We’ve recently heard from several clients that their software companies are touting the benefits of having a technical support plan.  In some cases, those plans may be required if the customer owns and uses the software or application.  The plans may have various names.  Generally speaking, they come with the following benefits:

  • A toll-free technical support number – may be unlimited; may be for a set number of calls with a limit on call duration
  • Any and all service releases and new software versions issued during the term of the support plan
  • Possible inclusion of “complimentary” applications, such as an interface to the application’s database via the Internet
  • Pre-recorded tutorials

While we applaud any and all support services offered by software manufacturers, we feel it is important for our clients to understand what these support plans do and do not do. A good example is posted on one such software vendor’s web site –

{Name of software company] does not provide assistance for issues related to third party products or enhancements, hardware, report customizations, state or federal tax-related questions, or specific accounting questions. Please contact your Business Partner, network administrator, or accountant for assistance.

So what does this mean in plain English? Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions posed by our clients –

Q:           When a software company includes technical support in their plan, what does that mean?

A:            It means that if you have a question about an error message someone is getting, you’ll get an answer based on that specific error code.

Q:           We’re getting all kinds of errors but we think it has something to do with our server.

A:            Note the disclaimer written above. Members of a technical support department will limit their answers to the program itself. They will NOT look at your server, your workstations, or any other hardware. They will NOT tell you which servers are supported, nor comment on any item outside of their official list of system requirements.

Q:           I need help designing a bill layout or data entry screen.

A:            A support technician will NOT help you with this; typically, they will refer you to a Certified Consultant or Business Partner. Support technicians are there to provide technical assistance, not business-related assistance.

Q:           So I suppose that also means they won’t help me design a report?

A:            That is correct. Questions about customization or training are NOT in their scope of services. If you have questions about reports, they will recommend that you find a Certified Consultant or Business Partner.

Q:           Some plans include the option to repair my database, or convert data to be imported into my program if needed.

A:            Yes, some plans do. You will need to plan on at least five (5) business days between the time your database is submitted and when it will be returned.

Unlike support technicians employed by the software manufacturer, many of us have trained and have solid experience in working with multiple versions of various software products for many years, and have developed the necessary diagnostic and analytical skills based on long experience in the field. We tend to draw on our experience, rather than a database of error codes.

So here is the role we play as part of your support team:

  • We also have access to the same (or higher level) technical support and the same Knowledgebase for each of the products we support, although we function as independent consultants and are not employees of those software or application vendors.
  • We will look at the entire problem – the error message or presenting condition — to diagnose if it is related to the program installation itself, the data, and/or your network environment.
  • We provide all customization services – we DO design bill layouts, data entry screens, reports, etc.
  • When possible, we can help you link your programs and applications to other programs (accounting, practice management, etc.)
  • We can help you configure your electronic billing interface.
  • We provide face-to-face, personalized training for your staff. No canned or pre-recorded webinars. You may ask questions. We give you answers.
  • We provide these services either on-site or via remote access (with your permission). We will actually look at your screen to assist in diagnosing the issue!

Our advice for keeping your software running efficiently and maximizing your software investment is as follows:

  • Use a supported version of your software – software plans are a great way to accomplish that, and can keep you out of trouble as hardware and operating systems get updated
  • Pay attention to error codes, and use the toll-free number that you are paying for through your support plan when the symptom is clearly defined
  • But rely on the advice of a seasoned software professional when you are looking for “best practice” advice, or have a less clear-cut technical issue with your software

Eastern Legal Systems consultants have provided support for software for over 25 years, and are well equipped to deal with the issues experienced by our clients. These products and applications include: Amicus Attorney, Billing Matters, Clio, MetaJure, NetDocuments, PCLaw, QuickBooks, Sage 50 (Peachtree), Time Matters, Timeslips and Worldox. Call us at 1-877-ELS-0555 if you need more than technical support.