Worried about the cost of Support? Focus on making it Effective!

What customers want, more than anything else, is for your support to be effective. They want an answer their request promptly, they want us to understand the problem they are having, and help them fix it. Maybe they’d also like to understand a bit about it themselves. Oh, and could you make it so that this problem doesn’t happen anymore?

Tall order. But we all know this is right, because it’s what we all want. But it’s too expensive to deliver that sort of service to everyone, right?

Wrong.

Delivering effective support is more cost effective than any alternative. It solves problems the first time, eliminating call-backs and telephone-tag. It understands the problem, and takes the right actions to document the work-around, file the right bug report, and make the right change to the documentation. It gets that understanding built into the product, making the product better and more valuable.

You want the virtuous cycle, or the vicious one?

The key is to create a virtuous cycle of great support, product improvement, and customer loyalty & recommendations. It’s a virtuous cycle of good will. Here are the steps:

  • Do a great job of supporting your customers and understanding their problems

  • Build what you learn back into your product

  • Repeat

This is simple, but it’s not easy. And this isn’t just the job of the support team. It takes a whole company focus.

Apple Leads in Tech Support

This recent research is shows the difference you can get when focusing on resolving problems:

The study found that customers from each company are generally satisfied with hold times, ease of reaching an agent and agent professionalism. In contrast, there was a significant difference in the percentage of customers who reported their problem was solved: 53% of Apple customers reported their problem had been resolved on the call, while 45% of Dell customers and only 39% of HP customers reported they were able to resolve their problem on the call.

[From Apple Leads in Customer Satisfaction in Vocalabs Tech Support Study | Vocal Laboratories Inc.]

How to use Twitter in tech support

Twitter is getting another big wave of adoption and many people are asking again what it’s for. How could short broadcasted text messages limited to 140 characters be useful? What utility could it possible have?

For tech support organizations I think it’s very useful, in two primary ways:

  1. for “eavesdropping” on people who are talking about your company or product, and starting a conversation with them
  2. as a signaling mechanism – a way to get a short, simple status message or announcements to an interested group.
    Continue reading “How to use Twitter in tech support”

Service feedback, done right.

Check out the post by Jon Mountjoy on the feedback request from Apple after getting his Macbook Pro serviced at the Apple Store. The folks at Apple have done a very nice job on this process. Compare it to what you do. How does your feedback process make your customers feel?

An interesting example is the feedback process for in-store support at the Apple Store:

… There was no logging in, no tedious filling in of silly details. I’m a community member (okay, a customer) – they have all that recorded and integrated with this web property. Awesome. Now I want to fill it in – after all I just had to push one button to get here. Nice touch in having the Genius name there too.

[From Get better at soliciting explicit customer feedback — Jon Mountjoy]

Commercial email, or even tweets, aren’t necessarily spam

  Spam in Twitter is becoming a problem. Full 75% of my new followers yesterday were some kind of crass commercial, “I’ll show you how to twitter for money” or “check out my new multi-level marketing scheme.”

But some folks are using twitter for their business in some useful and interesting way. The latest I’ve learned about is a bunch of food twitters, including @chezspencergo, just profiled on sfgate.com:
Continue reading “Commercial email, or even tweets, aren’t necessarily spam”

Managing ROI for Community Managers | TheLetterTwo.com

My friend Ken wrote a nice piece a couple days ago about ROI and the role of the community manager. In particular, I liked this observation:

… The community is not a structured presence. You cannot simply pen in the community as they’re a wild herd of virtual voices. The skill of the community manager is their expert knowledge in finding these “voices” and listening to them.

[From Managing ROI for Community Managers | TheLetterTwo.com]

Darius says “Go read the whole thing…”

Identity basics – The Identity Quartet

Last week I attended the VRM West Coast Workshop and one of the many impressive folks I met there was Joe Andrieu of Switchbook. In a recent blog post, Joe describes the The Identity Quartet – the key services that allow user to express their identity in online services. It’s one of the most clear descriptions of the identifier issues I’ve read. Joe even makes the point:

The Identity Quartet pattern isn’t rocket science. In fact, it makes things simpler when it comes to security, maintenance, and user control. The Quartet makes systems more flexible and more secure while giving users more freedom to manage how they interact and present themselves online. It is one way to turn user-centric Identity services of OpenID and Information Cards into truly user-driven Identity.

[From The Identity Quartet]

His post is recommended for anyone wanting to start understanding the issues of identity and security in internet applications and services. Check it out!

ProjectVRM Blog » VRM and the Four Party System

I’m not sure I like “4th party” as a description. We spent way too much time at the VRM West Coast Workshop wrangling over the naming of firs, second and third. But when you get past all that, this key idea is really something big:

VRM is about enabling the first party. It is also about building fourth-party user-driven (and within that, customer-driven) services, which make use of first-party enablement.

Fourth parties will provide many services for first parties. In fact, VRM should grow large new fourth party businesses, and give new work to large old businesses in the same categories. (Banks, brokers and insurance companies come to mind.) Native enablements, however, need to live with first parties alone, even if fourth parties provide hosting services for those enablements.

Fourth parties also need to be substitutable. They need service portability, just as the customer needs data portability between fourth (and other) party services. That way whatever they can provide can be swapped out by the user, if need be.

[From ProjectVRM Blog » VRM and the Four Party System]

The combination of service portability and data portability doesn’t just put the user in charge, it also makes the data better. Companies should be very interested in that.

Performance and Failure

Some things that seem to be good are actually failure.

I’ll use an example tech support pros will all know: A customer calls, you know the answer, you give it to them and it works, and everyone is happy. Simple, straightforward, case closed. Right?

No. This is a failure. Simply put, if you knew the answer then why did the customer need to call you for it? Why wasn’t the answer quickly available to them? Why wasn’t it already fixed in the product?
The answer immediately at hand for tech support tells you that something else has failed to work, or isn’t completed. Measure it, for sure, but you must drive those known answers out of your system.

In your business, what is it that looks on the surface like a good thing, but is actually an indicator of a more fundamental failure?


ProjectVRM Blog » Markets are Hanging Up On Customers

This just cracked me up…

Markets are Hanging Up On Customers

I just recorded my call with Apple Support to improve customer service:

[Click to listen] How to hang up on a Mobile Me customer.

[From ProjectVRM Blog » Markets are Hanging Up On Customers]

Follow the link and have a listen. Truly amazing.