How The Customer Experience Can be Revolutionized in Tech Support

Posted by: in Customer Experience on July 21, 2009

If you work at a company, think about how many customers you have worldwide.  It’s probably a lot.

Then realize that the average company interacts with less than 10% of its customer base each year.  Said another way, the average company does not communicate with more than 90% of its customer base each year.  And, the 10% who are calling or inquiring are often dissatisfied, which prompts the call.

Why is this happening?  Well, it’s simple.  We like to hang on to old models until they don’t work effectively……and then hold on even longer in hopes that we might be wrong…….and then wait to see what our peers are doing before we dare make a move to transform a model.

The current technical support model relies on people calling us by phone or inquiring via email.  In other words, if you  can find us online or you have enough patience to wait online on the phone, it is possible you might get helped.  It’s also possible you might just waste your time.

I have tremendous respect for people who work in technical support.  They are on the front lines everyday with the customer and, in many respects, no one has more impact or more knowledge of the customer.  Many are heroes and I’ve found they deeply care about the customer.

However, the model they are forced to work under is often what I call a dinosaur model.  It’s time for  its extinction.

Here’s why.

When customers are looking for answers, they generally do one of four things.  They utilize search to find an answer online.  They go to a specific Q&A area online like Yahoo! Answers.  They check out their favorite forum for answers.  Or they ask their peers for advice in their own community.

They increasingly do not call a company unless they have exhausted their options.

We live in an age of self-sufficiency due to the increasing capabilities of the web.  Customers will  find their own answers without us.  They would prefer to ask their peers, who they believe to be completely unbiased.

The answer is simple.  Unleash the passion and expertise of today’s technical support team at your company.  Reverse the technical support model and spend the majority of the day providing answers online for your customers.  Participate in forums, answer questions on Yahoo! Answers, understand where your customers go for information via search and ensure you  are on that first screen.  Tell your own friends how to get info on your Facebook page.  And then, when the phone rings, answer it, but be prepared to let your caller know where they can go for  information in the future.  Become part of the longer term solution to encourage self-sufficiency.

The result will be the best customer experience ever experienced by your customers.  They will be amazed and appreciative at how they can get help without calling or  inquiring.  You save both time and money.  And, if  you do a great job online, the word of mouth will quickly travel offline.

All it takes is courage to change your model.  Courage and a dash of innovation.

All the best, Bob Pearson

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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3 Responses

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  1. Great point. While “customer experience” is often code-speak for marketing and sales, actions across the organization are potent contributors. All drive whether a customer experience makes – or costs – money for a company.
    I would add that choosing among (or all) form the tech support actions above requires understanding which match the target experience for a specific product, customer group or company. More isn’t ALWAYS good, but these are fab ideas. You might be interested in this discussion of customer experience from inside the company – does it trigger more ideas? http://bit.ly/WCzDs Thanks for a good post.

  2. Bob, call me stubborn, but I still believe that the “customer corps” model that I proposed for Dell has some potential to relieve the tech support challenges of companies with large existing customer bases. Granted, it wasn’t ranked well on IdeaStorm. Here’s the concept, once again.
    http://dhdeans.googlepages.com/dellcustomercorps
    Regards, David

  3. Linda and David, thanks for adding great points. Linda, the link you included gets to the core message for companies. Build trust in every place that you have contact with a customer, not just at the transaction. It’s about building a relationship that is worthwhile for both parties. Thanks for sharing.
    David, I like your idea. It gets to the root of what is happening online. When 3 out of 4 people look to their peers for advice before making a purchase, it’s pretty obvious that they may also look to their peers for advice when they have a problem. The smartest companies will figure out how to facilitate this happening on a grand scale with their customers. The “old school” will try to handle it themselves and wait for folks to contact them. Someone will be smart enough to adapt your idea.
    I’m sure there will be a follow-up post on this topic. All the best, Bob

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