There is no bad TechSupport

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Reading an article about HP’s bad techsupport hotline, I’d like to add some reasons for that and especially state that there really is no bad support. It’s just bad communication.
This is not only a symptom in the States, in Europe it’s the same, probably for all bigger companies. Sort of mass effect: too many products out (because they are good (selling)) will also increase the amount of customer calls asking for support.

But I think the root causes of the waiting hell above are rather implied by the way big companies organize their support organizations/processes than by just a system hang or (maybe) too many people called in sick that day.

One thing is the internal measurement companies use: if you check out their SLA (Support Level Agreements in the handbook/contract), you’ll usually find at least four levels of support:
0 – answering machines and automated systems/email/web
1 – a human being picking up to document your case (and to find a solution quick – if possible)
2 – if a solution was not found, hand the prob over to some more experienced supporters
3 – if all fails, and the customer still insists, get development involved

This is surely enacted in different ways depending on the type of product and support contract (at least as many as the selection of dressings for your salad in the states). I touched about 200 support organizations during the last years: what I found were the basics above.

Now comes the fun part: the vendors can not decide, where your problem fits in the above list. So almost everyone needs to do the walk of blame from 0 to 3 (depending on how much you are willing to spend your time and/or money).

There is something, someone might say: Every SLA talks about something called customer priority (or similiar: status, urgency, etc), something like this (most important being 1):
1 – product doesn’t work at all
2 – product has some more or less serious glitch, but is still running/working
3 – you would like to have the product changed

This list is usually much more complicated (as it also interconnects with multiple business processes), but again, the basics are simple as above.

You see something?
Yep: Your own importance (point of view) is mentioned nowhere…

What if you depend on a feature of your product that the vendor considers not so important?
Let’s think about HP (or Canon, if you may want): There are millions of printers running in the world, and the vendor doesn’t know anything about how important the documents are for you (that you just not get printed – this is why you are calling).

How could they, anyway? (that’s the vendor defence)

Well, I think, they could.

First, just forget the voice systems and put humans in front line again. I never have seen any automated system, that has the flexibility to collaboratively prioritize a problem of a real person. You need people.

Second, let’s train these people (meaning the vendor and also you, dear customer) to handle the first(!) call as fast as possible. Get the facts, fast and let the supporter sort them out (because he’s more experienced with the whole range of problems than any customer).

Third, and this is something I sometimes saw: stick to what you say and be true. So, the end for the first call would be the supporter saying: “I’ll be back to you in XY time. And even if I don’t have anything new, I will still call you and at least give you a new time (and maybe ask you some more questions)”

I personally think, people are disappointed, because their expectations are not set correctly.
This works for the supporter who wants to solve the problem and surely for the customer who has the problem.

If I think about how much business vendors loose with support just because they forget this… oh boy, I’d like a slice of that cookie! Plus, it’s not only the be-customer being pushed away to another vendors, but also the money lost because support can generate new business… (that’s another story:-).

Thanks for your time reading this
Volker