Let me just say upfront that this is an area that has seen major transformations in recent years, so much so that the term “customer support” is almost insulting. Your users are your partners. They are capable, savvy, and busy. This function is not about handholding, but about empowerment and partnership. Support should be as much about facilitating the customer’s control as it is about addressing problems. Anticipating users’ needs and providing them with access and resources they need to address them is just as important as reacting to their questions and issues. Three major areas should be top concerns for platforms that strive to exceed expectations with regard to customer –let’s call it: empowerment- are discussed below. Any system that’s not looking carefully at these areas is simply not providing acceptable service, and believe me, the customers will recognize that.
Here I’m not referring to how long it takes your email to send an automated response. These are fine; they let the customer know that the request or question has been received, but it had better be followed shortly by some action. These clients are not waiting to have their cable connected; they generally need your response in order to carry on with some aspect of their business day.
Lag time is unacceptable! Your response really doesn’t count until the issue has actually been addressed and work can continue. This is your end of the partnership.
NEW RELEASE UPDATES & TRAINING
Updates and improvements are a positive, but confusion is definitely not. There are few-things more frustrating than unannounced changes in software that we use daily. Never leave users to figure out new features on their own; this shows no respect for the partnership and wastes buckets of time.
Training for users must be an integral part of any update, and it should be constant and consistently available. Sometimes a quick tutorial (“What’s New in Version 5.2?”) is sufficient, but for anything significant it’s wise to provide an easy way for users to ask questions. One solution is to provide a webinar on the update (recorded and available for later viewing as well). In this way users can get clarification immediately, and begin to take advantage of improvements right away. This is also a very personalized way to provide the information, putting a more human face on your system.
More on this in my “Webinar vs. Human Contact” blog...
EMPOWER THE CUSTOMER
As I mentioned above, good support gives the user tools and access to do their work efficiently. Your system should never cause users to feel helpless or limited. Carefully consider any functions that you’re setting up to require permissions. Is this necessary? If not, build in the ability for customers to make changes that serve them better without having to call someone. This saves time, empowers the customer, and makes them more proficient users of your system. All good.
But, don’t forget about your workforce! Empowering them via workplace culture and environment is just as important.
Quality support is not about helping users around roadblocks that you have set up. It’s about keeping the road clear and being on hand when a glitch occurs. Open lines of
communication and a partnership mentality create a productive relationship that is what your users are coming to expect. Meeting that expectation is the key to successfully exploiting the potential of technology to make our lives more collaborative, efficient, and even fun.
This new concept of customer support is the fastest-moving tech revolution in business that we will ever see. It’s so paramount to focus on that - to me - this will make or break what products people choose to use and what people they choose to do business with in the future. Are you in?