November 07, 2023
How a Midsized Food Supplier Got a Direct Line to Microsoft
CDW Technology Support rapidly resolves technical issues and streamlines management for Microsoft environments, all while reducing support costs.
Many organizations rely on Microsoft for a wide array of business-critical systems. Employees collaborate over Teams, complete their day-to-day work in Office 365 and store their files in OneDrive. IT departments depend on on-premises and cloud infrastructure — including Windows Server, SQL Server and Microsoft Azure — to power much of the rest of their technology ecosystems.
This means that even a small problem with a company’s Microsoft environment can lead to significant business impacts. And yet, even organizations with relatively robust IT staffs may lack the internal headcount and expertise needed to rapidly respond to every issue across their Microsoft tools and systems.
One such organization, an American food supplier with about 4,000 employees, previously relied on Microsoft to help resolve issues as needed. But when the pricing model changed several years ago — from a per-hour approach to a flat-fee, unlimited-support offering — company officials began looking for a support service that would better fit both the company’s budget and its business needs.
They turned to CDW Technology Support (CTS)
“They wanted a more targeted offering, and we’re able to provide a certain number of hours that they can use within a one-year period,” explains Tony Suffoletto, a senior client executive for CTS. “They can use those hours at any point during the year, and if they go over them, we can always add more hours. So we customize the plan, and we give them a number of hours that corresponds to the number of tickets that they normally submit. The fact that we can right-size the offering to their needs saves them a lot of money, and they work with trusted CDW staff they’re used to..”
CDW Technology Support Delivers Fast, 24/7 Service
When an issue pops up in the customer’s Microsoft environment, IT administrators can contact CTS by calling a toll-free support line, sending an email or opening a support ticket within CTS’s ServiceNow portal. The service is not meant for end-user requests such as password resets, notes Rob Vogl, an engineering manager for CDW Managed Services. Rather, it is a reactive break/fix service that provides just-in-time support to help customers get their systems back up and running so they can get back to business.
CTS is on call 24/7, and most support calls go to agents based in the U.S.
“One of our strengths is that we probably have a much larger understanding of that entire pool of Microsoft products than a typical client would have, just because we’re dealing with these issues day in and day out,” Vogl says. “We can really sit down and look at those trends. We might notice an area where additional training is needed, which not only reduces the number of cases that an organization opens but also gives them a better understanding of their investments.”
David Romano, a senior engineer and leader of CDW’s Microsoft CTS team, says that customers are “extremely happy” with the response times after they submit a ticket. “We don’t let cases sit in our queue,” he says. “Once they open a ticket with us, we get an engineer assigned to the case within an hour — much sooner than that, if it’s a serious issue. When you work with a vendor, it could be days before you get an engineer assigned to your case. With us, that delay does not happen.”
External IT Support: By the Numbers
Most organizations seek external support for some if not most of their IT operations. At least half say they struggle to acquire the talent they need to meet their overall strategic priorities. Here are the most common areas where businesses seek outsourced assistance:
Application and software development
Source: Deloitte, “Global outsourcing survey 2022: Navigating talent, technology, and new ways to outsource,” October 2022
CDW Leverages Its Relationship with Microsoft
The food supplier, Romano says, has submitted tickets when its domain controllers were down and users were unable to authenticate, when mailbox issues made it impossible for users to send and receive emails, and for other critical issues that threatened to throttle business productivity. “A lot of organizations have standardized on Microsoft,” he says. “So if it goes down, that’s a pretty big issue.”
Romano says that CTS professionals have been able to resolve about 70 percent of the company’s issues on their own. But for more complex problems, or when there is an outage stemming from the vendor’s environment, CTS has a direct line to Microsoft. Not only can CDW’s technology support workers open a ticket directly with the vendor, but they also can loop the customer into calls with Microsoft, keeping everyone on the same page as they work toward a timely resolution.
“A lot of prospective customers don’t realize that we can open up a ticket with Microsoft and get into their high-priority queue,” Suffoletto says. “That gives them the best of both worlds, where we can go to Microsoft when we need to, but most of the time the ticket stays with us, and we can resolve it very quickly.”
In addition to this peace of mind, Vogl says, customers get two chief benefits from their engagement with CTS. First, their IT departments become more efficient, working proactively on value-added projects rather than reacting to crises. Second, when critical problems do pop up, CTS is able to minimize downtime, preventing scenarios where the business loses productivity — and possibly revenue — due to an outage.
“It’s definitely both,” Vogl says. “If the customer’s email is down, that’s an all-hands situation, where we’re going to grab engineers and escalate to Microsoft even as we’re diagnosing the problem. For many of our customers, CTS is an insurance policy. They may not open a lot of tickets, but they know that we’ll be there when they need us.”
“One of our strengths is that we probably have a much larger understanding of that entire pool of Microsoft products than a typical client would have, just because we’re dealing with these issues day in and day out.”
— Rob Vogl, Engineering Manager, CDW Managed Services
A Long-lasting Relationship
In addition to the service contract, CTS customers receive ongoing access to Inscape, CDW’s proprietary multicloud management tool.
Inscape helps organizations streamline, simplify and optimize administration of their public cloud environments. For instance, customers can use machine learning to receive cost anomaly alerts and predictions for their Azure and AWS environments, create reports that provide visibility into cloud costs, set parameters for the sizing of virtual machines and monitor employee productivity.
Many customers find tremendous value in even relatively simple features, such as Inscape’s license and invoice portals. “Using vendor management portals, you might have 14 windows open at once,” Romano says. “But with Inscape, you’re in one window, and you can do everything from within one platform.”
Romano notes that the food supplier has renewed with CTS for four consecutive years and has more than doubled the number of response hours it contracts each year. Even more than the specific features of the service contract, Romano says, the customer has expressed an appreciation for the personal touch and reliability offered by CTS.
“The overall responsiveness and transparency that we provide to our customers are leaps and bounds above what other organizations can provide,” he says. “Even though CDW has the resources of a large company, we’re a small group of individuals who specialize in Microsoft, and that’s reflected in our customer service.”
Story by Calvin Hennick, a freelance journalist who specializes in business and technology writing. He is a contributor to the CDW family of technology magazines.