Next Generation Enterprise Support
Guest Blogger: Michael Montoya
I have spent the past 20 years of my career working in several technical support capacities, in roles ranging from supporting enterprise IT environments to customer product support. Over that time, I have witnessed and taken part in the transformation of support teams as the application, use and user dependency upon technology have transformed. These changes have been primarily driven by the dynamics of a more sophisticated user and a shift in delivery toward the Cloud. Throughout these changes, the defining aspect of excellent technical support has remained the same: great people capable of helping customers. The operative words here are “helping” and “customers”.
Let’s start with “customers.” Customer demands are shifting in a number of ways. To begin with, customers have acquired a much more global perspective. The days of single enterprise sites and teams in the same building are fading fast, if they are not gone already. In today’s environment, business follows the sun (and in some cases the moon as well!). Technology plays an increasing role in business decision-making and the real-time demands for information are making all applications mission critical. Agility and iteration are the new normal! No more the days of long planning cycles with large committed spends before the first user is provisioned. Users are much more savvy than in the early days of IT. Many of us have heard of this referred to as the “consumerisation of IT.” But what does this really mean? To me, it translates to the fact that technology users are much smarter, have less patience and more options available to get what they need.
With all these changes in the customer environment, applying the same models of support are proving insufficient. Technology support professionals who believe traditional support models can still work will find themselves sharing a similar fate as those who once delivered ice to homes: although people still require a means of extending the life of their food, they now turn to appliances and electrical utility companies to serve that purpose. Similarly, today’s IT customers still need help, but need it provided in different ways.
Next generation enterprise support is not only about responding quickly and closing out problems. It must be about helping prevent those problems in the first place by developing and delivering more intelligent products and services. I don’t want my medical practitioner to just treat me quickly and efficiently when I am in the emergency theatre. I would prefer for her to keep me out of jeopardy by working with me to develop and adopt better living and health practices. Even better, wouldn’t it be great if those practices could also be applied to my entire family, and even my community so that we can focus more on living and less on worries about our health? At its core, successful IT support is about creating communities within organizations and empowering them to be more successful. It is impossible with the speed of global business to completely manage all the diversity that currently exists in today’s IT environments. People are best helped when they are empowered with knowledge and tools to make that diversity work for them. The need to rapidly respond to problems will always be there, but it is inadequate alone to meet today’s rapidly changing customer needs.
What does all this change mean to the next generation technical support team? I am often asked this and as the leader of a global team, I work on answering this question every day. What I admire about all technical support organizations is our capabilities to empower great people to operate without boundaries, to deliver volume services globally, and to have our finger on the daily pulse of our customers’ needs, providing us an edge that no other organization can claim. All support teams should be leveraging these core capabilities to transform themselves as the voice of the customer and owner of customer loyalty.
To be successful in this new world, technical support must focus on building deeper relationships, helping customers to plan, optimize and adopt technology, while remaining ready to rapidly respond to emergencies. These new capabilities will require new competencies in support for a successful transformation. Our journey to redesign the customer experience is based on developing the “muscles” described below.
1. On-boarding. When I purchased my last car, I did not just get the keys and walking directions to where the vehicle was parked. I was assisted by a professional who first sought to understand me better before making a recommendation on a model and who then educated me on how to use basic functions of the car and empowered me with knowledge on how to schedule service and use all the functionality of my new purchase. Having our first conversation with a customer after they have their first problem represents a missed opportunity to own that relationship and possibly mitigate that problem before it created a negative IT experience.
2. Deliver micro transactions proactively. To use the healthcare analogy, today we mostly help our customers when they are rolled into the emergency room and contact us for help. We have lots of accumulated knowledge and great insight into best practices, as well as the ability to deliver volume services at scale. So why aren’t we doing this proactively rather than reactively? Helping customers optimize their environments based on the collective insight of technical support is a requirement that will be a differentiator for all future support teams.
3. Community development and social media. I recently rebuilt a personal computer, and never once downloaded a manual. I searched YouTube for a quick video tutorial and searched my community of peers for a few pointers. This combination empowered me to improve my own skills and successfully achieve my desired outcome. Support organizations that leverage the power of social media and communities to empower self-learning and development will scale beyond imagination.
4. Automation, automation, automation. Automation should not imply the replacement of great people with robots or software. It means developing automated platforms for provisioning services, improving troubleshooting and diagnostics, and enabling greater dynamic creation of content. Again with the medical analogy, imagine if my doctor could have a real-time pulse on my health and she could proactively alert me if there is a problem or opportunity to improve my behavior. Furthermore, she could have better early detection, increased information for analytics and a more targeted approach to keeping me healthy.
5. Analytics. This is not a reporting or business intelligence administrator. This is a real data scientist helping to identify key patterns to help improve the customer experience. I know of a leading search engine that can identify influenza (flu) outbreaks weeks before the actual outbreak leveraging data science. What if we applied those same principles to help identify the next product risk or an opportunity to improve the customer experience? With all the data we collect daily on our customers, we have unlimited opportunities to identify potentially problematic patterns, allowing us to take proactive measures that will make the biggest impacts.
These are a few of the new muscles we are building as we develop a next generation enterprise support organization. I don’t believe there has been a more exciting time to be in our industry. With all the changes in customer behavior and technology, the opportunities for great people to help customers is elevating to new heights!