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There are numerous hot topics facing the Support Services community today, many of which are keeping support executives and their leaders from having restful night’s sleep. One of these hot topics is how to retain top Support talent in an ever-increasingly competitive job market. As part of TSIA’s Support Services research and advisory practice, we’ve been tracking these trends and topics with the information through member surveys, benchmarking assessments, and feedback from the largest membership of any TSIA practice.

In this blog, I’m going to share the top 6 elements of an employee retention program that you can learn more about by attending our upcoming TSW conference.

#1. Reduce Employee Effort

Just as it is important for member companies to continually drive down customer effort through the targeted use of customer effort surveys, driving down employee effort is of equal importance, as it permits Support employees (all employees, really) to focus on the core aspect of their service delivery roles. Reducing employee effort can be accomplished through the following key methods:

Automation

Use of technology to automate the support process of entitlement and case routing not only reduces the customer effort associated with submitting a new incident or case, but it also ensures that the appropriately skilled and trained support engineer efficiently and automatically receives the types of case incidents that they are skilled in solving.

In turn, this helps to maximize support engineering time on case response and resolution and not on the administration necessary to manually route and manage incoming customer incidents. A win-win for the customer and the Support employee.

Collaborative Customer Support Models

Using proven methodologies such as collaborative/swarming customer support has been proven to reduce the volume of Support-to-Support transfers by allowing the best-skilled employees to receive, own, and resolve new cases. For those issues where additional or advanced technical skill is required, collaborative/swarming allows the Support team to swarm and collaborate with the case owner to provide technical guidance and recommendations that helps the case owner solve the problem without the additional effort of transferring to the next higher tier level.

The added bonus that results from collaborative/swarming support is a continuous infusion of technical knowledge imparted by the swarming team to the support engineer that owns the incident throughout the entire case management life cycle.

#2. Public Recognition and Appreciation

Working in the Support Services industry is an extremely challenging profession. I mean, who else would willingly wake up each day with a smile on their face and in their voice, only to jump back into a packed queue full of customer problems and challenges? An accompanying practice that injects an amazing amount of energy and enthusiasm back in the Support organization is for the leadership team to take the time to highlight individuals and teams’ regular accomplishments and achievements that might otherwise go unnoticed. Such examples can include highlighting the complex issue that the swarming team helped to resolve, the off-hour support case that was willingly responded to (and resolved) by two of your geographically-dispersed support engineers, the consultative recommendation by one of your support engineers to a strategic customer for a new product or service that the customer desperately needed to learn about (and purchase)!

These are just a few of the many examples throughout Support that if just noticed by leadership, can garner that public recognition for your Support professionals, that are then reciprocated with employee appreciation and loyalty. A kind and supportive word of public recognition costs but a moment of time but has an endless payback for the employee and the leader delivering the recognition.

#3. Employee Satisfaction and Effort Measurement

We all know that when Support employees are happy, fulfilled, challenged, and content with their work environments and their jobs, that their satisfaction levels transfer directly to the customer on the other end of the line. So, a well-rounded employee survey program is key to receiving actionable employee feedback and helps to ensure that your employees are functioning at their optimum level of internal and external happiness and satisfaction.

Here are the key employee measurements that should always be in place to ensure your employees’ voices are being heard and acted on for continuous improvement:

  • Employee Satisfaction: The most basic entry point for assessing employee health (measures “hygiene” issues such as salary, office space, benefits, job, and promotions)
  • Employee Engagement: Looks for emotional connection to the company and fosters curiosity
  • Employee Net Promoter: Similar to the traditional NPS question but geared towards whether or not an employee would recommend their place of employment
  • Employee Effort: Similar to the traditional Customer Effort question but geared towards the employee agreeing/disagreeing that the company makes it easy for the employee to do their job

#4. Employee Performance Feedback

Organizations that perform at consistently high levels routinely provide feedback to their employees. The majority of our member companies deliver a performance review for their Support staff members annually, but many deliver performance reviews bi-annually, quarterly, or continuously. When writing performance evaluations, to garner the maximum benefit for the employee, we recommend writing goals that are SMART, an acronym for the 5 elements of SMART-based performance goals that ensure your performance goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

In addition to receiving employee performance feedback, another sub-element related to employee performance feedback are peer reviews. Peer reviews help to generate and foster a culture of openness and sharing by allowing peers within each business unit, with similar technical competencies, to openly share feedback on one another’s performance.

#5. Professional Development Through Training and Skills Development

There is more staff movement in Support teams today more than previous years. Most organizations are working extremely hard to balance increasing technical skills but also working hard on new navigational skills that will be necessary for the next generation of Support.

TSIA’s believes in a well-rounded Support training program that includes skills development in the following key skill-based areas:

  • Business skills
  • Customer service/soft skills
  • Technical training on company products
  • Technical training on other vendors’ products that are supported
  • Cross-sell and upsell
  • Security and privacy
  • Social support

Additionally, ensuring that your Support team members have a defined career path that will ensure that you retain them throughout their tenure, but also to minimize the opportunity for your seasoned support engineers to be lured away from Support by other business units that see these individuals as a treasure trove of experience.

The last component of professional development includes the opportunity for your Support team members to receive formal Support-based certifications that are recognized throughout the company and the industry as high value-add. And by the way, TSIA has collaborated with our partner, Miller Heiman Group to create the Support Staff Excellence (SSE) program, which offer the following Support certifications:

While everyone is welcome to receive individual staff certification, TSIA members have exclusive access to receiving certification for their entire organization.

#6. Compensation and Reward

Besides having a fair compensation and competitive benefits package, Support professionals care about pleasing their customers and providing the optimal level of support service and quality. What better way to add to employee compensation than incenting your Support professionals with team-based customer satisfaction goals. TSIA’s Support Services benchmarking indicates that the best run support organizations incent and reward their support engineers with a variable compensation option that adds meaning and value above and beyond base compensation.

Additionally, the trust relationship that support teams historically develop with their customers results in an amazing opportunity to provide value-based consulting and advice that can result in upsell/cross-sell opportunities that Support can initially identify, and that Sales can then close.

Learn More About Employee Retention at TSW

At our upcoming Technology & Services World conference, taking place May 4-6, we’ll be covering this topic in more detail, sharing additional data and examples. Be sure to register today to take advantage of the valuable insights you can look forward to in our Support Services track, featuring sessions from some of the industry’s leading Support Services experts and thought leaders, including:

  • “Automate Your Way Out of Admin and Free Up Time to Deliver More Customer Value,” presented by Tricentis
  • “AI/ML-Enabled Support: A Recipe to Get Started and Drive Value,” presented by VMware
  • “How Microsoft Support Helped Their Customers and Partners Achieve More,” presented by Microsoft
 

Dave Baca

About Author Dave Baca

Dave Baca is the director of support services research for TSIA. In this role, he provides membership and advisory designed to help member companies optimize their Customer Support organizations (including help desks, call center, and tech support) to achieve and deliver desired customer and organizational outcomes.

Prior to joining TSIA, Dave held various senior leadership roles in Customer Success and Support Services at leading companies such as basys and ANCILE Solutions, collaborating with internal Product Management, Technology, and New Customer Implementation teams. Dave is passionate about helping Customer Support organizations transform and achieve industry-leading results.

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