The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
There are vital clues and indications in the search strings that bring readers to The HotLine Magazine from around the world every day. “What is the Definition of Customer Support?” “What is the profitability of customer retention?” “Define the SaaS support model.” “Usual customer retention rate for a SaaS company?” “How to profit from SaaS support?” All of these are indicators of the same fundamental problem. Every so often, an inquiry comes along that goes to the heart of the issue and begs for an immediate reply. “Fixing a broken customer support group” is a perfect example, prompting two immediate questions in return. What do you mean by “broken?” And how would you define “fixing?” Almost invariably, the source of serious problems with a customer support group is external to the group itself; they are inevitably strategic errors. Until the senior management team and the support executive or manager understand each other, and work together, producing a truly effective and lasting resolution for the broken group is unfortunately unlikely.

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There is a tendency for some SaaS/Cloud vendors to think that Customer Support is the same as it was in the traditional sector, only with less demand and therefore a significantly lower staff. The core of that mis-perception is that Support is an unfortunately necessary evil, the group that only deals with problems resulting from breaks and interruptions in service…

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More than ten years ago, Ken Shevock, then the VP of Worldwide Support Operations for Cisco, commented “Nobody is really "winning' at Support. We're all doing the same things to try to keep up, but to get to the next level, we're going to have to do something new.” From the beginning of the technology industry, Support / Service — Customer Care — whatever the name — has been about reacting to problems reported by customers in their use of technology products. If ever we are to win, we need to recognize that how the industry has defined Support is inherently flawed. Invited to speak to a consortium of Support & Service executives in Bellevue, Washington, about The Redefinition of Customer Support, my presentation focused on why winning, under the current definition of the profession, is impossible -- and a vision of that something new.

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Thinking that the act of restoring lost functionality in exception situations is somehow of the same stature as the value-purpose for buying the product in the first place is unfortunately all too common, but it's still flawed. No one buys a product in order to experience a breakage and then getting it fixed. Business products are purchased because they offer the potential for increased productivity and profitability to the purchaser. The real economic value exchange is: I give you an amount of money so that I can use the product to make much more money for myself. If Support is to become a true profession, it will be found in being perceived as a necessary component of that value expression. The new Mission Statement for Support needs to be: “We directly contribute to making more sustainable profitability faster/better for our company and yours -- and we can prove it.”

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