RIM overhauls BlackBerry support program

For years the BlackBerry has been a popular tool for large organizations, and as a result Research In Motion has skewed its support to the enterprise.

But the Canadian handset maker has overhauled its technical support program to better small and mid-sized companies whose staffers increasingly use the devices. As a result it has dropped the five-level TX-Service program in favour of the six-level BlackBerry Technical Support Services program with a wider range of offerings.

“We want to make sure that any customers that are using BlackBerry can get directly to RIM for technical support to ensure that any issues that arise in their environment can be addressed as quickly as possible,” explained program manager Kory Shute.

For SMBs – roughly defined as organizations with fewer than 500 devices – there are Basic, Enhanced and Advantage Support levels. For enterprises, the levels are called Standard, Premium and Elite. All have access to RIM’s online resource library, called the BlackBerry Expert Support Centre, but as with most programs the more an organization pays the more services are available.

Shute said one goal was also to make the program more flexible than its predecessor. “As customers see BlackBerry adoption grow, we wanted to make sure there was a seamless path they could progress through,” said Shute.

“One of the things we heard from customers when we were going through the process of re-designing this was they wanted an element of flexibility built into the support they can purchase – sort of customized based on their needs: the size of their deployment, how mission-critical it is to their organization the level of expertise of their internal IT staff as it relates to BlackBerry to make sure the contact they make with our support organization are at the level they expect.”

A small company would have bought TX-1 support under the old program, Shute, said, which wasn’t appropriate. The three primary levels in detail are (in U.S. dollars):

–Basic: $350 a year for organizations using BlackBerry Professional Server/$485 a year if using BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Only for organizations with fewer than 30 users. Can submit queries round the clock only by filling out a form on the RIM portal, with the promise of a voice or e-mail response within 24 hours. Two designated customer staffers can take a BlackBerry certification exam after taking Web-based training;

–Enhanced: $523 annual for BlackBerry Professional Server users/$725 a year for BES users. Only for organizations with fewer than 30 users. Response time is cut to four hours, otherwise the same as Basic;

–Advantage: $1,082 annually for the first 30 BPS users/$1,499 annually for the first 30 BES users, plus $27 for each additional user. Five designated customer support staff get phone call access to RIM support. At this level and higher, software upgrades for BlackBerry Enterprise Server is included. Subscribers at this level and up can also purchase direct access to level 2 support. For those who develop custom RIM applications, access can also be purchased to BlackBerry application support staff. One customer staffer can attend a two-month Web-based training course and take a BlackBerry certification exam.

As for enterprise-level support changes, Standard subscribers get access to level 2 support, as well the ability to buy two new optional services: Health Check (in which RIM analyzes five days of BES server logs) and Change Management Planning (in which RIM will analyze a customer’s upgrade plans). “We’re trying to help the customer proactively prevent potential issues,” Shute said.

Those services are included for Premium and Elite subscribers. Elite subscribers also get access to the Direct Access Response Team (DART) as well as new performance and load testing tools.

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