Now let me preface this post by saying…
I am writing this article from my professional experiences, inside of a software company which provided enterprise support for its products, as well as from the perspective of the Enterprise Customer. I am intentionally discarding all experiences with support as a home user, and even as a small business owner. This is specific to Enterprise Support, consumer support plays by different rules.
Value Your Customers Time And Investments
Your customers have invested in your products, once a customer buys a product they are no longer customers, they are partners. Your partners are extremely intelligent people who chose your product because of that aforementioned intelligence (if this is not true then why do you sell it?). With regards to their investments your partner’s employees are also an investment, and if you waste their employee’s time, you are robbing your partner of productivity which will NEVER be regained.
This is real money folks. If your partner has someone making $50/hour on a phone call with support and they spend 1 hour trying to resolve the issue this means that not only is your customer losing the $50 that they are paying them, but there is another invisible $50 which is lost due to the lost productivity. Your customer is willing to deal with this IF you keep the waste to a minimum.
Don’t Make Support A Profit Center
Support should never be a profit center, once an organization switches support from being a cost center (something that costs the company money) to a profit center (something that makes the company money) the company will start to make decisions which will increase profitability and alienate customers. This will result in more marketing dollars being spent to neutralize the ill-effects of your support organization. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t have a problem with paying for support, and I am not advocating that it be free or even cheap. Ultimately the support organization should NEARLY pay for itself (unless of course there is some large recall required), what should not happen EVER, is customers should never be pressured to put a failed drive back in a system to see if it would rebuild. This sort of thing might be common practice, but it shows the customer that we don’t value their data and their business.
Market The Organization Not The Product
Products come and products go… A good support organization will actually pull in its own Enterprise Customers, I would submit that a portion of your marketing dollars could actually be spent on making critical changes in your support organization. This approach is invaluable when your organization is small and flexible, and the products down sell themselves.
Once the changes are made and you have a phenomenal support organization then you should spend a little bit of your marketing budget on advertising your support organization, since from an Enterprise Customer perspective it is all about risk mitigation and cost containment. Highlight this, show the world the changes that you have made.
Build Your Organization For Success
If you are a US-based company, you had better make sure that if you use any overseas support that they speak english really well (this also goes for really deep accents from anywhere). I don’t have a problem if the support center is in India or Mexico or Singapore or wherever, but if we cannot communicate clearly then forget it. It won’t matter how good the support was all I will remember is straining to understand what you are saying. Remember that when I call you, I am already having a bad day at best, don’t make it worse. Your employees should always provide attentive customer service, it should be prompt and respectful. However they should also be technically adept and there should be a clear and logical path of escalations. If someone needs a script then let them go work for your competitor, your organization will be much better off.
These four components will create a support organization which will actually help sell your product, instead of giving customers a reason to complain about your company.