The FT Word – June 2012

The FT Word

The FT Word is a free monthly newsletter with support management tips. To subscribe, send us email with your email address. The subscription list is absolutely confidential; we never sell, rent, or give information about our subscribers. Here’s a sample.

Welcome

Welcome to the June 2012 edition of the FT Word. Feel free to forward it to your colleagues. (They can get their own subscription.)

Topics for this month:

  • My take-always from the TSW conference – for your inspiration

  • Waiting list forming for soft skills training in November, 2012 – your chance to test the workshop, or train a small team

TSW Takeaways

I was so happy to see many of the FT Word readers at the TSW conference last month. Thank you to all of you who stopped by the booth!

As I wandered from session to meals to discussions, I jotted down interesting ideas I heard, and I collected them here, organized in The Five Layers of Support SM

Strategy

  • Support can be a focus for innovation just like products or solutions. See last month’s newsletter for how we can use lean techniques to innovate in support.

Offerings

  • Between January 2011 and January 2012 product revenue for TSIA members increased 2% but services revenue increased 11%. How well did you do during that time period?
  • If you cannot articulate a clear value-add proposition for a new offering, don’t bother (duh – but worth keeping in mind!)
  • If you are moving away from on-premise products towards a cloud offering, you know that the cloud business model is quite different from the on-premise model in that revenue accumulates over time rather than being front-loaded. This is a big risk for vendors – but from the perspective of support it does not change the way our revenue accrues month after month.
  • With cloud, support is in the driver’s seat, because we know how to manage recurring revenue and we understand how to optimize delivery. Pretty sweet, huh?
  • Even if your company is not getting in the cloud business, and even if you have no cloud competitors, you will still experience the pressures of cloud delivery in the overall industry.
  • Offer stratified support levels from the get-go with a cloud offering, just like you would for on-premise software. Psychologically, with two offerings customers tend to select the lower one. With three, the middle one. With four, the second highest. It may make sense to create a “super-premium” option so that customers feel comfortable reaching for the premium offer.

Processes

  • Call it the Customer Portal, not the support website: a good reminder that customers don’t want to see the silos of the vendor, just a convenient location for all their needs.
  • The website is a window into the soul of a company. (How many silos can you see?)
  • With so many users of smart phones out there, how about experimenting with an app-like functionality even on a standard website?
  • Email has the worst customer satisfaction ratings of all channels and its cost can be higher than phone (per the TSIA member survey). Question: why are we still using email as an input channel for support?
  • Very few vendors are getting ROI on communities. Those that do have integrated the communities with the CRM system, knowledge management tools, and dashboards.
  • Here’s an example of a community with a good ROI. Six years ago, the Linksys (Cisco) community found that 97% of the posts were answered by Linksys staff. Today, it’s 2%…
  • Channel preference may be age-dependent: older adults prefer the phone, while middle-aged adults like email. Younger adults like communities.

Tools

  • Over 50% of small companies now use a cloud CRM solution, along with fully 40% of large companies. (TSIA member survey)
  • Only two categories of tools get customer satisfaction ratings higher than 4/5: consultants (yeah, us!) and web collaboration. Knowledge management tools are at 3.3, but KCS users are considerably happier.
  • The top categories for planned spending for the coming two years are communities (may we find ROI!), incident management (lots of activity replacing legacy products), field service scheduling, knowledge management, multi-channel management, and customer satisfaction measurement.

Metrics

  • Support is well-positioned to gather metrics on customers’ consumption of the products: what version are they running? What customizations are deployed? How many users are actively using the system? (This is true for cloud and even on-premise deployments.)
  • Use support usage metrics to gauge the success of new product launches. Both assisted support and self-support usage can give a good indication of how successful customers are with the product.

If you need assistance with implementing cloud support offerings or streamlining processes in preparation to move to a new CRM system, FT Works can help. Contact me to discuss your requirements.

FT Works in the News

New Book by Eric Eidson, FT Works Consultant

Long-time FT Works consultant Eric Eidson just published Symbiotic Support Channels: How Smart Vendors Create Powerful Partners. The book focuses on partner support and includes dozens of inspiring interviews with vendors who have implemented successful partner support programs. Congrats, Eric!

Soft Skills Training Workshop – November, 2012

Here’s a rare chance to attend an open-enrollment workshop for support engineers and support reps, focused on working harmoniously with customers throughout the issue resolution process. We are planning a session in November in the South Bay of the San Francisco area (exact data TBD based on participants’ wishes). If you are interested, please contact me now with your timing preferences and I will add you to the waiting list. Space is strictly limited to the first 20 registrations.

The full description of the workshop is here.

Curious about something? Send me your suggestions for topics and your name will appear in future newsletters. I’m thinking of doing a compilation of “tips and tricks about support metrics” in the coming months so if you have favorites, horror stories, or questions about metrics, please don’t be shy.

Regards,
Françoise Tourniaire
FT Works
www.ftworks.com
650 559 9826

About FT Works

FT Works helps technology companies create and improve their support operations. Areas of expertise include designing support offerings, creating hiring plans to recruit the right people quickly, training support staff to deliver effective support, defining and implementing support processes, selecting support tools, designing effective metrics, and support center audits. See more details at www.ftworks.com.

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