data center cablesIn general, the importance of good customer service can’t be overstated: with DCIM, it’s crucial to a successful implementation. Unfortunately, with DCIM — it can prove hard to find. I manage customer support for our documentation suite: DCIM, network mapping, and outside plant. I think one reason we have had success is being able to be there for our customers when they get started and when they need help. Not just in the beginning of the process of finding a tool — but also when they actually start using the tool.

When you’re buying DCIM software, beware the company that rolls the red carpet out for you. It could be that they’re putting all of their eggs into the sales basket — and not enough into customer support.

What do I mean, exactly? Well…if you have a contract with a cell phone carrier and you’ve tried to get support from them in person, you probably grasp what I’m getting at here. As highlighted in this recent article, cell phone customers (across different carriers) routinely face huge obstacles when they need help. Walk into a store and someone greets you — but more often than not, that person is just there to monitor the flow of the line and manage inventory of new products. As one customer said, “I was put on a list while the “greeter” went back to leaning on a table, scrolling through his phone and ignoring me.” Yikes.

So, what’s going on? My bet is that cell phone carriers are so focused on all the new products they have to juggle that when a customer needs something in terms of support, they’re aren’t enough hands on deck to help. Maybe this is all fine and somewhat OK if we’re talking about cell phones, but when you’re using DCIM to manage your data centers, you don’t want to deal with a DCIM vendor that has all its eggs in the sales basket.

Want to sniff out the good DCIM customer support from the bad? Here’s what you need to ask when evaluating a DCIM vendor:

Ask: How Will I Get Help?

Ask what the customer support process is. If you have an issue, how do you get it resolved. Don’t take a scripted response for an answer: ask for specifics. For example, if you call a customer support number, will an actual human being be there to pick up the phone? And, if a human being is taking calls — is that person an expert in resolving whatever DCIM issue you may be facing?

With netTerrain, for example, we give you a variety of ways to contact us: Zendesk, online chat, and of course — over the phone. Give us a call and a highly trained, and specialized, support person is there to get your needs met.

Ask: How Usable is the Software…Really?

On this blog, we often discuss the importance of DCIM features vs. the importance of usability. If the DCIM software you buy comes with everything and the kitchen sink, it may still be worthless.

Why? Here’s a quick example from another blog we wrote a while back: you’re in a short-distance boating speed race and you need to pick a vessel. The yacht has all the features and a hot tub; a kayak has a couple paddles. If you pick the yacht, you’ll have a nice view of the race — because you won’t be able to get the boat in the right direction to compete before the race starts. If a DCIM solution has so many features that they get in the way of being able to do what you need to do, that’s not a solution — that’s a DCIM problem.

Ask: How Flexible is the Software?

Flexibility matters. What do I mean? With DCIM, you may need specific or new devices that an existing catalog – no matter how large – just doesn’t offer. You don’t want to get in a situation where you’re having to jump through hoops just to get ahold of someone to help you out with modeling – then having to wait days or weeks to get that device modeled. Even worse — you could get told you’ll have to figure it out on your own. With netTerrain, we’ll model the device for you within 24 hours — and we also give you the option to model devices yourself (and in seconds) with our device modeler.

Ask: How Often is the Software Updated?

Bugs happen. Sometimes certain features need to be improved. Software updates are like oil changes that keep everything in good, working order. Ask how often the DCIM software you’re considering is updated. Major updates are a good thing, obviously – but smaller ones should be happening relatively frequently, as well. With netTerrain, for example, we roll out software updates – both major and minor – multiple times a year.

Ask: Is Customer Feedback Acted Upon?

A company that listens to feedback from customers is one thing; a company that integrates feedback into the actual product is quite another. Our customers are the greatest champions of netTerrain — and, since they are in the trenches using the software every day, they are our greatest guides. Feedback from customers is what makes a software great — when the developers listen to it. Countless features in netTerrain, both small and large, exist because our community of users asked for it (take our outside plant module, for example).

Ask: How’s the Documentation?

Pro tip: if the documentation for a software is bare bones, skip it. Why? Good documentation shows that the DCIM vendor is there for the customer and is giving adequate attention to the user experience. A lack of, or skimpy, documentation shows the opposite. Ask to see the documentation before you end up stuck with a DCIM solution that doesn’t deliver.

Bottom line? Inking with a DCIM vendor is like signing up for a cell phone plan….on steroids. You get locked into a system that you pay a good deal of money for it. You don’t want to get locked into an expensive situation that you can’t easily extricate yourself from. You may want to find out if the DCIM vendor you’re signing with offers a guarantee of any type (for example, when you buy netTerrain, we give you a 30-day money back period). Do your due diligence now so you can get your ROI later.

About Jason Sherman

As Graphical Networks’ Sales Engineering and Support Services Manager, Jason Sherman leads the pre and post sales cycle with the entire Graphical Networks software portfolio, and ensures current customers are able to use the software to its fullest potential.