Companies See Payoffs in New Approaches to Technical Support

"You get what you pay for" is an adage with a sour connotation. It implies that by skimping on price, one also sacrifices quality, an allegation that applies as much to goods as it does to customer service. However, new strategic and technology-based approaches are dispelling this long-held belief, proving that a good customer experience isn't always associated with a high cost. Companies that face increasing competitive pressures must take steps to elevate the client experience or risk jeopardizing what may be the only real differentiator that exists between them and their competitors. And they can do so without breaking the bank.

Many organizations are finding that the best approach to customer service is one that reduces their dependence on manual processes in favor of technologies that empower customers to proactively solve their technical and operational issues, reducing expenses. A growing number of high-tech firms are focusing on creating a rounded service core competency: providing live, highly qualified support personnel assisted by proprietary technologies that help enhance the customer experience.

Progressive organizations are laying the groundwork to deliver the best client experience possible by developing a new generation of tools to assist technical support staff. This toolset includes applications to improve front-end client interactions, such as an online self-service platform that enables customers to address many technical issues on their own, saving time and freeing live technical support personnel to focus on complex cases.

Analytical Tools Support Human Interactions

Companies looking to further improve support services can do so with analytics-based software. These tools can identify and eliminate exceptions, or undesirable customer support events. One example is when a client's technical issue is not resolved on the first instance, forcing support staff to "reopen" the case.

By tracking events such as this, an application can automatically trigger an outbound call to the customer to assure him that the company is aware of the problem and that a more aggressive solution is being applied. Monitoring all activity, the tool generates a monthly report with analytics to help managers determine why exceptions are occurring. With this data, the company can formulate a strategy to limit these events, perhaps by increasing staff training or debugging faulty software.

Promoting Efficient Client Interactions

Another tool helping to promote high customer service levels without requiring additional support staff is a 24/7 communications "hub" that lets clients interact with their solutions provider electronically. This allows for activities such as inquiring about the status of an outstanding technical support issue. A hub can also serve as a platform for hosting online training sessions or conducting informational Webinars. In fact, Emdeon reports that 95 percent of its support case activity is generated through its electronic 24/7 tool, which not only provides an improved customer experience, but also generates cost savings that can be reinvested into other service tools and resources.

Technology firms are also benefiting from applications that track satisfaction levels by allowing customers to rate how pleased they were with their technical support experience. Utilizing scorecards and dashboards, customer service managers have access to daily, weekly, and monthly performance data that can be turned into strategic improvement-enhancing decisions.

Competition among high-tech companies is fierce. Without the highest levels of customer service, firms risk losing their best clients and their reputations as well. More and more organizations today are leveraging technology to improve client support activities without exposing themselves to additional personnel costs. Those that do are seeing fewer inbound support requests, a rise in client approval rates, improved staff availability for complex service issues, lower staffing expenditures, and greater employee satisfaction.

Chris Meffe is senior vice president of strategic partnerships for Emdeon, overseeing strategy, operations, service, support, and sales for channel partner customers.

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