8 Questions to Ask Your PE Software Provider About Support

Looking for the right PE software to meet your needs can seem like a daunting task. There are so many features to consider—cost, functionality, training, integration with other systems, and the list goes on.

One factor that sometimes gets overlooked but is extremely important is the level of support you get with your platform.

For example, you want to work with a company that provides great training. But if their support is outstanding, it might be acceptable that their training only ranks as “good” not “great.” The same goes for integrations. Maybe the solution isn’t fully “plug and play” with other systems, but the company’s support team can walk you through any difficulties you encounter.

What You Need to Know About PE Software Support

Answers to the eight questions below will tell you all you need to know about your PE software provider’s technical/user support.

  1. Do you offer in-house support?

If the company outsources its support, that’s not a point in their favor. Too often, outsourced support suffers from the natural disconnect the support reps have with the company’s development, sales, and implementation teams. In-house product support reps are almost always better trained and given better access to subject matter experts that can provide assistance when needed.

  1. What is included with our PE software purchase?

Is support included in your license agreement or is there an additional cost? Even quick questions can add up to a large bill if you’re paying extra to talk with a support rep. A company that believes in its solution really should prove it by making support part of the base cost.

  1. How is support metered?

Most companies allot a certain amount of support time for each client and if you exceed that limit you may have to pay for support at that point. It’s important to find out whether there is a limit and if so, what that limit is before you get on the phone to address a serious issue you’re having.

  1. What are the hours for support?

Is ‘round the clock support offered? Or is support only available during business hours? And whose “business hours” are we talking about? Needless to say, 24-hour availability is ideal. You hate to have team members working late on a project with no way to get assistance if a problem arises.

  1. How can you contact support?

Are support reps accessible via email? On the phone? Through the software itself? The more ways you can reach them the better. In some instances, you may want and need immediate assistance over the phone. In others, it may be more convenient to send an email with the expectation that it will be replied to in a reasonable time frame.

  1. Is the support team multilingual?

Can the company support users who speak languages other than English? If you have non-English speaking users and the answer to this question is “No,” that’s a problem. Maybe not an insurmountable one, but one you should be aware of.

  1. Does the support team understand the industry?

Find out if the support team is knowledgeable about both the product and the industry. While some of your questions may be technical in nature, others may have to do with how the system can help you perform an industry-specific task. In some cases, a provider will offer two different types of support: technical support and user support. That’s fine, but it’s helpful to know that before you need assistance.

  1. What is the average response time and the average case time?

Most organizations will track these stats and can tell you how long you can expect to wait for someone to get back to you and also how long it typically takes for an issue to be resolved. Obviously, both are important. 

You Deserve Answers When Investing in PE Software

You’re investing time, effort, and capital in the platform you ultimately choose. Consequently, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask the questions above and any others that come to mind. If you’re not satisfied with an answer, you should get whatever clarification is necessary. A reputable company should be proud of its support services and eager to talk about them.

For example, you’ll find that at Altvia, our customer support team members are experts both in our solutions and in our industry. They can assist you with any questions you have, and you can reach them in whatever way is most convenient for you. We give our clients multiple ways to get help throughout their technology implementation journey.

Taking our support one step further, we created the Altvia Care Community. It’s a place to access instructional videos, how-to articles, product updates, and also a form for providing feedback on our products.

So, don’t settle for mediocre support. You deserve and should expect timely, attentive assistance from your software provider.

A traditional crm was built for general ‘customer’ scenarios

Software platforms have made the world a better place by making work a better place. Indeed the world is better off when people enjoy their jobs even marginally more, and workplace applications on big CRM platforms like Salesforce.com have done that and much more.

But the potential that platforms like these offer presents diminishing returns: once the platform provider has engineered too many industry specific components into its platform, its usefulness for other industries begins to be threatened, and with that so do the usefulness of the component tools built into the platform.

So it is with the CRM category that Salesforce.com has defined: it is generic enough to work for many industries, and yet still offers the potential for others to round off the edges and nail more vertically-oriented and extremely tailored software solutions.

Private capital markets are actually a great demonstration of this dynamic. Where generic CRM platforms simplify — appropriately so — to assume there’s a business, a customer, a sale, and service of that customer, there are a few industry-specific pieces that are missing.

Take for example, that investors become customers by investing through legal entities the GP raises. It’s a subtle but important nuance that just doesn’t make sense at a platform-as-a-service level (because it’s overly complicated for a simple one-time sale that many industries require), but which can easily be added without 10 years or software engineering. Once provided, the rest of the platform’s components become tremendously powerful again and you’re set to take over the world.

As a traditional CRM in our pillars methodology, these nuances must be present to properly account for investors in these legal entities, potential target companies and which are owned by these entities, the context of all interactions with these parties (as well as the appropriate overlap, ie co-investments), and how you’re arriving at finding these opportunities on both sides of the equation, such that you’re able to piece together what’s effective and what’s not. Not just because we say so, but because these are the very relationships and data that are key to the motivation behind a CRM in any industry.

It’s critical, too, that the valuable publicly-available information that helps to enrich CRM systems and save users painful steps of entering it themselves is fully-integrated at the platform level.

Again, look no further than the 3,000+ pre-built integrations that Salesforce.com — the creator of the CRM platform concept — has at a platform level to do so, and which only exists by way of holding just short of overly-specifying certain industry workflows that would present challenges to properly integrate.

Stakeholder reporting and communication (investor relations) draws on a range of datasets

The traditional “customer service” model of CRM systems once again makes overly-simplified assumptions about the customer relationship when applied to private capital markets.

In fifteen years I personally have yet to hear the terms “warranty” or “service call” in this market because it’s just not the same. But make no mistake, as uncomfortable as it may be to say aloud, customer service is more important now than ever and it’s constantly happening; the industry is, after all, considered to be a financial “service”.

As it turns out, that service is primarily information-based — it’s driven by data and takes the form of reports and analysis that drive decisions, and then end up again in investor-facing reports and analysis.

The foundational elements of a private capital markets CRM must be built such that they accommodate this data (like we discussed above), but so too that it can accommodate additional supporting data that investors (customers!) need in the context of service.

Oftentimes this supporting data — financial metrics and time-based values, for example — is believed not to meet the traditional definition of CRM and the natural thought is “well, better do this in Excel!”.

While I happen to believe Excel is still the greatest software application ever built, its introduction to this value chain we’ve discussed herein actually creates the problem many firms suffer from: key data needed to provide customer service (again: effectively the entirety of a firm’s reports and analysis) is now in disparate systems and detached.

Both of those dynamics are important and distinct: not only is this supplemental data disparate, but when brought together there is no logical association that can be made between the two data sets.

Allow me, then, to make the point very simply: not only can this financial and time-based value data (you may be thinking about is as “portfolio monitoring” or “accounting”) be a part of a CRM, it is arguably the most important part of a CRM because it’s at the core of what providing service to the customer entails — information that comes out of data!

Firms need a digital method to engage stakeholders (ie investor portals)

Investor portals are not new; in fact, for many of us — including myself — they conjure up horrifying nightmares in which we’re aimlessly guessing at folders to find the newest document we need.

So in lies the opportunity: not only have the portals we’ve come to hate not simplified the process of acquiring information, they’ve failed to create an entirely new experience that is “customer service” driven.

To be fair, this is not a B2C market where you’d be long out of business for not having focused on customer service and thus the customer’s technology-driven experience. But don’t expect to be around too much longer if you aren’t thinking about this shift.

Today’s institutional investors increasingly expect this same consumer-like experience, and a massive opportunity is being missed by not providing it. It’s not about providing them the experience they desire; it’s more about the ability to measure engagement that is had in return.

Put simply: what’s keeping the market from providing this experience is the availability of the information that’s required to create the service that provides the experience.

If you’ve hung in this long, you know that by focusing on your CRM, you have the data that’s required to manage the customer relationship and the technology-driven experience through which that information is shared to create a differentiated and opportunistic customer experience.

investor experience