It’s after four in the afternoon. I need some assistance with a software installation on my work laptop, so I walk over to the support area to speak with the Director of Technical Operations. He isn’t in his office, which isn’t necessarily a surprise – he tends to be a busy guy. Hearing a group conversation behind me, I turn around to look at the team that provides technical support to our customers. Sure enough, the director, the support manager, and one of the analysts are all crowded around the analyst’s screen. He’s remotely connected to a customer’s computer, and together they are trying to figure out the best approach to resolving the reported problem. This analyst in particular should have left for the day a while ago. Based on the conversation I overhear, it doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere anytime soon. But there is a smile on his face and a warmth to his voice that reassures the customer that everything will be alright. Sure enough, they find the solution a few minutes later, and it’s just a matter of walking the customer through it.
Customer Support Satisfaction can be a challenging metric to measure. Obtaining direct customer service feedback is essential towards maintaining customer satisfaction and for assessing the health of a business. More often than not, a satisfaction rating over 80% is considered acceptable. Shooting for a rating above 90% is laudable but not always realistic. Setting the minimum bar at 96% or higher is above and beyond (and perhaps even a little extreme!). But that’s exactly how we operate at Issuetrak, and Dan Flowers wouldn’t have it any other way. When I asked him why he chose to make the customer satisfaction metric so high, his answer was illuminating: “I’ve vowed that we will be our customer’s best software vendor. Customers are everything. We value the decision they made to forge a relationship with us, and we are going to do our part to honor that.” And despite the metric being so high, he’s quick to point out that his team routinely surpasses the mark.
As Director of Technical Operations, Dan has oversight over the Support Team for Issuetrak. He and the Support Manager Alex Goolie have worked hard over the years to hone and maintain a support group dedicated to ensuring total customer satisfaction. This can sometimes mean Technical Support Analysts (TSAs) staying on the phone for over 2 hours, assisting in setups from beginning to end, and the involvement of multiple teams working in concert to resolve a customer’s issue. “We’ve worked to instill a sense of ownership in the team,” Alex said when asked about management’s role in customer service. “They are the best customer advocates,” Dan adds. “They take that role very seriously.”
That sense of ownership and responsibility drives the team to work as hard as they do. It’s not just about having all the answers (though that certainly helps). As an article in Forbes put it, “They [the customer] expect you to know the operational items, but they really, really want you to get the soft stuff right.” The “soft stuff” include the analysts demeanor and tone, approachability and empathy. TSA Julian DeLuna says, “When the customer knows you care about their issue and when you can empathize with them, even if you aren’t able to resolve the actual problem, they will know you did everything you could to help them.” Fellow TSAs Patrick Triscritti and Joe Gabana agree. “There are times I’ve been in the same boat,” said Joe, “so it’s important to put yourself in their shoes.” Patrick emphasized that you need to remember why the customer is calling. “The issue they’ve called about is affecting their business. You have to be understanding.”
The importance of a quality support team cannot be overstated. Support representatives are on the front lines, addressing customer issues and concerns that impact their ability to work. People don’t contact support centers when everything is working fine. By their very nature, support calls are born out of problems that need to be solved, and having the right people in line to solve them is key. How many times have you been on a call with a support representative and had it completely change your outlook of the company, for better or worse? A positive customer support experience can save a license agreement, lead to additional sales, and reinforce a purchasing decision that may have been previously considered a “leap of faith.” A poor experience can have the opposite impact in every way. Effective Marketing and Sales teams may bring a customer into the fold, but the product and the team that supports it will keep that customer in the family year after year.