Providing customer outcomes should be a top priority for today’s support organizations. It’s no longer enough to keep a technical asset up and running, but there is now the added expectation to help customers solve their business challenges and deliver measurable ROI. To meet changing customer demands, it is our responsibility as support services organizations to make sure our personnel fully understand their new role in today’s world and equip them with the tools and training they’ll need to maintain and increase customer loyalty and revenue.

Optimizing Support to Provide Outcomes

More than ever before, customers are expecting their solutions providers to not only support their products when they break, but also help them achieve specific business objectives with said products. As a result, your support team will find themselves taking a more active role in helping customers achieve their desired outcomes with the technology they’ve purchased.

To truly understand the transition from reactive support (or product-focused support) to outcome-focused support, it’s important to know what differentiates these operating models.

supplier operating model  

(Click image to enlarge.)
Where does your company fit in the Supplier Operating Model?

If you review the boxes in the diagram above, where do you think your support organization fits? Today, a majority of TSIA members would say they are between the blue and red box. Some members will say they have made the full transition to the red box (CSAT/Loyalty). Less than 5% of members believe they have successfully transitioned to the orange (Customer Business Outcomes) box.

If we know where we are and where we want to go, isn’t it as easy as mapping the course? When I ask our members questions about the ability for support to deliver business outcomes, I’m usually met with silence or a sound that resembles a laugh. The reasons? No money, no headcount, and no time. While I understand their points, the reality is that none of those are going to continue to be accepted by customers as we enter 2016.

In many cases, positioning your support personnel to guide customers down the path to success will require an organizational transformation, but where do you begin? Here are two areas you should start optimizing as your support team begins providing customer outcomes.

Technology

Having the right tools and technology available to your support staff is key to ensuring the best possible customer experience, as well as the ability to scale operational capabilities in the future. Such technology can include CRM tools, knowledge bases, mobile devices, and alternate support channels.

For example, based on recent TSIA benchmark data, we’ve found that there is an ever increasing customer preference to use a self-service channel for their support needs, such as online communities and forums. By establishing an easy-to-use self-service option, your customers will have the ability to seek resolutions to simpler problems themselves, freeing up your support staff to handle customer inquiries that require a more hands-on approach. Customer preferences and expectations have evolved and support engagement strategies must also evolve. If social, mobile, community, and chat channels are not part of your early 2016 planning, they need to be added as customer demand for these channels in business-to-business support is on the rise.

A multi-channel support strategy includes some combination of traditional phone, email, or live chat support alongside social media and self-service offerings (beyond self-service web case creation or knowledge base). Create your strategy to include all elements, and when you do, remember that customers like the option to choose their channel preference. Make sure the ability to switch channels is as seamless as possible, and that the user experience is consistent across all channels. Lastly, track and score the satisfaction across the various channels so that you can optimize your delivery to make sure you are truly delivering a positive and seamless experience.

Though it is important, I don’t want to leave you with the thought that channel tools are the only technology solution you’ll need. Analytics is also an important investment for support in early 2016, but I will touch upon that in the future, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can review our 2016 Support Services Tech Stack report.

When it comes to technology, the companies who will dominate their competition are the ones who stop doing things the “old way” and take the time to review and invest in modern technology. This change will ultimately make their staff and more importantly, their customer’s lives better.

Training

To make sure your staff is on the same page, it’s a good idea to create hiring and training programs that effectively communicate the new outcome objectives. These training programs should properly explain the shift from services that are centered around technical outcomes (break/fix and how-to) to those that are centered on business outcomes. 

Also, because of support’s increased involvement in helping customers achieve their ROI, your support staff is uniquely positioned for upsell and cross-sell opportunities. More and more member companies are revising their compensation structures to reward their support staff for achieving specific goals, such as contract renewal or account expansion, encouraging them to leverage their training to remain involved throughout the entire customer journey.    

However, this is a touchy subject for many members, mostly due to the fact that they feel that support shouldn’t be focusing on sales. I’ve heard every possible reason for why support personnel can’t be involved in upsell/cross-sell. While I’m not advocating turning support into full-time sales representatives, I encourage the idea that the team with the most direct daily contact with customers can expand their traditional role. They can trip the flag in your CRM system to identify a possible lead, which can be followed up on by sales or customer success with a close-loop feedback to support on a regular basis on how those leads are panning out.

If you haven’t already considered this role expansion for support, I’d highly recommend that it be included as part of your 2016 strategy. Companies that are serious about upsell/cross-sell have made this move and it is proving to have a positive impact on their revenue growth.

Good Support Leads to Customer Loyalty, Great Support Leads to So Much More

The support organizations that demonstrate innovative approaches to assisting customers in realizing the maximum business value from the use of its products are going to be the ones who will see the reduced churn and increased upsell/cross sell to their current customers. A customer that is able to successfully use a technology solution to accomplish their goals is less likely to abandon it. If your support team can help your customers reach a realization of the value your solution provides by way of outcome delivery, your organization will be well on its way to increased customer loyalty. It’s time to ready our support teams for an amazing 2016. Let’s lead them through this transformation in a way that shows them how positive outcome delivery is going to be for the customer, the company they work for and ultimately themselves.

 
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Judi Platz

About Author Judith Platz

Judith Platz, is vice president of research, Support Services, for TSIA. During her over 25 years of customer support experience, she has been responsible for supervising and coordinating multiple functional, strategic, organizational development and technical work streams, including technical support, account management, business consulting, implementation management, and training.

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