When most people think of the ASP business model, they envision virtual hands-off technology run from a distant data center with little or no human involvement. While virtuality is a great benefit of ASPs, a hosted solution that does not take into consideration basic human customer needs will probably end up alienating the users. All other things being equal, then, ASPs will tend to differentiate themselves on the "soft" disciplines involved in hosting applications: customer service and technical support. The ASP business model and technology infrastructure are quite complex, and making the solution work smoothly requires a lot of behind-the-scenes support from ASP staff. That said, though, the complexities of supporting an ASP solution should never seem complex to the customer.
Here are some basic elements of customer service and technical support that you should be aware of. Observing how well an ASP addresses them should help you get the best service from your provider. But bear in mind that customer service and technical support are an ongoing process, not a one-time event. If you monitor these elements early in your tenure with an ASP and then fail to check up on them periodically, you may find service deteriorating and not know why.
Up-front Customer Service
1. ASP customer service starts as soon as you log onto the ASP's Web page or call its Sales department to inquire about leasing an application. If you are inquiring about pricing and deployment time, and it's not clearly conveyed by the Web site or the sales rep, then that shortcoming may be indicative of the service your hosted application will receive later.