Better Tech Support in 3 Easy Steps, Part 3

Part 1 of this three-part series looked at assembling the best possible technical support team. Part 2 covers how to reorganize your company in order to take full advantage of your new and improved group. Part 3 concerns taking it to your customers.

Now that you’ve done all this work to improve your technical support team, you need to let your customers know. The sales and marketing teams will do most of the work for you on this. While they may not run a campaign stating, “Hey, our support doesn’t stink anymore,” they do have a ton of automated messages and informal scripts that they can insert little announcements into.

The most important script is the one I mentioned in my last article for the salespeople to use when a customer confronts them with a problem. That personal recommendation is worth more than all of the rest of this marketing combined. Unfortunately, you won’t get that personal recommendation very often, and certainly not to all of the contacts at every customer, so you have to use the rest of these announcements to fill in the gaps.

External Customers

Your company probably already has all of these customer communications going on:

  • newsletter
  • automated e-mails to Web site visitors
  • automated e-mails to new customers
  • cover letters with invoices

Ask the marketing and sales teams to include a recommendation of the new technical support system in some or all of those communications. Trust them to find the right locations and messaging. The fact that your technical support doesn’t stink anymore is, after all, a rather delicate message to deliver.

You should also communicate with customers. When someone opens a case in your helpdesk, they should get an automatic e-mail confirmation. Personalize it and make it representative of your team. Here is the one that I wrote for our automatic case reply e-mails:

Dear ________,

We have received your cry for help. We have logged it in our helpdesk under this case number: #########

Our support ninjas monitor the helpdesk from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Central U.S. time), Monday through Friday. They sneak in some other times, but we can’t make any promises about that.

A real person will read this case within two hours (during the times listed above). We triage and deal with critical issues first, so if your payroll is threatened or your site is down, you should expect to hear from us soon. We also try to reply to all problems that get to us before 4:00 p.m. on the same business day.

You can reply to this e-mail to update your case, or you can call us at 800-755-9878 ext. 2 (US) or 512-834-8888 ext. 2 (everywhere else).”

The internal response to that message was near mutiny from the salespeople. I had a hard time sticking to my guns on it. Maybe I would have benefited from softening it a bit and making friends, but I stuck with it. We have had a handful of negative reactions from customers saying they didn’t think it was very professional. We have had hundreds of positive reactions from customers, saying things like, “Great personality … it shows that you really are different from other technical support outfits,” and “Ninjas save the day again; you guys rock!” Clearly I won. I take great personal pride from that, even though I am planning on rewriting it. I’m thinking that the next version will be in free verse.

Ask for Compliments

Everyone loves compliments, but technical support doesn’t get them often. Talk with your staff members and train them to ask for compliments. The happier the customer is with the work you did, the bolder you should be in asking for the compliment.

There are three great reasons to go the extra mile and ask for the compliments. The first reason is that it really does help the technical support staff to hear it. In my opinion, this is enough to justify the effort. You can’t keep good technical support staff for long if they aren’t getting some compliments.

The second reason is more about the customer. The act of saying something nice about you will reinforce their good feelings about you. They are significantly more likely to say something nice about you to someone else if they have already said it out loud once. That word-of-mouth recommendation marketing cannot be bought, and it is the single best type of marketing in existence. In other words, asking for the compliment increases your odds of turning the negative situation (the customer experienced a problem) into a positive situation (the customer recommends your company to someone else).

The third reason is related to the second. Someone who is willing to compliment you directly is more willing to serve as a reference or provide a quote for your marketing team. Customer quotes make for great marketing. When you get this institutionalized, you can build up quite a collection of such quotes. If you are not careful, your whole Web site will be covered with quotes like, “This company does a great job of fixing problems.” That is really nice, but could leave prospects with the impression that your software has tons of problems. So make sure that your marketing people know how to ask for generic quotes such as, “These people really know what they’re doing.”

If a customer doesn’t indicate how happy they are, then you can ask for a compliment indirectly. You can say, “Wow, that really was hard to figure out.” Just leave that hanging. Most normal people will respond with a compliment. If a customer gives you a small compliment, ask them to share that with their salesperson the next time they talk. If they gave a big compliment, ask if you can pass the quote along to the marketing team for the Web site.

When you have transformed your technical support team from the place where good customers go to die into the place where customer testimonial quotes are made, then you will have done something truly spectacular. Good luck with it. Drop me a note and share your success stories.

Randy Miller is director of services at Journyx, a developer of Web-based time, expense and project tracking solutions. He can be reached at [email protected].

Better Tech Support in 3 Easy Steps, Part 1

Better Tech Support in 3 Easy Steps, Part 2

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