The current bleak economic landscape offers proof of what has long been suggested here: there is no future in tech support. There is, however, a very bright potential for the profession of managing customer relationships. It's time to acknowledge the difference between layoffs and leadership, to explore the architecture of what comes before management: the design and development of what might be called "product as a relationship."
Memo to the Customer Support Team: Here we go again. As you've been hearing, cash is tight, and getting tighter. Senior Management is talking about burn rates, and actively calculating how long the company can survive if new sales slow down or fall off significantly. You know what's coming at us -- budget cuts, hiring freezes, deep layoffs and maybe even center closings. And don't even think about the desperately needed upgrades to our aging contact center technology suite that we were promised. Get ready to tighten your belts, keep your heads down, and continue chanting "we can do more with less." As things are going, the immediate future looks worse than gloomy. We've basically got two options. One is to cross your fingers for luck, hide and hope that perhaps it won't turn out to be as bad this time as last. The other is to seize the opportunity to reinvent the profession of Customer Support.
A new name, a new look, and a new focus has come to The HotLine. Re-launched as The HotLine Magazine, the new layout and graphics have strongly increased the accessibility of the articles and content. But the crucial difference is more fundamental. The focus has changed from optimizing center operations over to producing strategically significant, and sustainable, levels of contributions to overall corporate profitability. And the same needs to happen to the old role of Support / Service and the customer contact center. It's indeed time for something new.
It is often said that Support & Service must necessarily be better in the OnDemand / Software as a Service ecosystem because "the customer could leave at any time. Therefore, we have to continuously earn our customers' loyalty every month." In reality, however, how many SaaS companies truly operate as if they were concerned about customer retention? What percentage of your customer base is at-risk? If you offered your customers an easy off-ramp, a way to painlessly migrate to another vendor, how many would take advantage of it? Or if a competitor suddenly offered to buy your customers, would they be for sale?