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The PMR opening…
I’m going to use an IBM announcement as an excuse to talk a bit about technical support. The announcement in question is that IBM is trying to get their customers to use a web based tool for opening PMRs (or Service Requests) for severity 2, 3 and 4 (higher means lower business impact, 1 being most critical, eventually a system down). The status of this change may vary with your geography, so if you still have any doubts after reading the information provided in the announcement and the links it includes, don’t hesitate to contact IBM to clarify.
The change is that currently you can open the service requests by phone. In the future that will be reserved for severity 1 issues. I haven’t received any feedback on the announcement, but I can imagine there will be different reactions to this:
- Wow… So they want to save even more costs?
- What?!… I always use the web based tool
- What?!… So it means I must always have access to the web to open a problem?
- Why the difference between severity 1 and the others?
Well… I’m just guessing here… But let me make a few comments on these options before I dive deeper in the PMRs (Problem Management Record) and tech support in general
- Yes… You can be sure every company is trying to save costs. IBM is not an exception, and I’d be worried if it was. The question here is that the “cost” of having a couple of persons without specific product training, that just answer the phone and ask a set of pre-defined questions to the customer and enter the answers in some internal tool is probably very low. On the other hand, the “cost” (meaning bad impression) that derives from the bad interaction between these persons and a customer with a problem in his hands can be significant. Believe me. I’ve opened PMRs this way, and it’s not a good experience. The person only purpose is to collect a minimum set of information (like product name, problem description, customer information, severity etc.) that will allow the opening of the service request and sending to a proper queue. It’s a non-value added work. And if you have a serious problem, and on the other end of the line is someone asking you to spell “Informix” you won’t like it. Furthermore, this can create some basic errors that may lead to bad queuing of the PMRs
- You always use the web based tool? Great… so do I. End of story 🙂
- Yes… it means you should always have an Internet connection. But that’s mostly pervasive today… But if you don’t have one, the phone channel will probably be accepted. But let’s be honest… When was the last time that we did not have an Internet connection while working on IT?
- The difference would be that if you have a severity one PMR (possibly a system down) you need immediate feedback. Personally and let me stress “personally” I’d create the PMR using the electronic web based tool and then I’d call IBM to make sure it will reach an engineer as soon as possible
So, my point regarding the announcement is that it will not change my way of working, and I think it’s a good idea.
I’ve been using the SR tool for some years and my experience tells me it’s available, easy, quick and safe. The reasons why I feel this way are:
- Never caught it off-line
- It asks the essential, not a lot of useless information
- Since I have to authenticate it already knows the customer details
- It’s flexible in the sense that I can upload files with relevant information
- It allows me to save the PMR in “draft” and come back later to complete and send it to IBM
- It always puts the PMR in the correct queue which guarantees fast feedback from a product specialist
I suppose people reading this may be thinking… “great… but I wouldn’t expect less than that… After all I pay for support”. True. I agree. But you should compare this to other database vendors for example, or to other software vendors. I’ve heard about stories that I wouldn’t believe if they were not told to me by people I fully trust. I had people saying to me that using the equivalent tool from one competitor can take very long minutes, that they have to answer too many questions or choose lot’s of different boxes etc. I can honestly say that we can comfortably open a SR in IBM in 5m (assuming we have gathered the data in advance, and that we’re not uploading GBs of evidences).
Tech support in analysis
I’m sure we’re able to find reports of bad technical assistance from IBM. And I suppose that it would be nearly impossible to be successful in 100% of the cases… But instead of basing my analysis on external reports from people I don’t know, I prefer to base it on my own experience. And believe me, I open a lot of PMRs… I work mostly with Informix, but I’ve been involved in PMRs with other IBM products, and although the experience is not uniform, I’d say the end results are pretty good independently of the technology. The main difference I’ve found between different products would be that sometimes there is a bigger difference between different levels of support.
And in the case of Informix I must admit I may be privileged. We have a local resource doing L1 (first customer interaction) who is very good and experienced, and many times I discuss the issues previously with him. Assuming we’re facing something new, he has to move the PMR to higher levels and then it’s mostly business as usual, although I do have access to internal knowledge bases which may allow me to gather more useful information. But typically at this level I’m acting as a regular customer, interacting with people located around EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).
As I mentioned before, I do open a lot of PMRs… In the last year or …