words and set the priority. But those customers, if they wish, may also opt to call the Support Department directly. We pride ourselves on the fact that 9 out of 10 calls are answered immediately by a support technician, and all calls receive a reply within 2 hours. (More detailed information on our support services can be found here).

Having worked for EnvisionWare for almost five years, I can say that everyone in our Support Department cares about both the products and, even more importantly, the customers. Because there is no impersonal wall between “us” and “them,” relationships are built and customers who have been with us for a while come to recognize the voices that greet them on the other end of the phone. We are all in this together, and are all working toward the same goal: bringing libraries into the 21st century and offering new, exciting, and empowering self-service options to both patrons and staff.