If Tech Support is an Expense, you are Doing it Wrong
Tech support is generally synonymous with a bad experience in today’s standard of software support. We usually consider ourselves lucky if we can understand the accent of whomever is asking us to turn our computer off and on again, and it has come to the point where support that meets basic expectations is exulted as going above and beyond. What is most incredulous about this industry wide support negligence, is that it actually ends up costing software companies more finically in addition to the bad reputation incurred.
Support is expensive. A fully staffed in-house support department with 24/7 phone and live chat service can easily cost as much as a software company’s sales staff or development team. Because of this daunting upfront cost, many companies opt to outsource their support staff or to offer merely a support email address that might as well be a black hole. These options are basically guaranteed to leave customers frustrated, and they take away the lines of communication that a customer could use to express their frustration. This leaves companies deaf to the problems in their software and ensures that their clients will be trapped in a cycle of complaints that will only end when they take their business elsewhere. Bad tech support is the more common problem, but companies can also be over-friendly and waste unnecessary resources to support. If your support staff spends hundreds of hours talking clients through a workaround that could be resolved with a simple bug fix, this is just as financially wasteful as losing clients.
Having pitfalls on both sides can make the prospect of an efficient support department daunting, but most can be avoided by simply listening. Rather than treating support like an annoyance and a cost, support should be embraced as an opportunity. Support is the easiest form of customer feedback to receive; people are literally calling you and telling you what they think. Rather than spending on market research, customer surveys, and product immersion, start by listening the feedback that is already flowing in. If you are worried that you are spending too much time and money addressing client feedback, then ask yourself some basic questions:
By embracing tech support, your company can have a great source of focused feedback and a great reputation. Rather than obsessing over ticket numbers and call duration metrics, success should be measured in what you are learning about your customers. Knowing your market, knowing its needs, and knowing what features are valuable, should bring actionable business insights that more than pay for your customer service department.
If you find tech support a chore, then you are not listening and you are not getting your money back.
If you are not at all investing in tech support, then you are going to lose touch and lose business.
If you can gain insight and ignore the frivolous, you will have a successful department!