The criticality of customer support in enterprise software delivery

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In enterprise software delivery, customer support is the difference between investing in a product, and actually benefiting from a productLaura Horner, Director of Sales, Americas East, Tasktop

At Tasktop Connect last month, I had the opportunity to speak with a wide and diverse range of prospective customers. While “integration”, “DevOps” and “software value stream” were key watchwords throughout the event, there was another popular phrase on the attendees’ lips: “customer support”.

One prospect from a financial institute said: “We’re currently compiling a list of all the tools we need, working out which systems to prioritize, and building a business case for each investment. This process takes a lot of work and there’s a lot to consider in terms of cost, deployment and ROI. But for us, the overarching factor is the quality of customer support. There are many software companies that sell us products and disappear before the ink on the invoice is dry, which often means the tool never gets utilized effectively, or even used at all!” Wow.

Customer support is critical in any industry, for both businesses and the individual consumer. However, in the case of enterprise software, customer support is the difference between investing in a product, and actually benefiting from a product; whether it’s instrumental in improving the software delivery process, or detrimental.

An industry like none other

End users of enterprise software are understandably discerning and hold service providers to a high standard because their job – and their organization’s reputation – often rests on the capabilities and reliability of the application. Moreover, software is complicated, and every organization utilizes software differently. As such, support issues and defects can be wide ranging in severity. It’s challenging to manage issues of different severity that affect the company’s ability to conduct business, so customer support has to be constantly available, knowledgeable, communicative and proactive in driving a response.

Emotional tie

When it comes to selling a product, there’s the ‘business side’ and the ‘emotional side’. Typically when selling software, it’s very much a business decision at the beginning; there’s an evaluation of the solution, and the final decision is based on the facts from the evaluation. It’s very black and white.

However, in order to bring the solution into an organization, there is usually a champion of the product who becomes the sponsor and presents the business case, and makes sure the funding is available. This champion is now emotionally tied to the solution because they’re the one vouching for it and giving it their stamp of approval.

Ultimately, the solution becomes their responsibility to ensure the investment is a success. Therefore, if something goes awry or there’s a problem with the solution, it’s critical that customer support is there to guide the investment back to success.  

The human touch

While technology is wonderful and drives our digital world, it’s essential that we speak to a human when things aren’t going well. The human connection brings empathy, assurance, understanding and, hopefully, resolution. Automated calls, FAQs and textbook responses can only get you so far. Never forget the tech industry should always be about helping people. Never underestimate the power of human dialogue.

Keep it local

Call centres serve a purpose in that they provide basic large-scale support, often for popular global consumer products and services. If you have enough patience and time, you can generally get the help and information you need. Enterprise software is a different beast entirely because it isn’t a faulty iPod or malfunctioning laptop.

Enterprise software is a platform for hundreds and thousands of people who use the tools to help a business function to the best of its ability. Downtime is critical. That’s why our support team supports all tickets – it isn’t a tiered support system with tiered expertise. Every phone call will be dealt with by a person (often based in the customer’s native country) to ensure Tasktop is continuously working at 100 per cent and supporting their day-to-day business and long-term strategies.

Growing

As your startup or small company grows, so too will your customer base. How do you ensure that your support stays as strong and as personal as possible? There’s no one answer. Yes, you need to continue to invest in the support team, but it’s also a cultural thing. As a company that’s rapidly expanding, Tasktop works hard to constantly put the customer at the forefront of everything we do. Our support team lives by a motto that they promote and live by: “Always keep in the customer in mind” – it’s not groundbreaking wordsmithery, but keeps our support focused on the only thing that really matters.

Everyone is part of your customer support

The reality of software is that things can go wrong at any point and when a customer needs support, they need their issue resolved quickly and professionally. For me, this response time is the measure of how good a tool really is. How does a technology company perform or handle tricky situations when the customer is unhappy, or is perhaps having a negative experience with their investment? In a world where technology rules, it really boils down to the basics:

  •       Responding promptly
  •       Not transferring the customer to multiple support engineers
  •       Showing empathy
  •       Acknowledging their current state
  •       Working with them to resolve the issue quickly
  •       Maintaining regular communication

Lastly, a key thing to remember is this: in a world where many software companies are adopting a subscription licensing model, it’s on the software company to earn their business year after year. That’s why we’re always striving to ensure that that all aspects of the customer journey are customer focused and positive – even as our customer base continues to grow at a fast – but exhilarating – rate.

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