Customer support. What’s in a name?

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The term ‘customer support’ has gone through several iterations, both in the tech world and beyond, in the 20 years I’ve been working in this industry. Whether that’s customer care, customer service or customer success the list of variants for the name of a team that is essential to the successful running of most businesses seems to grow every year. And the same is true of the growing number of channels used for helping and supporting customers.

Support teams, and their new-fangled chatbot colleagues are essentially all there to serve the same purpose: to ensure customers get what they need out of a product when they need it. But how can tech businesses keep on delivering when customer expectations are constantly growing?

Mission-critical

Customer-centricity has become the buzz term of the decade. With 33% of Americans now saying they would switch companies after having a single instance of poor service, for customer support teams everywhere the stakes couldn’t be higher, especially if there really is a recession looming. As the first port of call for most customers seeking a resolution to their problem, how this is handled will ultimately determine how customers view you, your product and their propensity to return. And businesses are addressing this with some urgency.

In fact, a 2018 Gartner study on customer experience (CX) found that “81% of businesses say they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX” in the next two years. But the criteria for keeping customers happy will vary from business to business.

For a technology business like ours, swift resolution is genuinely critical. People are depending on us and no matter how robust our products are, the needs of every customer are unique and support tickets will inevitably be raised. And when there are problems, it’s critical they are dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. For some of our customers, people’s lives are depending on it.

I’m not simply exaggerating here for dramatic effect. Our technology literally enables organisations to save people’s lives. Our MultiValue Application Platform is used by the emergency services and is instrumental in helping to provide support and communications across emergency crews. So ultimately I know that my team will be judged on their response rate and time to resolution, and these basic KPIs are where I have to focus my attention.

Sticking with what works

We’ve seen a drive in recent years for a new approach to support to emerge. SaaS businesses, for example, have Customer Success teams, often with a Customer Success Manager offering ongoing support or upselling product add-ons. But in my world, ultimately all we care about is keeping our products running smoothly.

So while we are keen to explore and embrace new tech, for me it’s important not to forget the basics. Rapid response to the 26,000+ tickets that are logged every year, plus stellar support available from our 120+ support engineers based in eight countries around the world is the foundation of Rocket Software’s support success. And I am proud of the 96% satisfaction rating given to my team by our customers.

Below I’ve identified four ways tech companies can, in my opinion, build support teams that can be equally as successful.  

1. It’s all about culture

There is a strong sense of how important support is within Rocket Software’s company culture, and this starts at the very top. The success of our customers is vital because our customers are depending on us, and we depend on them. Yes, it may sound cliched, but we’re committed to being a customer-centric business and always will be. This is such an integral part of our culture that we even have a Rocket Community Bill of Rights enshrining eight principles that govern how we behave and respond to customers.

2. Doing what’s right for your customers

At Rocket Software we strive to always do the right thing for our customers, and not be distracted by processes that we feel may not suit their needs right now. For example, we haven’t set up a live chat function on our support site yet as we feel it depersonalises the relationship between us and our customers.

Also, our customers have told us they prefer the person-to-person interaction they get with our support engineers. One of our great strengths is being that “trusted advisor” to our customers. And because some of our support team have worked with us for many years, this has led to an incomparable level of understanding of the business and a deep confidence that cannot come from a purely transactional chat function. That’s not to say this won’t change as customers tell us they’re ready, but right now our customers prefer the personal touch.

3. Embrace experienced staff

The key to our 96% customer satisfaction rating is a balanced support team that includes those with in-depth knowledge and first-hand experience of our complex suite of products. For me it’s an absolute no brainer that your support team should all, at some stage, have used the products they’re offering support for. With this level of experience, my team understands that often customers are using products in ways that hadn’t been envisaged by the R&D department. Having used the products themselves, the team can then resolve the problems more efficiently.

4. Training

Despite having an army of experienced staff, it’s also important to ensure training is embedded in the day-to-day running of the team. As I said, we have multiple, very complex products. So regular training opportunities, whether that’s an off-site training week or one-to-one sessions, ensuring staff are as well equipped as possible means they can keep on exceeding our customers’ expectations.

So what’s next in the world of support? For Rocket Software it will be to reflect the global ambitions of the business and to ensure support teams around the world are sufficiently prepared for this expansion. New technology will undoubtedly play a big part in how I manage my team and how we offer our services to customers. But most importantly it’s how this new technology will complement the skills of my (human) team that excites me, as this is ultimately how we will continue to nurture the relationships we’ve built with our customers, continue to solve their problems and build stronger partnerships.

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