As unified communications and BYOD become workplace reality, it is the support teams that are most affected. These technological trends are adding to the devices, applications and technologies that we need to support for our clients, and as such, the responsibilities of our support teams are becoming broader, deeper and more complex.
We are also seeing our customers demand a higher degree of professionalism from the people they call for assistance. Therefore, especially for technology companies such as ours, customer support is no longer a back-room function, as it may have been viewed in the past.
It is becoming a full front-line service that could be elevated to the same status as sales.
Accordingly, we have to practise what we preach when it comes to supporting our clients. It is not easy to win awards for service delivery or gain glowing recommendations, yet such commendations are precious differentiators - especially when so many are connected via social media, where there are far fewer secrets.
For example, every disappointed customer is potentially a blogger, so it is much more difficult to maintain a reputation that does not truly reflect the service a company provides. This is another reason why, to be successful, we have to focus on delivering first-class service.
Just as the technology is becoming user-centric, so must the support. As well as maintaining racks of equipment in a datacentre somewhere, we may need to support an exec who is having difficulty with a corporate UC app on his or her personal iPad.
In addition to ensuring uptime and the availability of the technology, we are increasingly being held responsible for the user’s experience of that technology. We need to find ways of addressing these needs - rather than excluding them from our service responsibility.
Support also comes under deeper scrutiny in a tough economy. We are working in the most competitive business environment we have ever seen, and every company’s first objective is to take care of existing customers. This makes support mission-critical in a way it never was before.
Companies that do not recognise this or that fail to deliver on their service promises will lose to the competition. We are seeing that clients are expecting more service for their money, often insisting on stringent service-level commitments. Clients are measuring performance and value through the attainment (or otherwise) of those service levels, and will use poor performance as a reason to move their business to higher-performing or lower-cost alternative suppliers.
Meanwhile, vendors are offering new tools that help with collaboration, contact centre and customer interaction, desktop video and so on. Some of these will suggest new ways of sharing and doing business with our clients.
By embracing and exploiting these technologies in our own support operations, we are not only better positioned to serve our clients, but to provide a shop window to display what is possible. As providers, we should lead the way. If our clients have positive experiences with technology when they interact with the service centre, they are more likely to see potential to exploit such technologies in their own businesses.
Martin Cross is director and co-owner of Connect Communications
With just a day to go until the 25th annual Channel Awards, we catch up with the SMB Reseller of the Year category sponsor Exertis, to find out why the sector is such a vital part of its business strategy
Joe Macri says the vendor saw 20 per cent of its UK growth come from its Cloud Solution Provider programme last year
Pure set for further acquisitions, with a focus on the south-east