For many decades, the mission of tech support has been helping customers deal with a variety of issues covering the typical lifecycle of a software product. Support has been an essential part of selling and servicing software throughout the history of commercial computing. But with market changes and growing competition, it’s time to shift the support mindset from solving problems to delivering positive customer outcomes.
This shift is already underway in some technology sectors (for example, cloud computing, storage and data analytics). But virtually every tech company can and should make this shift. New ways of thinking about the customer experience (CX), and new frameworks and tools, can turn the painful necessity for support into a powerful opportunity to deliver a richer, more-positive CX that improves customer loyalty.
What’s Driving the Shift to Customer Success?
The need for this mindset shift has grown due to the industry’s move toward subscription-based licensing, the primary business model for most software companies. Subscription models make it easy for users to switch to another product, meaning software companies must find new ways to deliver value that drives increased adoption and sustains long-term user relationships for recurring revenue. Driving customer success through outcome-focused support experiences has therefore become a key strategy in this regard.
The new focus on customer success – not just service – poses serious challenges to the traditional support model (being reactive and transactional). Moving forward, it must scale to become more proactive, preventive and predictive. During the past year, consulting firm ServiceXRG researched customer support and identified some important insights. The study found that support demand is rising, mostly due to product adoption challenges. Further, most support issues require multiple steps and touchpoints to resolve, yet most companies don’t have a formal process to update support documentation to improve first contact resolution. Another surprising finding from the study was that most companies don’t have a 360° feedback loop connecting support to product development to improve product performance. These challenges drive up the cost of support and increase the risk of higher customer churn.
How to Make the Shift
Shifting from a support-centric perspective to improving outcomes is a mindset evolution, but it can generate huge rewards in this type of scenario. It also demands a new structural framework for designing, delivering and managing the support function. Wipro has a framework to help make the shift by addressing CX design, enablement and operations.
CX design and enablement
- Human-centered design: Experience-based design begins with human behavior and understanding user journeys. Wipro’s framework starts with persona-based service design where the journeys for customers and support employees are reimagined with an outcome-based goal. For example, a new journey could be designed to engage the customer proactively with a more formal onboarding/adoption program.
- Digital operations: CX initiatives depend on multiple digital technologies to drive shifts in support channels and approaches. For example, a digital initiative to enable support access from within the product or from mobile and desktop apps could help shift the paradigm.
- AI-first: One of the key technologies for a contemporary approach to outcome-based support is artificial intelligence (AI). AI offers powerful ways to enhance CX and support staff productivity. For example, an AI system can generate knowledge recommendations during web-based support request submission, greatly accelerating resolution.
- Business insights: Digitization efforts produce a lot of data that leads to business insights. Analytics from the support function can drive insights for churn prediction, buyer propensities and consumption patterns, among others.
- Product mindset: Putting CX at the customer-support level requires integrating certified support technicians with product engineering centers of excellence. This structure enables an efficient closed-loop mechanism between support and product development. Another strategy is to invest more in issue prevention and its connection with product engineering.
- Transparent governance: Operationalizing CX can be accelerated with transparent governance, such as intuitive reporting portals that fuel proactive course corrections and automated triggers that update every time a case closes. This will identify the knowledge gaps and training needs at a technician level and across the support lifecycle, ultimately improving resolution times and enhancing customer satisfaction.
- Holistic metrics: Using “big picture” metrics can help an enterprise move to a CX-driven, outcomes-focused mindset. For example, tracking leading metrics (i.e., product use and adoptions) and lagging metrics (i.e., renewals, revenue) can tell a company about correlations, interdependencies and areas of focus to improve outcomes. Analytical tools and AI can also derive customer sentiment from case records and social media to provide an early warning system.
Maximizing Value from Digitized Tech Support
Enterprises understand the importance of differentiating through their CX. They also know that digitization is a huge enabler of CX. Yet the value of an outcomes-focused support function for software vendors cannot be understated, as it positively benefits all stakeholders:
- Improved customer experience: Customers want to get the most from the software they’ve licensed. Improving the support experience will help them achieve that goal.
- Better employee experiences: Employees in technical support roles will enjoy their work more and deliver more-valuable service by understanding how they help customers achieve good outcomes rather than simply fix tactical problems. The increased sense of importance can help retain support professionals.
- Enhanced partner experiences: For many software vendors, partners generate substantial revenues. Like customers, partners welcome a better onboarding and support experience, and they will reward that experience with even more business.
Wipro has been helping enterprises make this shift. A global supplier of personal computing equipment turned to digital technologies to automate and streamline the support workflow, deflecting 30% of support cases through “self-healing” systems and AI-assisted knowledge management. Another global technology leader adopted a license-based model and a service-centric mindset with support from Wipro to strategize its roadmap and training program. And a storage and software vendor established an AI and automation center of excellence with more than 50 bots that helped improve agent productivity, minimize dispatches, and improve its customer satisfaction score by more than 7%.
Ultimately, this new tech support mindset will pay off in the enterprise’s growth figures, top-line and bottom-line. Successful enterprises are increasingly adopting this mindset and transforming from product-centric to service-centric to an “as-a-service” business model. By transforming support functions from reactive to proactive, by focusing on outcomes rather than tactical technical support, organizations can evolve their tech-support model from a cost center to a profit center to a growth engine.