Another inconvenient truth.
Posted Feb 1, 2007
Poor support creates negative headlines, reduces brand equity, and ultimately reduces the business valuation for technology-based companies. In today's highly competitive technology market, competitors' offerings are so close to each other that quality support is often the only perceived differentiator. Two factors that magnify the challenge of providing great support follow:
Consumer and business user behaviors have evolved due to widespread adoption of life-changing technologies--their expectations and support requirements have risen dramatically.
Due to cheaper options many companies have given in to temptations that pushed them into becoming more expense centric rather than user centric, to the detriment of their respective market shares. Currently, many companies are trying to force fit their existing expense-centric support model to this new user support dynamic, but are having trouble doing so and missing the mark with user expectations.
Today, the common dilemma decision-makers face is, How do we provide great support at the lowest manageable cost? The answer is actually simple: Understand and cater to your user-base requirements, set realistic financial priorities, and develop a support plan that incorporates both a user- and expense-centric strategy, in that order. Success is not achieved top down, it's bottom up.
How Users Have Changed in Behavior
The world of consumer and business end users has changed dramatically and users have become more demanding. They want their technology to work--and expect to get instant and efficient help when they encounter problems. In summary, client requirements have changed and the support strategy needs to adapt. Consider the technologies we use today--most not available just five years ago:
Communications: cell phones, wireless devices for in/out of the home
Entertainment: digital satellite, digital cable TV and radio, music-enabled handhelds
Internet access: broadband versus dialup, cell phones and handhelds
Digital phone: VoIP
Intelligent applications in the health industry: pharmaceutical, scheduling appointments with doctors and dentists. diagnostic research, selection of health services by region, medical flexible spending accounts
Finance: online banking, online trading
Retail: purchasing, instant credit checking, online catalogs, trading/online auctions
Intelligent vehicles: automatic maintenance, diagnostics
Intelligent appliances: household appliances, communications devices, global positioning satellite, smart home applications, pet identification scanners/implants
Most buyers of these products and services do not even recognize the vast changes the technology has made in their daily lives; however, they have become reliant on it. When their technology doesn't work right, they go into withdrawal and quickly become agitated.
To be successful in providing technology support, a company needs to have a strategy that caters to a manageable support-expense model designed to meet clients' requirements:
Partner with an outsourcer that complements your core competency and provides you with a function that is outside of your core focus
Partner with an outsourcer that does not engage in transactional labor techniques
Partner with an outsourcer and set up a contract that drives a WIN/WIN/WIN
Make sure the outsourcer has skin in the game
Tap the information versus transactional delivery
Perfecting the art of support is important to brand equity and company valuation. The key to successful support is first call closure and attrition management, providing rapid solutions by experienced people. Core competency should drive all in-house and outsourcing decisions. Don't let regional price temptations lead your support strategy. Regional locations should be a part of a global support strategy, not just based on price. Support strategies led or influenced by operational financial pressures typically lead to the wrong results, not to true customer satisfaction. The bottom line is, clients can buy technology products and services from many companies. Selling quality products and providing quality support is the differentiator for keeping clients coming back.
About the Author
Tom Topolinski is an executive at Sutherland Global Services. Please visit www.suth.com.
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