Where is Support Going?

ASP’s conference in March, hosted by ServiceNow in San Diego, was all about Artificial Intelligence (AI) in support. This, plus many conversations that I have had in the last year with support leaders has got me thinking about where support is going. This is, of course, the kind of thing that ASP cares about and is frequently thinking about.

By Al Hahn, Executive Director, Association of Support Professionals

There are many trends that are making a difference worth noticing, but three really stand out as far as making a significant difference. They are:

  • The Subscription Economy
  • Customer Experience and Customer Success
  • The New Generation of AI

The Subscription Economy

The subscription economy is significant in that it has changed the way that technology companies generate revenue in a very significant way. Instead of receiving revenue credit when a product ships (and the customer is invoiced for the whole price of the product), companies now get much smaller revenue every month or quarter as customers pay for their subscription. It typically tales 2-3 years to make any money on subscriptions. Customers can change products much more easily. This means that keeping customers happy is much more important as it basically equates with actually keeping your customers. Support is not all of the customer experience or customer success, but it is a very significant part of it. We have always felt that support was an important part of keeping customers, but subscriptions have put a fine point on this.

Customer Experience and Customer Success

Subscriptions have really driven home the importance of the customer experience/success. Many companies have a Chief Customer Officer. To be sure, this is sometimes just lip service, but there is a real significance to the attention now paid to customer experiences and customer success. I believe that this is a long-term change. Certainly not all support leaders are taking advantage of this change, but some are. I encourage all of our leaders to rise to the challenge of this. Yes, the politics are scary, but it is better to try to take the strategic high ground than to be following the lead of someone who does not understand support or the effect we have on customers.

The New Generation of AI

Finally, A I has achieved a new generation of maturity and is generating revolutionary changes in support, as well as many other areas. I really believe that bots will provide much of the level one support in the near future. They are already there in some companies. If you want to know more, come to our conference. All of these three trends cause me to think that the landscape is fundamentally changing. In the future, support may morph into more than it is today. I know that tech support people don’t like to hear this, but we have more in common with call centers that take orders than we want to acknowledge. They have the advantage that they generate lots or maybe all of a company’s revenue and they are taking advantage of that. I was made aware of a recent conference that was held for these folks and I was impressed with several things. First, it was big, very big. Attendance was in the thousands. Second, it was tiered. They had tracks for individual contributors through lower level managers, tracks for mid to upper level managers, and tracks for executives. They were providing educational experiences for all levels. Lastly, I noticed that they were using technology to a great extent. In fact, they were ahead of most support organizations in their use of technology. This is part of the difference between a revenue producing organization and a cost center. Having a P&L (profit and loss) center allows an organization to get more budget and make strategic investments that are much more difficult for cost centers. This is why we are a bit stuck on cost avoidance or call diversion in trying to justify budget requests. I think we should consider taking down the walls between support and “customer service” and merge these organizations as the fundamental aspects of keeping customers.

What do You Think?

I realize that many people will not agree with me. I am not averse to being challenged or questioned, so bring it on! I will be delighted if many respond to this article. I can be reached at ahahn@asponline.com.

Related Articles

Improve Customer Experiences by Understanding What Users Want and Need

The ability for a service organization to maintain an acceptable level of customer satisfaction and deliver a reasonable customer experience begins with a company’s understanding of what its customers need, want, and expect. When customer expectations are not well known or more importantly not managed – the instances of dissatisfaction will rise. This article describes the factors that affect customer satisfaction and experience levels.

Salesforce Trailhead

Salesforce Trailhead is a self-paced, online learning platform provided for free to anyone. The platform offers learning on a growing portfolio of Salesforce topics, as well as a variety of other non-Salesforce-specific skills individuals need to be successful in today’s technology landscape. For some companies walking away from training revenue would be unthinkable. This is a bold customer-success focused strategy with benefits to Salesforce, Salesforce professionals and anyone that wants to develop technical and professional skills. Learn more about Salesforce Trailhead.

First Contact Resolution (FCR) Benchmarks

The industry average First Contact Resolution rate is 53.7%, an interesting yet meaningless number for determining what your FCR performance level should be. First contact closure is influenced by so many factors that an industry-wide average does not provide a sufficiently accurate benchmark from which to determine what your FCR performance level should be. Benchmarks at best suggest the “vicinity” for your performance. This article offers industry average FCR rates organized by common product characteristics to offer a guideline for suggesting FCR performance levels.

How IBM Uses Watson

The Service Innovation Series highlights examples of innovative approaches companies take to achieve service excellence. In this Service Innovation profile, we feature IBM’s use of its own Watson technologies as a platform to deliver a new approach to service delivery – Cognitive Support. Read on to learn about IBM Cognitive Support.

Top 10 Practices to Achieve Support Excellence

Technical Support Excellence is the achievement of the maximum positive impact on profitability and reputation of the company, product or brand being supported through the efficient and effective delivery of support. Consider the following 10 practices in your pursuit of technical support excellence.