Working with the Support Team — A CSM Basic Skill
Following last month’s post on working with the Sales team, I’m now tackling the related topic of working with Support. CSMs often work with the Support team, usually because they need to follow up on an issue that’s not progressing to the customer’s satisfaction. And if you did not already know this, support engineers and managers don’t always welcome the interactions, as they feel that the CSMs can be bullies. Here are 5 tips to become the perfect partner.
If you have worked in a support organization before, you have some idea of how they work (but you may not know the local nuances: ask!) If you do not have a support background, I would highly recommend hanging out with a support engineer for a couple of hours, while they handle customer issues. You will see the astounding variety of requests they get, appreciate how they juggle multiple issues, and realize how difficult it is to get a resolution on defects. You will also witness how support engineers live to help (much like you) and how they like to delve into technical details (probably much unlike you).
Also study how cases are routed, assigned, and escalated, within and outside the organization, and how you should interact with the organization, should you need to advocate for your customers.
Do your homework
Before you bring up issues, do some basic research, both with the customer and with the tracking tool. Was a case filed for the issue and what is its reference? Can the customer remembers the name of the person who was “rude” to them? Has anyone worked on the case? What is the current status?
You should be able to ascertain independently whether the customer “forgot” to make a formal request for an enhancement, or that the issue is waiting on their IT team to deploy a fix. And a properly documented request will be taken seriously and addressed quickly.
Help, don’t disrupt
When disaster strikes, you want to take action. Yes, you want to call the VP of Engineering and demand a fix. Of course, you will reach out to the Product Manager and pitch the reasons why the enhancement request is needed. And you can ping the support engineer hourly for updates.
Don’t. Going around the process is likely to get everyone very angry with you, while yielding no detectable improvements, assuming that the process is (1) well designed and (2) followed. If you live in a chaotic world, then you have my permission to go around the process (but people will still hate you. You have been warned).
Do offer your help. Yes, you can talk the customer into designating a single point of contact. Yes, you can write the business case to get an immediate bug fix. Yes, you can get your manager to reach out to the engineering manager for a “favor”.
While the fire is being fought, keep calm and cooperate. But after the fact, it’s very useful to hold a post-mortem to analyze what went wrong and should be done differently in the future. Good support organizations hold post-mortems as a routine activity. If yours does not, suggest one, and be open to being told what you can do differently next time.
What are your secrets to work harmoniously with the support team? Do share.