The value of Customer Support to an LMS Caroline Lawless Published on January 14, 2016 Not all LMS vendors and buyers appreciate the value of excellent customer support. When Brendan Noud and Des Anderson founded LearnUpon four years ago, they identified a weakness in the market that remains a common problem today. All too many LMS vendors treat support and service as costs, leaving customers to struggle with integration and maintenance issues that threaten to derail eLearning programs. From the beginning, LearnUpon's value proposition was based on a different approach. The delivery of an eLearning platform that's quick to set-up and easy to use is reinforced by fast and thorough support, available to all customers in all markets, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. LearnUpon's rapid growth indicates that customer support should matter to those in the market for an LMS. Customer Support shouldn't be a cost Many LMS vendors continue to view customer support as a cost base. The attitude explains why so many of LearnUpon's customers, 39% of whom moved from an alternative LMS, cite the weakness or absence of support as a major motivation for switching learning platforms. Our account managers are always surprised to hear how it can take three days to receive a response to a support ticket from some LMS vendors. It can take new customers some time to adjust to the best measure of excellent customer support: a response to your support query in less than 30 minutes of opening a ticket. But that attitude isn't unique to eLearning either. It's been influenced by practices across the Software-as-a-Service industry. Over the past decade, technology companies have chosen to prioritize budgets assigned to development and marketing, with support and service largely neglected. In these businesses, support is often treated as something customers can do themselves, left to research solutions in self-service channels like forums. But support shouldn't be treated as a luxury. When even simple integrations can throw up issues that require an experienced eye, the idea that support can be minimized without impacting customer experience is mistaken. Is some support better than no support? Customer support isn't just underestimated by LMS vendors. Its importance isn't always clear to organizations and eLearning professionals either. Low investment in support isn't surprising in a market where some popular solutions offer no support at all. For LMS vendors forced to compete with seemingly free Open Source programs like Moodle, good customer support can look expensive. It's important that those in the market for an LMS fully scope the implications of the absence of support, some of which we covered in a post analyzing the pros and cons of Moodle. All learning management systems require some level of support to maintain new and existing features and programs. Many organizations eventually reject Moodle once research reveals the true cost of sourcing reliable support alternatives elsewhere. The true value of customer support to cloud LMS users Even if you've decided against a seemingly free platform like Moodle, it's important to research the level of support provided by shortlisted LMS vendors. Begin by assessing the scale of your internal resources. The smaller your team, the greater your reliance on customer support is likely to be. Questions about the cost and extent of support available are essential to the scoping phase. Start by asking if support services vary according to price or plan. Even teams with considerable internal IT resources often lack LMS expertise. No external resource is a fitting substitute for the speed and accuracy of quality support that will help resolve issues specific to eLearning, like those experienced with SCORM or Tin Can (xAPI) playback for example, or getting the best performance from content on all browser versions. If your LMS vendor has invested in building a team, you can rely on skilled and trained reps who will apply insights from similar issues to resolve your problems as quickly as possible. The availability of those kinds of resources will keep your eLearning courses running whenever you need them. How to assess customer support in your search for an LMS Once you’ve decided that customer support is important, there’s a lot you can do beyond simply questioning your vendor or reading about support channels on their website. Almost every LMS vendor will claim to offer the best customer support in the industry, whatever the reality might be. The responsiveness of the LMS vendor from the initial inquiry stage should give you a realistic idea of what to expect throughout your time as a customer. If a vendor is slow to respond to your initial sales inquiry, it’s unlikely their customer support will set any industry records. Here are some additional tactics that help explore beyond marketing speak: Ask for testimonials or references from customers in similar markets and territories Read independent reviews available online Search social media for unanswered queries from customers Submit test support tickets during your trial period If the response you receive during your inquiry and trial periods is less than satisfactory, it's unlikely that your experience as a paying customer will be much better. LearnUpon's approach to customer support LearnUpon was partly founded on a belief in the value of excellent customer support. Rather than seeing customer support as a cost center, Brendan and Des established it as a core pillar to distinguish LearnUpon from all other LMS vendors. That meant Senior Support Rep Shane Hession was LearnUpon's first hire. From the first days of the company, the team was resourced so that 24/7 support was available to customers in all time zones. The support team has continued to expand with the business. Once the core support team was established, its capacity was enhanced with the appointment of two Customer Success Specialists, with plans to further expand both support and success teams over the coming months. The investment has paid off. Providing a level of customer support that's unmatched in the LMS industry is ingrained in the company’s culture. Customer support is the area the team receives most positive feedback on. Testimonials and reviews are full of reminders of the difference excellent support has made to all kinds of learning and training companies and departments. As Alison Winton, Director of Operations, AJAG Online, says of her experience: “LearnUpon's support team is unlike any other company I have ever dealt with. They respond immediately and with practical solutions and are always willing to go the extra mile to help in any way they can. The response time in terms of extra needs for our business were treated in a timely manner and the whole team really takes the time to learn the business.” If you've implemented an LMS previously, you'll probably already appreciate the value of excellent support. If you're researching LMS vendors at the moment, it's worth including the value of support as one of your assessment criteria. It could be the factor that allows you to deliver successful and reliable eLearning programs for as long as you need them.