Hear me now, believe me later. Customer support one is of the biggest aspects that a person needs to consider when selecting the best personal finance software for themselves. To get a better feel for how to do that, consider four areas when looking at your options (in order of importance) Video Tutorials, Online Classes, Help Files, Forum Communities, Direct Interaction. Considering our propensity for one on one attention, you may find it odd that “Direct Interaction” is listed last. But ask yourself this – how badly do you want to contact the software company for an answer? I know the answer – you don’t. If for no other reason than it’s not instant.
The best question is one that is answered before you ask it. That is the concept behind the “proactive help file” that is a video tutorial. Video is the fastest, easiest way to digest information on how to accomplish a task. Think of it as one-on-one attention you are used to in person, only this has been thought out, word-smithed and packaged with meaningful graphics and screen shots. Best of all, you can pause to think and test, and it is repeatable as many times as you want. Here’s the other thing – if a personal finance software tool has video tutorials, it’s a sign that the product is mature. No one is making video tutorials if they are dramatically reworking the product.
Today’s best personal finance software companies are turning to free online classes as a major value added service. These serve as great tutorials for someone new to managing their finances on a computer instead of their check register and help the software publisher to create a loyal following with a sense of community. Webinar-type online classes are a great way for a potential client to ask questions and learn whether they want to use the software publishers product. For the company it’s a great way for them to shine, answer questions and close the deal for someone who’s currently using their free trial.
When considering your options, open up the help files and look at the interface. You should be able to type a general keyword into a text box and click a button and get relevant results. Open up a topic and look at how the information is presented. Are their screenshots? Is the answer in a step-by-step format? The help files should be very easy to understand. If they are not, think twice about your selection because there’s a good chance you’re going to be frustrated down the road.
The internet has evolved into an ever more important element for the best personal finance software solutions. Forum communities are fantastic resources for answers, sometimes extremely prompt. First, check to see if these forums even exist (either via Google or the vendor’s site). Assuming they do, check how many posts there are in there. If the community is dead, that’s typically a bad sign that not many people are picking that product to do their finances, maybe because there are simply better options. You want a mature, well designed product. These forums are a glimpse into that.
The best direct interaction is an online chat session. However, I haven’t seen a lot of that going on in the world of personal finance software. Typically, you’re direct contact route will be via a email form you fill out and submit. However, if there are forum communities, look to see if there is a place to post that allows you to interact with the software developers. That is an awesome way to connect directly with the company, report software bugs and get fellow users’ input to see if they are also experiencing the same issue.
A robust help system is an undeniable sign of a quality software. Evaluating whether these 5 help elements exist when selecting the best personal finance software for your family will help you focus on the right products and avoid the frustration and wasted time of having to start over again.