EDA software is quite different from off-the-shelf software. In most cases, customer requirements are unique and depend on the proprietary and complex design process, environments and standards developed and/or evolved by semiconductor design teams over a number of years. EDA software ends up being heavily customized to conform to the customer’s standards and design flow.
With each customer design flow presenting unique challenges, EDA vendors must not only provide the software tools but also back them up with high quality and high touch support and services. This makes the Application Support Team a critical component for the success for the EDA vendor.
Support teams require extensive domain knowledge of various design environments and the skills to customize intricate requirements. They will sometimes need to pull in the development team to solve complex issues and provide solutions that users demand. One way to achieve top-level customer service is to build a culture where “supporting the customer” is a top priority in the company at all levels of management and engineering hierarchy. A side effect of this culture is that engineering managers and developers get to see how their software is actually used and deployed by the design teams, and get a much better understanding of the end user environment where tools are used. This helps the entire organization improve the quality of software and accomplish customer satisfaction.
Investing time and effort in support protocols is very consequential to the success of any EDA product.
- A support website should be a one-stop-shop to answer a user’s technical questions. It should therefore be able to provide technical resources like release notes, downloads, constantly-updated FAQs, articles on customization, user discussion forums, demo videos and training in an easy-to-navigate portal. The more focused the resources, the less time that users and support teams spend on issues. Allowing users to subscribe to RSS feeds FAQs, release notes, etc. helps keep the user base active and informed of product features and developments.
- The support portal should be integrated with a good ticketing system with active participation from customers, support engineers and development teams. Users should also be able to look at issues that their peers in the organization may have faced. This avoids unnecessary duplication and improved knowledge sharing within the organization, helping to provide faster resolution to issues and, in many cases, also helping them to optimize their design environments. Allowing tool developers to have easy access to the ticketing system and encouraging them to participate helps identify software deficiencies more quickly and to plan for new enhancements. It also allows support groups to plan tailored training session for customers.
- “On demand collaboration” via phone and screen sharing tools is critical to resolving customer issues efficiently. Often, with critical issues, screen sharing allows support teams to be virtually onsite immediately and to quickly bring in other experts or even members of tool development team to resolve issues, if necessary.
Excellent technical support is a true win-win situation for the EDA vendor and their customers.
The simple key to becoming famous for customer service and support is a company-wide commitment to making customer needs a top priority. For ClioSoft, the result has been customer feedback such as this: http://www.cliosoft.com/support/index.php
Supporting the customer is really everyone’s job.
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