Silicon IP Cores
CAST Customer Care Goes Beyond Just Support
by Meredith Lucky, CAST VP of Sales
Customer focus for high-tech firms has traditionally meant providing cutting-edge packaged technical products. CAST is no exception and has provided high-tech products for nearly three decades.
However, we have understood from the beginning that our customers will not be successful with just purchasing the latest technology. If our customers aren’t successful using our products in their end product, we will suffer and get a reputation as having IP that is difficult to use. So part of the CAST IP experience has always been the concept of customer care, which focuses on helping the purchasers of our products be successful in using them.
Customer care is more than just customer support, which usually refers to post-sales problem-solving. Instead, we consider ourselves part of our customer’s design team, starting from pre-sales engagement thru final product manufacturing.
Experience has proven that when we take ownership of our product’s integration into the final product, we are guaranteed customer satisfaction.
Begins Before the Sale
Customer care starts prior to a sale of our product. Understanding the customer’s project requirements and verifying that our products can meet their needs are primary elements of our pre-sales engagement. If there are limitations to our product or we cannot meet the project’s requirements, we inform the customer right up front. For example, with our compression IP, trying to input ultra-high definition images at an ultra-fast frame rate while using an older FPGA technology will probably not be feasible because the clock rate would be too slow.
“We had an excellent experience with CAST’s pre-sales and post-sales business and technical teams. CAST’s business team was always there to connect us to the right technical folks within the company and their technical support team has been excellent in terms of their knowledge, response time, and willingness to go the extra mile to support our aggressive timelines.”
— Srivi Dhruvanarayan,VP Hardware, SiMa.ai
No one knows the product as well as we do and no one knows the project requirements as well as the customer, so facilitating these discussions is the job of our sales engineers. By identifying any potential issues early, we avoid post-sales problems that would impact the customer’s project.
Though it is sometimes overlooked, we have always understood that the quality of our IP documentation is as important as the coding and functional quality of the IP itself.
“CAST made it possible for us to get high quality, reliable CAN-related IP from one vendor with the feature set we required. CAST IP was easy to integrate and came with detailed documentation.”
— Srivi Dhruvanarayan,VP Hardware, SiMa.ai
CAST customers receive complete and comprehensive documentation that outlines all of the functionality of the product that is needed from a user’s perspective. This accurate and detailed documentation facilitates our job of helping the customer succeed from pre-sales understanding of the product capabilities throughout the customer’s design and production cycle.
Part of the Design Team
Then there are architectural decisions that need to be made by our customers. Being consulted as part of the design team is important to the customer optimizing the performance of our IP while also optimizing the performance of their entire system.
Our sales engineers have experience with applications in all market segments and have probably dealt with similar design requirements in other projects. We will even suggest less expensive products when it makes sense. For example, Motion JPEG might be a great alternative to a more costly and more complicated H.264 implementation. Or a low-power and low-cost 8051 might be perfect for controlling a sensor instead of using our 32-bit processors.
“CAST is very responsive to our needs and collaborated with us to come up with the best technical solution. They offer a unique IP core that is highly sophisticated and not only gives us a technology edge but speeds our time-to-market. Their technical support is excellent. This is truly a win-win relationship.”
— Brad Kashani, CEO, Bigstream Solutions, Inc.
Our design engineers know the product inside and out and can help fine-tune parameter settings for optimal project performance. The original developers of the IP are part of this team, so the technical expertise we offer to even potential customers is unmatched.
For example, successful GZIP data compression design requires complex trade-offs between performance, area, latency, and throughput. The vast performance data and experience we offer to users of our GZIP cores prove helpful to experienced compression system designers and invaluable to those new to this challenging task.
Traditional Customer Support Too
Then there are the usual customer support questions.
While our contractual obligation is only to answer questions directly related to our product, we realize that the customer’s issues regarding using our product with their tools directly impact their overall success.
Many of the support issues we tackle are related not to our IP but rather to helping customers get their tools to work. Beyond regular use of the tools, the FPGA vendors constantly update their design tools — frequently presenting challenges—or the customer may want to use a brand new LINT tool. The relatively unique access to the actual IP developers we offer comes into play here as well: who else will review those LINT warnings?
When there is an issue found with our product, we generate a new release immediately. We do not keep a “bug list” of fixes waiting for a new official release. Instead, we notify and, if desired, update all customers under a support and maintenance contract.
"I am very satisfied with the CAN-FD IP because it has been functioning stably without any problems since we purchased it. Also, this is my personal opinion, because our tools (product) are a product line that has to be supplied for nearly 10 years. The most troublesome situation is that IP vendors have abolished IP and will not accept inquiries. It's been a long time since we bought this IP, but since I'm still upgrading it, I don't think we are worried about it for the time being. I am glad that I chose CAST's IP from among several candidates at that time."
— Yusuke Awano, DTS Insight Corp.
Even if a customer who no longer has support and maintenance has an issue, we will look at the issue and see what we can do. Because getting the customer’s project completed with our IP integrated is our highest priority and the single measure of our customer care success.
Customer Care Completes the CAST IP Experience
In retrospect, these fundamentals of complete customer care seem obvious. But it took us years to refine them, working with hundreds of different customers, each with their unique situation and challenges. Reports from the field suggest that even today, not all IP providers act similarly.
You’ll appreciate our customer care approach from your first visit to our website, where you can review considerable technical documentation without registration. It will then continue as you contact our Sales team and get their help in hopefully finding a great match to your needs within our product portfolio. Once you license CAST IP, you’ll see we’re right there as you need us through design and on into product tape out.
That’s our commitment to customer care, and another aspect of how the experience you have choosing and integrating CAST IP can help you develop more competitive products on budget and on time.