Many vendors limit the number of support contacts, requesting that all support requests be funnelled through a small set of individuals. Limiting the number of contracts increases the chances that the requests are well thought-out: even if the contacts are unskilled at first they will learn on the job. There’s also a perception that restricting the number of contacts will decrease the volume. That may be the case but don’t depend on it: if a customer needs help the cases will come to you regardless of the number of contacts.
Here are some best practices for limiting the number of support contacts.
1. Check that it makes sense. For some products limiting the number of contacts is clearly the right thing to do. For instance for a heavily-customized application providing support to the help desk — rather than each and every end-user — is a good idea. On the other hand, limiting support to a handful of contacts for a piece of equipment that is shared by many users around the clock is silly. Along the same line, limiting the number of contacts to one for business customers is probably not a good idea since individuals get sick and go on vacation: allow a backup.
2. Allow more contacts for premium support offerings. A logical feature of the richer support offerings is a larger number of contacts. So if you offer 2 contacts for basic support (a popular choice) you may offer 4 for 24×7 support and 6 for premium support.
3. Put the number in the contract. Whether your magic number of contacts is 1, 2, or 12, spell it out in the contract. It should be clear to all involved.
4. Allow purchasing additional contacts. If you establish reasonable limits for the number of contacts few customers will need more. For those customers who want more simply offer the option to purchase more rather than having to negotiate exceptions. Fees for extra contacts range from $2k to $20k per year.
5. Enforce the rules. If you let anyone create cases regardless of whether they are an official contact you might as well throw away your policy of limiting the number of contacts. At the minimum each non-contact should be told that an exception is being made. If a customer routinely oversteps the bound the support manager should have a conversation to reset expectations.
6. But don’t be crazy. If both contacts are off today and the system is down, now is not the time to enforce the policy. Help first, ask questions later.
7. Make it easy to update the contact list. I often find that my clients tolerate bloated contact lists because it’s too darn difficult to update contacts. Contact management is a prime candidate for self-service so see what you can do to place the responsibility of maintaining the roster where it belongs: with the customers.