Alloy Software Is Makita’s Answer
30 November 2007
Help Desk Software Is Extensible & Helps Regional Offices
In the enterprise, help is always a phone call away. IT staff have the most robust tools and phone system and can usually track support calls effortlessly. In smaller companies, those luxuries often do not exist. For Makita USA (www.makita.com), a pro power tools company, the problem was not necessarily size; the global company employs more than 9,000 people worldwide. The problem was that the organizational structure with many regional offices across the United States did not lend itself to a central help center.
“I have been with Makita just over six months, and when I came onboard, there was no help desk software,” says Alex Oliva, the IT director. “Users would just call a central phone number, and there were two help desk personnel who could track calls on a notepad and Excel spreadsheets. Now we have an optimal help desk system; most problems are solved in the same day or within 24 hours.”
Makita chose Alloy Software’s Navigator (www.alloy-software.com) partly because of the easy user interface, partly because the support agent who helped the company with presales calls was a good example of expert-level phone support, and partly because it is extensible with other modules and custom development, explains Oliva.
“I was doing research on help desk systems and came across Alloy Software,” says Oliva. “I was just about to choose another package and decided to set up a demo. The customer service I received during the demo stages and the ease of install were major factors in solidifying my decision. We were looking for a package that did not force you to use one interface and is customizable. No one package can meet all your needs, so we wanted to make sure we could add modules and custom development.” Alloy Software uses an open interface that can be customized and can be extended with the use of additional databases.
Pricing Flexibility, Excellent Presales Support
Another important criterion for Oliva has to do with pricing structures. Most help desk systems charge for each user who accesses a tracking portal, but Alloy provided a corporate pricing plan. For Oliva, it was important that the help desk support regional offices that are scattered throughout the country without charging each office for access to the help desk system. “Alloy is priced for customers like me who have more people outside the building than inside,” he says.
Oliva explains more about how the presales process helped him make the decision to choose Alloy: The agent he spoke to was knowledgeable and friendly. Oliva asked questions about whether the help desk could tie into an existing Access database, and the agent knew the answer. For other support issues, the agent operated a demo remotely, set up a Webinar to show how the software worked, and generally showed good customer service, an example that Oliva wanted to follow.
I just can’t give it enough praise. Customer service is an art form of sorts, and Alloy knows the meaning of that.
In terms of the actual installation, Oliva says he had no problems. There was a minor glitch involving a database that was not compatible, but he says it was an internal issue. Even then, he says Alloy was able to work with him on the phone to troubleshoot the problem and find a solution. One important point Oliva makes has to do with the customer service: He was never put on hold for long periods, and the agent did not have to call back repeatedly with suggestions. Oliva and the agent troubleshot over the phone, which revealed to Oliva that Alloy Software knows customer service and troubleshooting.
After the initial installation, Oliva wanted to make sure there was a single sign-on for regional offices. He was able to configure the software to work with Active Directory. In fact, once a user is authenticated in Windows, he says, there is no need to log in to the help desk tracking software because of the link between the two authentications. “Our users didn’t have to remember a different username and password for the new help desk system, which just made the process easier,” he notes.
The installation and training time took about two weeks, says Oliva. There were no major issues with integration into existing systems in the data center, end-user support with the Web portal, or any issues with training support personnel on how to use it. “They [Makita’s users] took to it like fish to water,” he says. “The Web portal is so simple. Our users understood how it worked right away. I don’t recall getting any calls from users learning the portal.”
Oliva notes that Makita did not have any other technical challenges, but it did need to work through some issues in business continuity. It had to integrate business rules into the system where a help desk request involving new expenditures had to be approved by two managers. For example, if an end user requested a laptop replacement, a senior manager and a finance officer might need to approve it, and there are scenarios where an executive must make the final approval.
We now take the help desk for granted as part of our daily lives.
Oliva did not want to burden executives who needed to approve these requests by having them log in to and learn the help desk software, so Makita and Alloy built a separate Web portal that interfaces with Alloy and allows the executives to approve or deny a request. The approval portal even works with the executives’ email as a link that they can click to access the portal. “That process took an extra week and was the biggest hurdle we had,” Oliva says.
When asked about whether he would change the process of installing Alloy Navigator, Oliva says he couldn’t imagine changing anything. He says it was impeccable timing because Makita chose the help desk software and was able to install it just a few weeks before a major ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) rollout, one of the biggest rollouts in the company’s history.
“It was good timing when we implemented it, and it was just a coincidence, but with any major software rollout there will be lots of questions,” Oliva says. “Alloy provides a beautiful interface for people to use and communicate over help desk issues.”
Oliva says the Navigator help desk software has been an easy rollout, and he now plans to start thinking about a “phase two” where he installs Alloy’s separate auditing package that he purchased along with the help desk system. He wanted to make sure users were comfortable with the new help desk system first.
“We now take the help desk for granted as part of our daily lives,” he says. “I just can’t give it enough praise. Customer service is an art form of sorts, and Alloy knows the meaning of that.”
♦ ♦ ♦