The final piece of the puzzle in building a winning tech support team
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  • 1. The Final Piece of the Puzzle in Building a Winning Tech Support TeamNow that you have a new and improved technical support team in place, you need to letpeople know. This includes departments within your company and external customers,both of whom need different types of marketing. This article will outline some ideas onhow to spread the good word.Where to StartWhat happens when you tell someone to do something? The person’s reaction will bebased on your relationship with them. An acquaintance might tell you “no.” A friend willexplain to you why they aren’t going to do what you told them. Your kids will pretend toobey while they secretly do exactly the opposite. Your employees will sometimes do youthe honor of attempting to do what you tell them to. That, frankly, is as good as you willever get by telling someone to do something.Have you ever had any luck telling someone at your company who doesn’t report to youwhat to do? Me neither. So what you need to do is sell it to them. This is not a one-timedeal—you are looking to ingrain deep-seated changes and repeated transactions. That isthe realm of marketing.Changing PerceptionsHave you ever been served a plate of food that looked exactly like the picture on thecommercial? Did you lose that weight like the health club promised? Were you able to getthose stubborn stains out like it says on the bottle of cleaner you bought? That’s marketing.You have to talk about the ideal case, the goal. Don’t shoot too high, using words like“guarantee” or “perfect.” Those words will come back to bite you. Also avoid shooting toolow, using phrases like “if we are lucky.” That kind of attitude will undermine you rightfrom the start. Rather, the perception that you need to set goes something like this:“We have made some major changes. We are now better organized and better trained. We aremonitoring and measuring ourselves to ensure that we consistently perform at a high level.You can trust us.”Internal Marketing
  • 2. You are going to need to market your team to the rest of your company before you try itwith external customers. You will also want to involve other departments in your externalcustomer marketing effort. You do, however, have a small window of time to accomplishthis. If the external customers discover the new technical support system for themselves, itwill lose some of the impact and you will get less credit for it.Focus on the benefits each department will receive from your improved support system.When you are talking to salespeople, talk about salespeople. When you are talking todevelopers, talk about developers. When you are talking to accounting, talk aboutaccountants.1. SalesWhen salespeople get together for their three-hour martini lunches, they probably playdarts with your picture up on the board. Unfortunately, difficult relationships betweenyour departments is a lot to overcome, but since they are keenly aware of the problems,you should have no trouble beginning a conversation on how to solve them.Salespeople are focused on sales, so you need to explain this in terms of how it will helpthem close more sales. For example, you can tell them that they will be spending less timeon the phone troubleshooting problems. They will also be able to call existing customersand ask for more business more easily. There will not be a large support problem standingin the way of customer satisfaction and developing the relationship further.You need to provide Sales with both a new support transition script and a process forturning support cases over to you. The script can be fairly simple: “Yes sir, I understandthat this issue is important to you. We have just spent a lot of time revamping our technicalsupport system, and the team is much faster at figuring out solutions to problems than Iam. They really care about fixing problems for you, so I trust them to take care of this.” Youwill have to determine which process will work best in your company. My recommendationis that you keep it simple. If you give the salespeople a checklist of information to gather,then they won’t bother. An email to the helpdesk with the customer’s name is perfect. Ifthey can give you some indication of the type/severity of the problem, that is even better.You can also ask them to call you personally so that you can take down the information andcreate the case yourself.2. MarketingMarketing lives on happy reference-giving customers, so they will be glad to follow behindyou to dig for quotes and references. It is important for the company that you help them to
  • 3. do that. Automating customer satisfaction surveys, for example, will be very useful.Marketing feeds sales. Those quotes and reference customers are your long-termmarketing program with the salespeople, helping you reinforce their new behavior. Don’tyou just love it when a plan comes together? I hate buzzwords, but that is synergy.3. AccountingThe new technical support system will also provide support cost data that can be allocatedto each specific customer. Right now, the accountants are probably just spreading the costsof technical support across each customer based upon the amount that the customer haspaid. If they can get data from you on how much technical support time each customeractually spends, then they can account those costs in a more accurate way. Such a level ofunderstanding of your costs per customer is a tremendously powerful profit-maximizingtool. Upper management and product planning can use this data to target products to moreprofitable segments of customers. You can use it to argue for raising the support billings onthe least profitable segments of customers.Your accounting people might not see it at first, but the data about how much time youspend on each customer also helps them get the invoices paid. Customers who are using alot of support time are clearly using the service, meaning they have no choice but to pay thefull invoice price. The few who do not pay on time can be influenced by collection calls thatthreaten to cut off their technical support. Customers who are not using much technicalsupport time, however, will likely need additional marketing about the benefits it. You canalso consider giving them discounts.4. DevelopmentYou will need to engage the development team if you plan to hire your own developer. Thedevelopment manager might react skeptically, so buy him/her lunch and pitch the idea.You can prepare for your conversation beforehand by gathering some data about howmuch time the developers spend working on bug fixes and how frustrating that is for them.Make notes, and take those notes to lunch with you. You need to sell this to the manager interms of fewer interruptions and fewer headaches.It is important to get the development manager on board with your plan because you willneed his/her help. The manager must be willing to interview your candidates, train yournew support developer on the code base and the source code control tools and invite yourdeveloper to meetings. You can’t force that, so gently suggest it after outlining how having adeveloper in support will benefit the development team and the company at large.
  • 4. External MarketingThe sales and marketing teams will do most of the work for you on this. They may not run afull marketing campaign about how support is no longer terrible, but they do have a ton ofautomated messages and informal scripts that they can insert little announcements into.The most important script is the one mentioned above for the salespeople to use when acustomer confronts them with a problem. That personal recommendation is worth morethan all of the rest of this marketing combined. You won’t get that personalrecommendation very often though, and certainly not to all of the contacts at everycustomer, so you have to do the rest of these announcements to fill in the gaps.Your company probably already has all of these customer communications going:• newsletter• automated emails to website visitors and new customers• cover letters with invoicesAsk the sales and marketing teams to include a recommendation of the new technicalsupport system in some or all of those communications. Trust them to find the rightlocations and messaging.You communicate with customers too, so take advantage of that. When someone opens acase in your helpdesk they should get an automatic email confirmation. Personalize it. Hereis what I wrote for the Journyx helpdesk:“Dear ________,We have received your cry for help. We have logged it in our helpdesk under this casenumber: #########Our support ninjas monitor the helpdesk from 7am to 6pm (Central US time), Mondaythrough Friday. They sneak in some other times, but we cant make any promises aboutthat.A real person will read this case within two hours (during the times listed above). Wetriage and deal with critical issues first. So if your payroll is threatened or your site is down
  • 5. you should expect to hear from us soon. And we try to reply to all problems that get to usbefore 4:00pm on the same business day.You can reply to this email to update your case. Or you can call us at 800-755-9878 ext2 (US) or 512-834-8888 ext 2 (everywhere else).”The internal response to that message was near mutiny from the salespeople, and yes, wehave had a handful of negative reactions from customers. On the other hand, we have hadhundreds of positive reactions from customers:“I love it. I’m glad I’m getting help from a real person instead of some software system.”“Ninjas save the day again. You guys rock!”Clearly I won. I take great personal pride from that, even though I am planning on rewritingit. I’m thinking that the next version will be in free verse.FeedbackTechnical support staff don’t get compliments very often, but it is very important that theydo. Train your people to ask for compliments. The happier the customer is with the workyou did, the bolder you should be in asking for the compliment.There are three great reasons to go the extra mile and ask for the compliments. Firstly, itreally does help the technical support staff to hear it. You can’t keep good technical supportstaff for long if they aren’t getting some validation. Secondly, the act of saying somethingnice about you will reinforce the customer’s good feelings about you. They are significantlymore likely to say something nice about you to someone else if they have already said itonce. That word-of-mouth recommendation marketing cannot be bought. Finally, someonewho is willing to compliment you directly is more willing to serve as a reference or providea quote for your marketing.When you have transformed your technical support team, you will have done somethingtruly spectacular. Good luck with it. Drop me a note and share your success stories.Reference Link: http://www.hr.com/en/app/blog/2012/12/the-final-piece-of-the-puzzle-in-building-a-winnin_hav9ixny.html