Support Staffers Get Help

In a move expected to revolutionize the delivery of customer support, the Service and Support Professionals Association (SSPA) has launched SSPA Connect, a groundbreaking member-to-member support service.

SSPA Connect, powered by Mountainview, CA--based ePeople, will link more than 2,200 of the SSPA's member call centers through its Web-based platform, allowing support team managers instant access to industry peers. Member support centers utilizing SSPA Connect can pose a customer support question via the Internet and immediately receive feedback from another call center regarding the problem, the SSPA said.

"What we've done here is, create a new system of collaboration; a more formalized network of support," says Bill Rose, founder and chief executive officer of SSPA. In essence, we have really shrunk the world. Now that all our members' call centers are linked, it really doesn't matter where a company houses its support team; they are all connected and can instantly access each other to discuss problems and issues."

One of the most important benefits of SSPA Connect, according to the SSPA, is that each interaction between support centers will be captured and the information can then be reused to tackle similar issues in the future. "The short-term benefits of SSPA Connect is that it drastically reduces response time when dealing with a customer support inquiry. But the long-term benefit is this database of solutions that users can reference that will in time help reduce costs as well as time," says Anil Gupta, vice president of marketing strategy at ePeople.

According to Tony Adams, principal analyst with IT consulting firm Gartner Inc., in Stamford, CT, this collaborative framework is literally the wave of the future for online customer support. "From all the evidence I've seen in the support industry this is exactly the kind of technology that is needed. The future holds a growing complexity of support issues, and one single person will not be able to answer every question that comes up. This is an awesome way for companies to tap into a global resource of support solutions," he says.

Adams also noted that SSPA Connect will create invaluable opportunities for SSPA's smaller member companies that do not have the experience or resources dedicated to customer support to learn from larger member companies like Microsoft and Intel.

Ed Shepherdson, vice president of global customer support at Cognos Corp., agrees that what SSPA Connect offers for support teams is the model future platforms will follow. "There's tremendous benefit to extending your reach beyond your personal network of peers," Shepherdson says. "SSPA Connect offers a community of support professionals that are willing to share their experiences and expertise."

Member firm Reynolds and Reynolds is looking forward to reaping those types of benefits. Reynolds Technical Assistance Centers will first use SSPA Connect to share industry support knowledge and learn from industry peers who may have already solved for a particular situation or problem, says Randy Selleck, director of customer support, North America for Reynolds and Reynolds. The idea, Selleck says, is to take advantage of what others have implemented or learned in a collaborative way. Additionally, SSPA Connect's assistance center managers and associates will have the opportunity to provide their knowledge and experience to others in the community.

"SSPA Connect is truly on the leading edge of offering its technical community the opportunity to collaborate on technical and industry related issues for faster and easier resolution," Selleck says. "As members collaborate on technical solutions, our customers will receive the benefit of faster problem resolution through a larger and experience community, all geared towards a similar mission; servicing customers with speed and excellence."

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