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Support is not an annoyance


2012/05/07

There's a bit of a storm brewing at the Kerio user community forums over Kerio's recent announcement that they intend to charge for support in some circumstances. Some of this is just simple misunderstanding, but other users feel angry and perhaps betrayed by this sudden change in policy.

Because it's important, I'm going to restate two things that some people have ignored:


Pre-sales and registered Trial support will be free. Complimentary Installation Period Support will also be available for 90 days after the registration of a purchased licence.

Any support incident that results in a bug report or an RMA, or is a known Kerio product bug, will of course not be charged for.

With valid annual Software Maintenance, each license is entitled to 2 free support incidents.

I'm also going to be very honest here: I think Kerio handled this badly and that there were other options that might have eliminated the need for this upsetting change. On the other hand, I support the change if it will encourage customers to contact their resellers for support rather than Kerio.

I have more than one reason for my support. One of my reasons is actually greedy and selfish: Kerio has more than a few "bad" resellers who do NOT support their customers well and I'd like to take over those accounts who become disenchanted with their poor support. That's the self-centered reason that I support this change, but there are more reasons.

It's good for the customers

Good resellers can often do a better job at support than Kerio can. There are obvious exceptions, of course: if we are talking about a bug, the reseller does not have access to the resources Kerio support has access to. We don't get to see source code and few of us can maintain every possible supported equipment configuration to test scenarios.

On the other hand, those are not what most support calls are about. If you read through all the troubleshooting articles I have written here over the years (all of which were taken from actual support requests), very few involve product bugs per se. More usually, these are "fog of war" problems, confusing problems brought on by unusual conditions that aren't always easy to see. As a support person, the more knowledge you have of the customers environment and of the customer personnel, the more likely you are to solve the problem quickly.

This requires a relationship with the customer. It requires knowing what they do, what hardware and software they use, what their technical expertise is and what their past history has been. A reseller may have that relationship and that knowledge; Kerio support personnel may not.

Don't forget that the reseller always has the option to bring Kerio support into the conversation. Kerio resellers are NOT charged for support, so the reseller can augment their own knowledge with Kerio's.

The reseller may also be capable of doing things that Kerio support cannot. For example, I've helped many customers with network problems, virus problems and hardware issues. Kerio support can't reasonably offer much help once the problem is plainly not their software, but the reseller may very well be able to chase the problem much farther.

Doesn't this take more time?

The scenario many envision is this: The customer sends a problem to the reseller. The reseller passes it to Kerio. Kerio answers the reseller requesting more information, the reseller in turn asks the customer and on we go.

That may very well be what the "bad" resellers do, but it's not what I do. If we're exploring a problem by email, I cc the customer when I initiate the support ticket with Kerio and ask them to cc the customer in turn when they answer. If we are doing this by phone, I'll call Kerio and then conference in the customer. This avoids all the delays - everyone is on the same page at the same time.

That's assuming I even need to contact Kerio. In the almost eight years I have been selling Kerio products, I have had very few conversations with support. I handle most calls myself, because most calls are not bugs and are not difficult.

It's good for Kerio

Well, that's obvious: having resellers handle tier one support reduces their costs. But there is more to it. Kerio has reasons for having a reseller network and a very important part of that is the relationships resellers have with their mutual customers. Those relationships usually mean longer term opportunities for Kerio.

It's good for the reseller

I may be odd, but I don't look at the support I provide as an expense. I see it as opportunity. My motto for many years is that there are no problems, because every problem is always an income opportunity for someone. The opportunity may be obvious or it may be subtle, but solving problems often leads to more sales, now or in the future. Even when it does not directly lead to new business, good support helps ensure business retention, something that every good reseller knows is vitally important. Therefore, those "bad" resellers who look at support as annoyance and are anxious to pass it on to someone else are really missing out. Sooner or later they will lose their customers to someone like me who is willing to give good service and support.

My gripes?

There are things I don't like about this. For example, I don't want my customers going to Kerio for that 90 day "free support" period. For all the reasons detailed above, I want them running those questions through me.

I'd also prefer that Kerio support be able to conference call me and my customer when we've opened a ticket that requires that. That's a minor issue, of course. I'd love it if we could do Google Hangouts with Kerio support and my customer when needed. That could be a very good way to handle conferences and even written communications.

I also feel that Kerio has not yet done enough for the reseller's needs. We need access to bug reports and we should get immediate notification if one of our customers has contacted Kerio directly - we should get copies of all conversations and solutions, both so that we can follow up if more help is needed and so that we can be aware of issues that may affect other customers.

We should get better technical training. Kerio does provide some training, but it hasn't been in depth. I'm sure they must provide better to their in-house people; resellers need access to similar resources. That may not be easy to do - there can be confidentiality issues, of course, but we should at least get masked reports (expunged of customer information) of current support requests and their resolutions. That would help us support other customers better.

Kerio also needs to manage their reseller channel better and make partners more aware of their obligation to provide customer support. I suspect most have been accustomed to just telling customers to "call Kerio" - that needs to stop.

If a customer does call Kerio direct, I'd like to see support strongly encourage them to call their reseller instead - perhaps even offering to try to patch the reseller in right then and there, or in the case of a written ticket, cc'ing the reseller with the initial response.

Support is important. As I said above, it is important for all three parties involved. I see posts at the forum that strongly imply that some see the reseller as a rather useless cog in this particular wheel, but that's not my view at all.



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© Anthony Lawrence







Tue May 22 09:49:51 2012: 10992   NickBarron

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It often comes down to speed of the support I find. Customers can get a quicker response by calling a dedicated support number.



Having said that, as a reseller of Kerio Connect I find we very rarely contact Kerio ourselves. Only on occasions of very odd behaviour.



Time will tell how this plays out I think...



Fri Jun 1 22:08:36 2012: 11048   TonyLawrence

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At (link) Kerio said today

You may have noticed that some of the changes that I mentioned in my previous posts have been implemented. We now collect payment information once an issue is resolved and the support ticket is ready to be closed. Together with this, we have added two new payment options - bank transfer and cheque.

On Monday, the new Bug Reporting Tool will also be available on www.kerio.com/support. If your reported problem is confirmed as a bug in a Kerio product, you will be notified once a fix becomes available.

Based on the numerous discussions we have had with our customer and partners, and also based on the feedback in this forum, we will soon be introducing a further change to our support process. Two free support incidents will be provided in each year, for which Software Maintenance is purchased. For customers, who cannot, for whatever reason, work with a local partner, this should ensure quick and easy access to Kerio Technical Support. For customers, who are already working with a partner, this should be an extra safety net for times when the partner is unable to help.

Thank you for your continuing feedback. This is important to me personally and to Kerio as a company, helping us to build better products and better service.







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