At Broadcom Software, we have created technology that has led to dramatic changes throughout the business world in the last few decades. But what we have noticed is that enterprise customer care and support has stayed immune from innovation, remaining very much the same as it was in the pre-Internet era. We are changing that!
When I started in this industry in the early 1990s, enterprise customers would call technical support when they needed help. It was a reactive model where support teams waited for the phone to ring. It was fine for its time, but it’s an approach that’s now showing its age.
In a modern, cloud-dominated world, where the level of complexity of technology in modern enterprises is off the charts, this “break/fix” model doesn’t scale well. Support professionals not only must always wait for problems to first occur, they are left to start late in a race against the clock. And the longer it takes to resolve a problem, the longer the downtimes.
We need to embrace a different conception of enterprise support, one that merges the formerly separate domains of customer support and business continuity.
Oftentimes, customers aren't able to deploy and use software on their own. Three decades ago, you might have been able to take a system offline for an extended time and still be okay. Try that today and an enterprise would suffer immeasurable harm to its reputation and bottom line.
When I think about what a modern support approach should be, the first thing that comes to mind is that it must involve more than picking up the phone to troubleshoot one-offs. We need to embrace a different conception of enterprise support, one that merges the formerly separate domains of customer support and business continuity.
We can also consider a replacement model that’s proactive where support will prevent problems before they interfere with an organization’s operations. As they’re trained to learn about customer needs, support teams will know what products, services and solutions will best help their clients do their jobs. One immediate impact: it will breathe new life into products that might otherwise be relegated to the status of rarely-used or problematic "shelfware.” Above all, more customers will come away from the experience satisfied that they are getting the business value they were promised originally.
Begin by assigning support personnel to an account or set of accounts, where they immerse themselves in the client’s environment and control processes. This constitutes a shift away from how organizations have traditionally thought about customer support. But it replaces what’s been a largely transactional relationship with a new model where support personnel essentially function as trusted advisors. Let’s bid good riddance to the era when support teams spend a few minutes on the phone with the customer before moving on to something else.
A proactive support model embraces the responsibility to advocate for the customer until the issue at hand gets resolved to that customer’s satisfaction. If a customer can’t effectively operate their software – and ultimately, their business – then the job ain’t finished. It also means implementing “status page” type technology to automatically update customers on the status of their software services to increase transparency and further reduce any business impact caused by downtime.
Act with urgency
It’s obvious that we need to react and resolve issues as they come. But proactive support isn’t simply a function of responding with more than speed. It also involves putting in place the processes, tools, and other services in preparation for an incident. In the traditional support model, a server or an application might go down and the first thing the support person is going to ask is: “What version are you on? What is your configuration? Do you have any logs?” The accountable customer success professional would have already ensured that those things are defined. They would also have the customer ready to capture relevant troubleshooting information, and know how to expedite getting that information to the right subject matter expert. I talked earlier about speed. Here’s where having these preparations in place shrinks the resolution time significantly.
The next phase: predictive care
Though the reactive, “break/fix” model is still the typical paradigm, many organizations are starting to embrace at least some level of proactive support, and new innovations will continue to emerge.
For example, some support organizations are now deploying AI and Big Data to provide the capability to detect and fix problems before customers know they exist. So, if a service or even an entire data center has a problem, predictive support detects that problem and before a customer suffers an outage, automatically shift that customer to another service or data center. The advantage of this approach speaks for itself; by analyzing knowledge base search patterns and software usage trends from multiple customers, support teams can deploy pattern recognition to help identify – and avoid – problem trends.
These are just the opening innings of what we’re likely to see. Imagine a future where a support team member can call up the client who never even knew there was a problem. Something along the lines of “Hey, just to let you know, you had a problem with XYZ. We have been able to solve that for you on the back end. You don't need to worry about it. But just to let you know that this has happened in your environment and we are here for you."
Similarly, let’s say a customer’s device is starting to run out of memory due to high CPU utilization. That’s where support can inform the customer to check their device and consider restarting, reconfiguring or upgrading in order to avoid an outage. The more data that we get, the more intimately involved we can get with our customers – and the more we can help them.
We’re just at the beginning of this transformation but it’s going to happen. I’ve spent my 30-plus year career working in enterprise software and I’ve rarely seen a more compelling idea. Engineers create so many amazing things, and salespeople sell the software and get the glory that goes with reeling in big contracts. But ultimately, someone’s got to make sure that technology will be wildly successful after it gets deployed into a customer’s environment and all questions answered. And that somebody works in support.
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