When Dealing With Emergencies, What Are the Best Ways to Ramp Up Customer Support?
The best companies are increasingly aware of the need to be able to scale their support in an instant.
Posted Aug 18, 2003
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For the customer support is always an emergency. And some types of products are automatically prone to crisis or seasonal needs. For example, Intuit's Turbo Tax will always experience the majority of its support calls during tax season. XactWare, a company that supports insurance claims specialists, needs to ramp up support at a moment's notice after every natural emergency, e.g. tornado, blizzard, earthquake, or fire. These companies expect spikes in support calls. However, nearly every company, large or small, is subject to the potential for a customer support crisis. What would your company do in the event of a product recall? A critical virus attack? An unexpected new product flaw? The best companies are increasingly aware of the need to be able to scale their support in an instant. And the smartest companies have found ways to accomplish that goal at no cost or at the lowest possible cost. What are their tools? There are primarily two: 1) savvy use of Web self-service; and 2) outsourcing options that are specifically geared toward the ability to scale seamlessly when support needs suddenly rise. At the first level, your best defense is the smart use of Web self-service and knowledge-based management. By directing customers at every juncture to good self-service options, a company is able to dramatically decrease the impact of any sudden spike in demand. At any point the customer has the option of reverting to a traditional phone call. But if the self-service options are good ones, the majority of customers will choose to support themselves and will be happy about making that choice. This support model makes good sense in any season, but in a time of support crisis, the cost of supporting the additional customers who are able to serve themselves is entirely free. And those who choose email or Internet chat options are being served with a far greater level of efficiency than those who require traditional calls. The second option is outsourcing. Consider this: For a company to keep extra rosters of support personnel trained and on reserve is an expensive proposition. In addition to the benefits costs and facility issues, it is a gargantuan task for an individual company to keep cadres of support personnel trained and available to jump in on short notice. But for a quality outsourcer, which is able to amortize the training, space, and wages across a spectrum of clients, the ability to double or triple support resources at a moment's notice is yet another reason that outsourcing at least a portion of your technical support may make increasingly good sense. You only pay for the support you actually use--but you have the assurance of knowing that the additional resources are always at hand. For a successful company, scalable customer support is one of the best forms of accident insurance. You hope not to use it--but your company can rest much easier knowing that if and when it's needed, the resource is already there.
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