NetSuite Claims Advances in Support, Services

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On-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendor NetSuite has grouped its service and support offerings under a new marketing moniker called SuiteSuccess, hoping to convince potential customers that the company has mastered the art of implementing ERP for the midmarket.

"This is complicated stuff," said Tim Dilley, executive vice president and chief customer officer at NetSuite. "We have figured out how to do this, we're measuring it, and are gaining a lot of happy customers."

Implementation project times are going down, from an average of about 200 days in the first quarter of 2007 to slightly more than 100 in the first quarter of this year, according to NetSuite. The company also claims that internal customer polls are showing widespread satisfaction.

The vendor offers two levels of consulting services: the higher-end Shared Consulting, which sees a project's management shouldered by a NetSuite team along with the customer, and the lower-level Guided Consulting for those who need less customization.

NetSuite has also developed specialized training and e-learning services, and has radically reduced wait times for its call-center support, the company said.

The company's reported advances in these areas stand in contrast to some claims that it has suffered from significant customer turnover or "churn," where the vendor may add new customers, but others leave.

"I think our churn has been a very kind of flat number for the last few years," Dilley said. "We're very satisfied with where we are in that." He declined to provide the current churn rate.

Meanwhile, one NetSuite customer who has been with the vendor for about two-and-a-half years said support has perceptibly improved of late.

"I've had mixed experiences with NetSuite," said Steve Klett, owner of Phoenix Medical Devices in Irvine, California. "It was very, very bad in the beginning. Support used to be the worst you could ever imagine. With NetSuite's old support, it was like we were educating them. It's gotten a lot better."

The small company is paying for gold-level support, the midtier option. Wait times for phone calls to the help center are only three or four minutes now, a major improvement over the past, he said.

Klett said his difficulties with the software may have been heightened because he was doing a lot of tweaks and configuration work by himself.

"I think I was customizing it so much that it was inevitable I was going to have a rocky time," he said. "Part of the headaches and my hassles were my own making, but then again, a bug's a bug."

But Klett would go directly to NetSuite developers with questions and concerns, and he found them to be responsive, he added.

Tom Kelly, chief financial officer and CIO of 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, said the company began using NetSuite about a year ago and signed up for platinum-level support.

"It's pretty good. You get a dedicated resource. You're always calling the same person. It helps quite a bit," he said. 2nd Wind has about 300 employees, with roughly US$100 million in revenue, Kelly said.

The initial implementation was a breeze, according to Kelly. "We signed up Sept. 24 [2007] and went live on Jan. 1," he said.

But some training sessions Kelly attended were less impressive. "If you'd already implemented the product and were using it, they were kind of worthless," he said, but added that the most recent session he went to was significantly better.

NetSuite "definitely needed to do something" regarding its image around support and services, according to China Martens, an analyst with the 451 Group.

"They've been working on improving service over the past two years and it's at a stage where they feel confident about sharing what they've been doing," she said.

It's also necessary for wooing larger customers, Martens added.

In addition, "there's also a sense of getting out a services, support and training story and getting NetSuite partners engaged in it before Microsoft really gets going with Dynamics CRM Online," she said.

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