When it comes to critical "on-air" systems, support agreements are the foundation to maximizing your technology investments, controlling operational costs, and reducing downtime.
Q: What does global service and support mean for customers?
Customers make technology purchase decisions based on several factors including price, technical specs, product vision and the level of trust they feel with the specific manufacturer. For many customers, Services & Support is very directly tied to that trust factor. They need to know and feel that a manufacturer will make them become successful with their investment, and that they will be there to help them solve problems in the future.
Q: Why is this important and what are the benefits?
Customers need our help to achieve a business outcome, a return on their investment, more so than just setting up and maintaining a new system. So in our Services & Support team, we are always talking about helping customers reach successful outcomes. That type of success includes efficient system operations, minimizing system downtime, and controlling maintenance costs.
Q: How does this compare/contrast with consumer service contracts...for the folks that always buy them, and the folks that never do?
Consumer service contracts are much less about achieving ROI than a B2B support agreement. If I have a service contract on my tablet, for example, then if I drop it and it breaks I can get it replaced. It is simple, cheap insurance, and the downtime waiting for my replacement has no revenue impact to me.
But in the B2B world, a support agreement is much more than just insurance against drops and spills. Our customers rely on Grass Valley's products and systems to generate revenue for their businesses. Yes they need hardware replacements at times, but they also need 24x7 access to our service engineers for advice, they need access to our ongoing software maintenance releases and many need higher level features like onsite support and dedicated account management.
But whether at the consumer or B2B level, there is that human element where many people like the safety of a support agreement, but some are willing to roll the dice in the hopes of saving a few dollars.
Q: What are the top concerns of customers about service and support from their vendors?
Speed, speed, speed. Customers want fast project implementation, fast response, fast problem resolution, fast shipments. Like it or not, our customers have higher expectations today due to the experiences they have ordering from Amazon, or watching on-demand content on Netflix. Customers are telling us to get faster in providing the services they need, and in many cases, they are asking us to provide better self-service tools like online case management and knowledge bases.
Q: Does the size of an operation matter when considering a support agreement?
Customers certainly want to know we have people located in their region who can handle support needs in their language and time zone. In addition, I believe customers recognize that Grass Valley has one of the largest service organizations in our industry. From Grass Valley's perspective, the size of our team also helps us achieve scale. For example, we do not need to hire more people or purchase more exchange inventory every time we sell a new support agreement.
However, having a sufficiently large team is only half of the equation. To provide consistently good experiences for our customers we also need efficient, repeatable processes. Our Belden Lean Enterprise system helps us achieve that by driving out waste and building in value for the customer. Can we ship replacement parts with next-business-day delivery consistently? Can we always respond quickly when customers call with a critical problem? More than the sheer number of employees we have, savvy customers are impressed with how consistent we are in meeting our commitments.
Q: What about cost and time savings are there any? Maybe a total cost of ownership benefit? And if so, what does that look like?
Again thinking about customers' desire for speed... you might wonder why that matters so much? We have to remember that system downtime means the customer's ability to reach an outcome is compromised. That outcome might be playing linear TV ads, presenting a newscast, conducting a religious service or hosting a live sporting event. The longer the system is down, the longer the customer is not able to fulfill their mission. For a commercial entity that immediately translates to lost revenue. So a support agreement with fast response and resolution can certainly minimize the amount of downtime and lost revenue a customer might experience.
Beyond reducing downtime, support agreements also do a great job controlling cost of ownership. In the absence of a support agreement, customers are exposed to per-incident charges for tech support time, exchange parts, repairs and software releases. A single support incident can easily add up to thousands of dollars of unplanned expense. The support agreement shields the customer from such expenses, while also providing performance SLAs that are not available per-incident.
Q: What about preventative maintenance – is this a factor in service and support?
As broadcast technology solutions become more dependent on complex software and IT hardware, the need for preventive maintenance has also shifted. Customers want to make sure their systems are running on currently supported software versions, that any prescribed field fixes have been completed, and that their storage and networks are healthy. For customers who may not have the staff or expertise to stay current on their own, a support agreement with preventive maintenance at fixed intervals is a great benefit.
Q: What type of support agreements can Grass Valley customers benefit from?
As we shared with many of our customers and partners at NAB, we are in the process of combining our product and service portfolios to offer the best of Grass Valley and former SAM solutions. In early Q3, we will be announcing a refresh of our support agreement offerings. One change will be a more entry-level offering that simply provides access to technical phone support with committed response times. Customers have requested this offering in the past, so we are confident this will be a valuable offering to round out our support options.
We are also excited about a promotion we are launching now called "Spring into Savings" for camera support agreements. Now through the end of 2018 we are offering special pricing on the Elite level support agreement for Grass Valley camera products that are currently not covered, and whose warranty expires on or before September 30, 2018. Our regional sales teams will be able to explain to customers why we believe this is an extreme value for mission-critical support.