How to Get Great Customer Support

At some time or other we all need customer support. There are a few simple things you can do to ensure you get the best support you can.

Try to Solve the Problem Yourself

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Sometimes support personnel are overworked. They also often deal with the same problems over and over again. It can be unpleasant to have to continually respond to issues that customers could easily handle themselves by reading the help documentation. All CyberMatrix software comes with context sensitive help that is available by pressing the F1 key. There are manuals available online and printable versions for download. We even have YouTube videos and Flash demos that run through the main features of each product.

Solving problems yourself can end up saving you time. If you take a little effort to learn how to use the software better, in the future when similar problems arise you will be able to deal with them a lot faster.

Be Nice

It sounds silly but many people don’t seem to realize that the support they are getting is from a real live human being, a person with feelings. If you treat that person badly it’s just human nature that you’re probably not going to get the best help from them. Put yourself in their shoes. If you are trying to help someone and they yell at you and treat you like you are incompetent, will you be going out of your way to help them? Chances are you will either get flustered and not think clearly or you may even consciously or unconsciously strike back by withholding information to get even. Either way you’re not giving the best support you could.

Provide Details

Providing support can be extremely difficult. Very complex problems can take a long time to track down. If you can provide the support person with all the relevant information you can, this can reduce the time involved considerably. Imagine you were a mechanic. A customer comes in and says “There’s a problem with my car. Fix it now!” and then walks away. Testing every possible problem that could affect the car could take weeks. If the customer simply said instead “I hear a screeching noise whenever I turn left.” the mechanic could probably fix the problem in a few hours.

Remote Support

If all else fails remote support can be a godsend for certain issues. Remote support involves installing special software that allows a support person to take control over your computer while you watch them. There are many different remote support applications but possibly the easiest to use is a product called Skype. To allow remote control of your computer using Skype, first install the Skype software. Phone or email us to ensure our Skype software is ready. Then initiate a Skype call to us and press the “+” button. From the menu that appears, choose the Share Screens feature so we can access your PC and help with the problem.

So to summarize there are several tips to get the best customer service you can. Give as much relevant information to the support person as you can. Be courteous – treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Try to solve the problem yourself by looking into the available help resources. With just a little effort you can get better support and save your company time and money.

Transferring Application Data to a New Workstation

Data-transferA common support question we get at CyberMatrix is how to transfer an application’s data to a new machine. The answer depends on the software, which edition of software and how the software was installed.

Enterprise Editions

In all our Enterprise edition software, the data will be stored in a large database server like MS SQL or MySQL. To move the data to another server you would use the replication features of that database server. Other options would be to export the database data to SQL or CSV and then import that data on the new server.

Client/Server Editions

In all our older versions of Client/Server edition software, the data is stored in the same folder as the server software. To install on a new workstation you can just copy the server folder to the new station and then re-install to create the Start menu icons. Newer Client/Server editions (Timesheets) will have the data stored in a public documents folder. i.e. C:\Users\Public\Documents\CyberMatrix\Timesheets

Web Editions

In all our older Web edition software, the data folder is stored in the same folder as the server software. To install on a new workstation you can just copy the data folder to the new station and then re-install to create the Start menu icons. Newer Web editions (Timesheets) will have the data stored in a public documents folder.

File Server Editions

All of our other software stores the data folder by default in a public documents folder. Inside the  public documents folder you’ll see the CyberMatrix folder. Inside the CyberMatrix folder will be a folder with the same name as the software you are using. That is the default data folder. e.g. C:\Users\Public\Documents\CyberMatrix\ProSchedule.

During install, a different data folder can be chosen as well. This method would be used for example in multi-user installs to store the data on a network shared folder. So, like the other editions, you can move the data folder to a new location and install the software. Even easier though is to do a backup and restore from inside the Data Manager. To do this, first run a backup in  the Data Manager. This will create a time-stamped zip file. Then copy this backup file to the new machine. Next, install the software on the new machine. Then restore the backup file from within the Data Manager on the new machine to get your data.

You can find out more about our software products at cybermatrix.com.

Make Your CyberMatrix Software Run Faster

checkered-flag-mdOccasionally we get calls from customers about our software running slow on their systems.

There are several things you can do to improve the performance of all CyberMatrix software:

1. install local – Install the software on every machine instead of installing it to a shared folder. It is very convenient to install software on a shared network folder. You can then run the software by placing a shortcut to the software executable. This method makes updating the software very painless. The downside is that every time someone starts the software the entire executable is copied down the network. If many people do this at the same time your network will slow down. By installing the software on everyone’s machine you prevent this slowdown.

2. archive data – Archive or delete infrequently used data. If you have a lot of old data that is no longer used you may increase performance by archiving or deleting this data. For example, if you have a long list of clients, it takes time to load all this data into pull-down lists and other queries. If you delete inactive clients or inactivate them, the loading process will be faster.

3. turn off file scanning – Configure any file scanning utilities to ignore database files. Database files change frequently. If there are any file scanning utilities like antivirus software that scans files whenever they change, this could slow down database operations. The solution is to configure the file scanner to ignore the database files or even the entire data folder.

4. use wired network – Avoid using slower wireless network connections. Despite some improvements in wireless technology, using wireless networks are still much slower than wired networks. Using a direct-wired connection will always be faster when using data intensive applications.

5. go client-server – Switch from the file-server implementation to client-server. File server applications have all the data stored in a shared folder that every client station accesses directly. When this data is accessed, entire tables are pulled through the network. For large data applications this can result in a dramatic network slowdown. A client-server application on the other hand transfers only the small data packets needed though the network instead of entire tables. As well as the Client/Server editions of our software, the Web and Enterprise editions are also forms of client/server technology.

There are two additional tips for Pro Schedule and Meeting Manager:

6. no auto-refresh – Turn off the calendar auto-refresh feature or set it to a higher value like 5 minutes. Due to the complex nature of recurring schedule events, refreshing the calendar results in a lot of data access. Having an auto-refresh value that is too low can make the software unbearably sluggish.

7. closer end date – Use a schedule end date value that is not too far into the future. Checking for conflicts when adding or editing events requires a lot of data access because of the complexity of repeating events. The further in the future the software has to check, the longer a delay you will experience. By limiting the schedule to look for conflicts only into the next year, for example, this data access is reduced significantly.

You can find out more about our software products at cybermatrix.com.

The Importance of Try Before You Buy For Software

Try-Before-You-BuyOne of the best things ever to happen to the software industry was the brilliant idea of allowing people to try out software before they purchased it. Before this innovation, people were stuck with buying potentially very expensive software on faith. If the software didn’t work the way they hoped it would they were stuck with it. Most software companies understandably have very restrictive return policies because let’s face it, how is the software company going to know you are still not using the software after the refund unless they use some sort of creepy monitoring solution?

By allowing people to try out software before purchase these software companies had a big edge over their often much larger competitors. Now people could allay their fears about buying something that may not work for them. If the software didn’t work the way they wanted it to they could just move on to another product.

The try before you buy idea has evolved a lot since its inception. At first all try before you buy software used the honor system. They just put out the software for free download and hoped people would be honest and pay for it. This method seemed to work fairly well before the Internet became popular. With the rise of the Internet some people got the idea to limit the freely available software version in some way in order to encourage people to buy the product instead of using it without paying for it. These companies found that limiting features of the free download or limiting the time the free download could be used dramatically increased software sales.

Nowadays most software companies use the try before you buy method. But this method doesn’t work for all software. Large software applications such as operating systems simply don’t lend themselves to feature limitation or time limitation. Large app stores are really the only place small apps can be sold without the option for try before you buy.

Whether you’re a small one man shop or a multi-national software house, the try before you buy marketing method is not something you should pass over lightly.

How to Automatically Schedule Many One On One Sessions with CyberMatrix Class Scheduler

schedule meetingWe are often asked if we have a scheduling product to schedule many one on one meetings. We don’t have a product that performs this action exclusively. However, our Class Scheduler software can be used to accomplish this.

To auto schedule one on one pairings, first designate one group to be the instructors and the other to be students. The sessions will be classes in Class Scheduler. Enter the instructors in the Instructors table and the students in the Students table using the Data Manager. Then setup the student/instructor availability records in the Availability table. Also enter at least one class type in the ClassTypes table. Enter at least one room. Each room must have the capacity of 1. Now you have to setup all the classes. You can create all the classes or sessions manually but it is much easier to use the Auto Schedule by Requirements feature.

To use the Auto Schedule by Requirements feature first populate the Requirements table in the Data Manager but leave the Instructor field blank. When the requirements have been entered return to the main screen and choose Tools | Auto Schedule by Requirements from the main menu. After this step completes all your classes should have been created.

To create the one on one pairings you can either auto-schedule each student one by one using the Auto Schedule Student feature or auto-schedule them all at once using the Auto Schedule Students In Bulk feature.

To auto-schedule each student one by one choose Tools | Auto Schedule Student from the main menu. In the Class Selector screen that appears select one or more students and move the class they require from the Available Classes list to the Desired Class list. Then press the OK button to create the list of possible schedules. Select one of these schedules and press OK to create the schedule. Repeat this process for the remaining students.

To auto-schedule all students at once first you must create a CSV file with all the students and the desired class types they want. The CSV file should consist of comma separated values starting with the student ID and then the list of  types that the student wants. Here is an example CSV file:

dennese,Sales145
ksumner,Sales023

Then choose File | Auto Schedule Students In Bulk from the main menu. At the prompt use the CSV file you just created.

To find out more about CyberMatrix Class Scheduler visit cybermatrix.com.

How to Create a New Project Clock Report Using a Different Rate

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One of the most common questions we get about our time tracking software is “why don’t the reports pick up the rate we’re using?” The problem is that each report uses specific instructions to pull data from the database. There is no simple way to tell a report which fields to use while still providing a report editing feature. What you can do instead though is use this report editing feature to create your own version of a report that uses the rate you want.

The technique is very similar in all our time tracking software but suppose you are a Project Clock. You like the Project Chart report but you want to use the Task rate instead of the Project rate. To edit that report, just click it and press the Edit button. This brings up the report designer. Now what you have to do is change the report’s database instructions or SQL. SQL is a language use to communicate with database.

To change the SQL choose Report | Variables from the menu. Then click on the SQL variable. You should see the reort’s SQL which looks like this:

Select P.Description AS ProjectName,Rate,SUM(CAST((EndTime-StartTime) SECOND AS INTEGER)/3600) As Hours From Projects P JOIN TimeHist T ON(P.ProjectID=T.ProjectID) GROUP By P.Description,rate Order By P.Description

Most basic SQL statements have four main parts. The SELECT statements states which fields you want to get. The FROM statement says from which tables to get the fields. If there are more than one table, each table must be joined to one other table by a common field (in this case the ProjectID field). The GROUP BY part states which fields are not being operated on (in this case summed). The ORDER BY statement indicates by which fields do you want the results sorted by.

So to use the task rate we need to link to the Tasks table using the field TaskID which is in both the Tasks table and the TimeHist table. We also must explicitly say which table to get the rate from. So we get SQL like this:

Select P.Description AS ProjectName, Ta.Rate,SUM(CAST((EndTime-StartTime) SECOND AS INTEGER)/3600) As Hours From Projects P JOIN TimeHist T ON(P.ProjectID=T.ProjectID) JOIN Tasks Ta ON(Ta.TaskID=T.TaskID) GROUP By P.Description,rate Order By P.Description

Notice that the Rate field is prefaced by Ta which is short form for the Tasks table. Press the green check mark icon to save changes to the SQL variable and return to the designer. Now choose File | Save as to save you new report with a descriptive name like Project Chart with Task Rate. Close the designer and press F5 to see your new report in the report list.

You can find out more about our time and billing products including Project Clock and Timesheets at cybermatrix.com.

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Common Problems with Clipboard Magic

clipboard magic main screenOur Clipboard Magic software is quite popular not only because it’s free but because it can save people a lot of time if they frequently copy and paste plain text. There are a few problems that can make using it somewhat frustrating. The following are some common problems:

Duplicated Clips

Sometimes when text is copied in certain applications you will find that the clip is duplicated in Clipboard Magic. These applications contain a bug where they send updates several times to the Windows clipboard. You can minimize this behavior by setting the Ignore Duplicates option.

“Unable to Open Clipboard” Error

Sometimes when using Clipboard Magic you will encounter the error “Unable to Open Clipboard”. What this error means is that another application is interfering with the clipboard in some way. You’ll have to experiment by closing down other applications until you can find the one causing the problem and report this bug to the company that makes it.

Copying Formatted Text Loses Format

When text from a formatted document like Rich Text or HTML is copied into Clipboard Magic all the formatting will be lost.  This happens because Clipboard Magic currently works only with plain text. Any special formatting will be lost when copying.

Copied Text Doesn’t Show in Clip List

Sometimes when copying text, the text will not show up in the Clipboard Magic clip list. First verify that the tray icon does not have an X on it. If it has an X, Clipboard Magic is no longer archiving copied text. You must turn off the Suspend Clipboard Archiving option in order to archive text. If the software is archiving text, possibly you’re not really copying text. Clipboard Magic currently only handles text formats, what you are copying possibly is not really text. For example, if you have a text document open and you press the [Print Scrn] button, what is actually copied is a bitmap image, which Clipboard Magic currently can’t handle.

“Unable to assign hot key” Error

Sometimes after installing Clipboard Magic some people will see the error “Unable to assign hot key”. What is probably happening is that another program you have running probably is already using the offending hotkey. In the Options screen, change the problem hot key to a different key.