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PlumChoice: 5 Reasons to Rethink Your Support Strategy


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There’s a tsunami of technology washing over us and a large swath of the population is simply not ready to handle it. According to Gartner, the Internet of Things (IoT) will grow to 26 billion installed units by 2020. 1 That translates to 17 devices for each of a projected 1.5 billion households. With that in mind, consider the number of people you know who still use three remotes to operate their televisions or entertainment systems.

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PlumChoice: 5 Reasons to Rethink Your Support Strategy

  1. 1. 5 REASONS TO RETHINK YOUR SUPPORT STRATEGY Introduction 1. Use it or Lose It 2. Wow Your Customers 3. Get Your Props 4. Slash and Earn 5. Show Me the Money Conclusion
  2. 2. © PLUMCHOICE, INC. 2015 5 Reasons to Rethink Your Support Strategy There’s a tsunami of technology washing over us and a large swath of the population is simply not ready to handle it. According to Gartner, the Internet of Things (IoT) will grow to 26 billion installed units by 2020. 1 That translates to 17 devices for each of a projected 1.5 billion households. With that in mind, consider the number of people you know who still use three remotes to operate their televisions or entertainment systems. Manufacturers are working overtime to produce more advanced devices and marketing groups are spending time feverishly promoting them. You’re responsible for providing support in your customers’ techno-universe and you probably think you have it covered. Here’s a clue: you don’t. Technology promises to make life easier for consumers, but its volume and diversity make it significantly more complex. Up to now, you’ve likely taken a narrow view of support: call me if something goes wrong. Or, you’re focused on helping the customer get the product out of the box and installed. If a need arises involving a device from another company? Sorry, not my problem. You have one or more call centers, so you’re all set, right? Wrong. Support as many know it is reactive: call centers respond to customer inquiries after problems and issues have occurred. Roughly 80% of these calls are standard, homogenous support requests that can be handled effectively, in part because they are frequent and of high volume. The other 20% are more complex ... technical needs that must be addressed by experts not found in most call centers. These calls are infrequent, low-volume and heterogeneous, and normally end in frustration for your customers. Which leaves the company dissatisfied as well. The 20% will grow in difficulty as the complexity and diversity of products increase. That means higher costs and more disgruntled customers if you continue with the current support paradigm. More troubling may be the calls you don’t get: users who have simply given up because they are unable to use their devices or connect them properly to other technology in their home or mobile environments. Your product is just one component in a highly complicated landscape. You need to find a way to simplify the entire experience surrounding your customers’ technology environment. That begins with product selection, continues with installation, and moves on to onboarding, activation, training, integration, and advanced usage. THAT’s the new definition of support, and if you hope to stay competitive, you’d better embrace it. First stop: Expand your concept of support to encompass your customers’ end-to-end experience. Second: Transform your support strategy. Third? Take action. Here are five reasons you must. I N T R O D U C T I O N 2 1 “Forecast: The Internet of Things, Worldwide, 2013,” Gartner, December 12, 2013. ← Back to Table of Contents
  3. 3. © PLUMCHOICE, INC. 2015 A study by Accenture estimated the annual cost of product returns for consumer electronics retailers and manufacturers at $17 billion. That includes the costs of receiving, assessing, repairing, reboxing, restocking, and reselling products. Startlingly, only five out of every 100 were the result of actual product defects. Twenty-seven percent were the result of buyer’s remorse and 68% were simply no fault found returns (NFFR).2 In today’s uber-connected world, some brands are experiencing up to 40% NFFR. How much of that 95% (buyer’s remorse and NFFR) was caused by frustrated consumers who either bought the wrong product or couldn’t figure out how to incorporate the product into their existing technology setup? Customers’ confusion surrounding product purchase, installation and integration is one of the key barriers to acceptance, adoption, and ongoing use of your product. They may want and need a home security system but are overwhelmed by the complexity of the process. Not only do they have to find a product that’s compatible with their existing technology but they also have to figure out how to install and use it properly. Their hesitation translates to a lost sale. If they knew you’d be by their side the entire way to help them buy and install the right product, and then train them on how to use it appropriately, they might be more likely to make the purchase. Once you simplify the process, with additional help they might venture into more complex usage and additional purchases that expand their existing technology landscape. In the case of the home security system, they may buy an additional networked security camera or intercom system for example – and they’re likely to tell their friends how you made the entire experience easy. Building this trust and confidence in your brand will make consumers more likely to consider other new products that you develop and bring to market. Even if the products are outside their normal comfort zone, they may take the plunge knowing you’ll be there to pull them to safety should they need it. R E T H I N K Y O U R S U P P O R T S T R A T E G Y 3 1. Use It or Lose It There’s an old cliché that everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. Something similar could be said about customer satisfaction. Every company vows to improve customer satisfaction, but what are they doing to achieve it? When it comes to technology, customer satisfaction involves making things easy for those buying and/or using your products and services. As they study your product’s quick-start guide and their eyes begin to glaze over, they only have one thought: How do I get this to work and play nice with the rest of my gadgetry? The more effort they expend to make that happen, the longer it takes to experience value, and the greater their frustration, the less satisfied they become. 2. Wow Your Customers 2 Solving the Product Return Problem in Consumer Gizmos, by Eric Savitz, Forbes, January 20, 2012. ← Back to Table of Contents
  4. 4. © PLUMCHOICE, INC. 2015 Simplifying their lives by providing immersive support that extends from pre-purchase guidance to successful integration with their other devices – and beyond – is the best way to enhance your customers’ satisfaction. A conventional support strategy based on customers calling when they’re at wits’ end won’t cut it any longer. The real value to the customer comes not from your product, but from the way they use your device with their other technology to enhance their quality of life. If you want real customer satisfaction and a transformative customer experience leading to repeat sales and buyer loyalty, you must embrace and support your customers at every step of their journey. R E T H I N K Y O U R S U P P O R T S T R A T E G Y 4 2. Wow Your Customers (cont’d) “DIY (Do it Yourself) is the smart home industry’s big lie,” according to a recent story in Forbes magazine. The article goes on to state that despite “claims of easy-installations in the growing smart home market, the reality is many customers will want and need help installing and managing all these gadgets.” 3 The article notes that some companies have begun to leverage the installation market for these technology products, but this still addresses the customer experience problem in piecemeal fashion. Installation is only one part of the process. Brands that embrace the entire spectrum of support, from product education and compatibility assessments to full integration with other companies’ devices will be the ones who differentiate themselves from the pack. By providing a “total experience” support system, you position your brand as an enlightened industry leader and establish your company as an expert. Providing this type of positive brand experience has other benefits as well. You may feel your product is superior in filling a customer need or providing an outstanding entertainment experience. But if customers can’t get the device to operate properly in their home, they’re not going to point the finger at themselves. Providing post-purchase training can help prevent them from blaming the product – or worse, the company that made it. You don’t want your brand to take a hit for someone’s inability to get your product up and running. Providing the full spectrum of support throughout the customer journey is critical. You still need to provide basic fix-or-replace support, but the secret sauce is in offering pre-purchase education, installation, activation, integration, and ongoing usage, as well as helping customers expand their environment with new “things.” Doing that elevates the level of trust in your brand and your products. 3. Get Your Props 3 “Are Retailers Eyeing The Market For Smart Home Installation Services,” by Michael Wolf, Forbes, January 20, 2015. ← Back to Table of Contents
  5. 5. © PLUMCHOICE, INC. 2015 In addition to the “soft” benefits of brand enhancement and increased customer satisfaction, there are “hard” dollars and cents reasons to implement an all encompassing purchase-through-use support solution. Dealing with confused, frustrated customers takes time and drains valuable resources, even if you ultimately solve for the need at hand. A reactive approach to customers’ technology needs requires a growing call center staff. And if those responding aren’t able to answer difficult technical questions, call times get extended and costs rise. Bringing in higher-priced technical experts to handle post-sale problems increases costs even further. Many companies are addressing the cost problem through a call deflection strategy, despite the reality that deflection leads to defection. Others are trying to control costs by limiting warranties to a short period of time before casting customers adrift to fend for themselves. These can all lead to lower costs – and fewer customers. A purchase-through-use support solution is a better way to reduce costs by clearly delineating the line of service demarcation between in scope calls (the 80% of calls that can be resolved easily) and out of scope calls (the complex 20% that require specialized technical assistance). Handling the in scope calls in house (or with your existing call centers) and outsourcing the out of scope calls with an organization purpose-built to do so will ultimately help you minimize your overall costs. Taking a proactive approach and investing in a full solution that supports your customers every step of the way can choke off desperate, after-the-fact calls, which often don’t resolve customer issues anyway. Proactive support also reduces call center volume by minimizing repeat calls to handle a single need, which ultimately results in significant overall support costs savings. R E T H I N K Y O U R S U P P O R T S T R A T E G Y 5 4. Slash and Earn Ultimately you’re in business to generate profits, and that starts with top line revenue. The best marketing efforts can evaporate into a hail of frustrated expletives if your customers can’t get the intended value out of your product from the start. Whether that’s because they purchased the wrong product, are unable to integrate to other existing devices, or because they simply aren’t sure how to get started, the end result is the same: You lose a sale and probably a customer. A critical step toward getting the sale is to ensure the front line team thoroughly understands the product. Training them so they can clearly communicate the ins and outs of the product, understand compatibility with existing devices, and take action on tips for getting the most out of them is key. For online consumer research and transactions, make sure your tools, apps, assets, and information are thorough, easy to understand, up-to-date and readily available. 5. Show Me The Money ← Back to Table of Contents
  6. 6. CONCLUSION 5 R E A S O N S T O R E T H I N K Y O U R S U P P O R T S T R A T E G Y Technology is an integral part of the fabric of our lives. The proliferation of “things” from multiple brands that people are plugging into their technology environments “flips the table” and forces brands to rethink how they define and provide support. “The necessary cross-brand integration presents both a huge challenge and a significant opportunity for companies in the IoT business,” writes Paul Weichselbaum, EVP of PlumChoice, in his article in the Harvard Business Review. “Tech support is no longer about individual manufacturers, retailers, telcos, and Internet service providers’ product sets; it’s about a continuous service experience of the full connected environment to deliver on consumer expectations, while adding customer value to drive loyalty.” The companies that embrace this proactive approach are going to succeed while those that remain stuck in a reactive, ineffective, and unsatisfying support paradigm are going to be left behind. Which path are you going to take? 4 Who Provides Tech Support for the Internet of Things? By Paul Weichselbaum, Harvard Business Review, December 31, 2014. A well-informed, confident consumer is more likely to buy than one who is struggling to understand the product and how it will work in their personalized technology environment. Providing pre-purchase education can result in an increase in “size of basket” at the point of sale while at the same time initiating a relationship that will encourage repeat or add-on purchases. Ensuring your customers understand your product and are comfortable using it creates satisfied customers that are likelier to become brand advocates. Once you’ve delighted the customer with a purchase (and its usage), you’ve opened up the possibilities for added revenue through upsell/cross- sell opportunities. 5. Show Me The Money (cont’d) ← Back to Table of Contents
  7. 7. THE POWER OF © 2015 PlumChoice, Inc. All rights reserved. PlumChoice is a registered trademark of PlumChoice, Inc. in the United States and other countries. All other product and company names and marks mentioned in this document are the property of their respective owners and are mentioned for identification purposes only. Support Strategy in the IoT 2.15 Today’s dynamic, complex and heterogeneous tech environments require brands to solve for technical challenges that are equally unpredictable, complicated and diverse. PlumChoice, the leader in technical services for the Internet of Things (IoT), is purpose-built to support those environments with a continuum of technical services we call the “Internet of Services”. For more than a decade, the company has partnered with brands both large and small, including Fortune 1000 manufacturers, retailers, software vendors, and telco and cable providers to deliver highly differentiated customer experiences. Our specialized technical services influence size of basket/ARPU, aid in purchase conversion, and enable continued value exchange post purchase to increase adoption, reduce No Fault Found Returns (NFFR), drive usage, create cross-sell/upsell opportunities, and create customer advocates. PlumChoice works with end users to: select technical products, apps and systems; install, configure, connect, enhance and fix them; and integrate numerous products within larger technical and connected home environments. PlumChoice solutions enable business partners to power the increasingly complex, multi-brand personal technology environments driven by the Internet of Things. To learn more, contactSteve Thompson +1 617.668.3228 Find out in this Harvard Business Review article by PlumChoice's Paul Weichselbaum Discover why without successful adoption, innovative products will miss their mark. Connect with PlumChoice To learn more, contact: Who provides tech support for the IoT? CES 2015: Market Perspective