Today’s software customer doesn’t have to rely on software reviews of questionable origin, or lists of features on a software provider’s website to try to choose the best software. That’s because the free trial is the norm these days.
You expect to try out software yourself before committing to a purchase, and the increasing availability of cloud-based software makes these test drives easier than ever. Remember when free AOL CDs arrived in the mail all the time? People ended up hanging them on their Christmas trees, gluing them together to make giant hockey pucks, and using them to make weird chandeliers. Fortunately, today’s free trials are (for the most part) media-free. Here are 5 ways to make the most of your new software free trial.
1. Find Out Exactly What Your Free Trial Entails
Some free trials are feature-limited, meaning you don’t get to try out all the goodies before you buy. Other software allows a specific number of uses, or a specific amount of data to be processed before you have to cough up for the real thing. Still other software is given as a free trial for a limited time period. Know which type of free trial you’re dealing with.
2. Notify Relevant Users of the Free Trial
Say you have six IT service desk workers and you’re going to be trying out a new SaaS service desk product. All six need to know this, even if you’re going to have half trying out the new software and half sticking with the old software during the trial period. You may need to notify certain people in management, too, depending on how much autonomy your IT department has. Whether you notify end users or not is a judgment call. If the cloud service desk software you’re test driving has specific user interface features — like a self-service portal — you may choose to notify selected end users and ask that they use the new system during the trial period.
3. Test Old Software Alongside New if Possible
The best way is to randomly assign some service desk help tickets to the new software and others to the old software. You can assign some workers to use the new software while keeping others on the old software so that you can compare things like speed of resolution, end-user convenience, and general satisfaction. As an alternative, you could “role play” end users reporting identical problems and solving them using the old software and then the new software. Keep in mind that even with the most intuitive new software, you’re already used to the old software, so it may seem deceptively more efficient at first.
4. Record and Analyze Comparison Results and User Feedback
Write stuff down. How long did it take to solve a typical problem with the old software versus the new software? Did someone have trouble understanding how to use the self-service portal? Did you have problems customizing the interface for your organization? Are there questions about bandwidth requirements for the SaaS product? Ask both end users and service desk workers for their impressions, what they liked, and what they didn’t like.
5. Make a List of Questions for the Vendor
From the information you gather, make up a list of questions for the vendor. Questions might include things like:
- How do we automatically route certain types of tickets to specific agents?
- Can we integrate the software with our interoffice social media software?
- Are there any new smartphone apps in the pipeline?
- What kind of training would you provide if we choose your software?
- How are we notified of upgrades and patches?
- How do we get technical or customer support from you?
- What are your disaster preparedness protocols?
When you bring your questions to the vendor, make sure they don’t deflect your questions or give you half-baked answers. After all, your service desk software is critical to the smooth functioning of your company, so you need to know you can rely on it today and tomorrow.