offshoring and outsourcing

The Tech Support Bill of Rights

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The natives (your customers) are getting restless. They are demanding better service and faster innovation, all at a lower cost, and now it’s time to figure out how to deliver or watch your business die trying.

Look no further then the recent uprising against the airlines that led to this summer’s introduction of new provisions to the Airline Passenger’s Bill of Rights (and also these “rights” from the Department of Transportation).

This was a warning that you need to figure out how to improve your customer service and you need to do it fast or you may find yourself sitting across from George Clooney‘s axe-man character from the movie, “Up In the Air.” Customers spend a lot more time with their technology than they do on planes; so if they can put this kind of pressure on the airline industry, imagine the kind of pressure they are going to put on you.

At Support.com, our business depends on excellent customer service. Based on our experiences, I want to introduce you to the “Tech Support Bill of Rights” so you know the rules in a customer satisfaction-centric world. Second, let me provide you with a way to deal with the conundrum of providing better service at a lower cost while innovating faster.

So here for your consideration are five key articles of our Tech Support Bill of Rights:

Article 1 – The right to courteous service by someone who understands both me and my problem

All too often support lines are populated by people who are not trained to properly diagnose and solve a customer’s problem. Other times they may be trained but don’t understand the customer culturally, and that can also make diagnosis and resolution difficult.

In fact, it happens frequently that both problems exist. After enactment of this Bill of Rights, your customers should be able to reach someone who speaks their language and knows their culture. The support tech should be courteous and conscious of the fact that the very reason your customers are calling is because they are under stress.

Finally, the support tech should be able to communicate what the issue is and how it is to be addressed in plain terms. There should be no jargon or TLAs (three-letter acronyms). Like the Hippocratic Oath says, they should “Do no harm.”

Article 2 – The right to have a tech support service that can change as my needs change

The world is constantly evolving and so are the products your customers use. The Apple iPad is not quite a year-and-a-half old, yet it is on the top of most people’s gadget wish lists while finding its way into mainstream business use.

The Android operating system is about to have its third birthday, and it is already the most popular operating system for mobile phones (even surpassing the seemingly ubiquitous Apple iPhone and the formerly dominant BlackBerry).

Since many of these technologies and gadgets all work together (especially as we move to the cloud), it makes sense that the person helping with one device should be able to help with other devices. To paraphrase “The Honeymooners” star, Ralph Kramden, “humina humina huina” is not the correct answer to a customer’s tech support question!

Article 3 – The right to have the latest tools and knowledge brought to bear on my problem

Not only are the products your customers use changing rapidly, but so too are the tools used to diagnose and resolve the problems relating to those products, as well as the tools used to deliver those repair services.

Why should a high-tech gadget be serviced in a low-tech way? Not only does that put your customer’s product at risk (remember, “Do no harm”) but it also makes servicing the product an inconvenient and time-consuming process.

Your customers use these gadgets to make better use of their time, and time is money. Servicing them shouldn’t make worse use of their time.

Instead, you should be able to diagnose and triage their gadget via the Internet whenever possible, do the work and let them sit back and watch. (As an aside, service techs should solve similar problems the same way each time so your customer knows you are using efficient and well-tested methods and processes).

Article 4 – The right to support services and products that fit “every purse and purpose”

Everyone makes their gadgets unique to their needs and personality. It makes sense then that they want services that meet their unique needs – they know they are not a number, and none of them wants to feel like one of the penguins in this classic Gary Larson Far Side common strip.

The bottom line is that your customers want choice. Maybe they have a very specific problem for which they just want a one-time fix. Maybe they like the comfort of having an insurance plan that protects them in the future when they have an unforeseen problem. Maybe they just want someone to tell them what the problem is and let them fix it themselves. In the end they will demand the choice of products, and you need to be ready to accommodate them.

Article 5 – The right to a guaranteed resolution; otherwise it costs nothing

When looking for help, customers want to know that the problem is going to get fixed. Your customers know that not all problems can be fixed and they don’t want to (nor should they have to) assume that risk.

In other words, if you can’t fix the problem, you shouldn’t charge for it because you haven’t completed your job. The customer will understand as long as you have that agreement and they know you have tried your best. They’ll even respect you more if you can point them to someone who can fix it, even if they work for your competitor.

Delivering support economically

Now that you’re committed to servicing your customers under the Tech Support Bill of Rights, the question becomes, how do you deliver this level of customer support economically?

Well, you could upgrade your existing customer support system, or you could build out a completely new system and perhaps hire and train new agents as part of a brand new customer service initiative.

Unfortunately, that may not be economical.

Having to build the knowledge and the systems to support such an environment takes years and many talented and experienced individuals with specific skill sets. Just finding and hiring them will take a considerable amount of time.

As successful businesses know, it’s best to focus on your core competency and not get distracted by critical, but not core, aspects of your business. In a world where even critical engineering development is outsourced to a highly efficient shop, it’s also common to outsource your customer support.

Thus, in keeping in line with the Tech Support Bill of Rights, and no matter if you outsource or choose to build it yourself (and think they will come), you should consider meeting the following support criteria:

  • North American agents for North American customers
  • State-of-the-art tools and processes that not only make service delivery efficient but also make it consistent
  • The best customer service experience results from a predictable experience (think Starbucks)
  • A plug-and-play support platform that can integrate with your customer’s  core business systems and provide them the data they need to guarantee customer satisfaction with your products

The customer cry these days is “Give me proper tech support or give me death, er, I mean system failure!” Now is the time for your company to “cross the Delaware” and take your own revolutionary step towards improving tech support for your customers.

Marc Itzkowitz is senior director of Product Marketing for Support.com,  whose Personal Technology Experts provide a quick, cost-effective and stress-free technology support experience over the Internet and the phone using  the company’s advanced technology platform. For more information please visit Support.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

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