A customer support contact center is a knowledge inventory operation, and its process is very mathematical. The speed of response to incoming requests is determined by the average duration of the interaction, the volume of requests and the number of available, trained staff members. Customers want fast, courteous response and complete resolution, while the provider struggles to meet those expectations and the cost of the required resources. In a previous Briefing, I outlined some of the standard options available to senior management when the Support budget won’t balance. You can reduce the incoming direct volume by diverting service requests into more efficient automated channels, or by improving the application product so that it no longer generates as many requests. If the duration of the transactions can be shortened by use of better tools or training, then the staffing requirement will be lower. But if you can’t shrink the volume or the handle time, then you either have to disappoint the customers, or you have to increase the staff. Invariably, the decision is both to disappoint some customers and incur increased costs for some level of additional staff.
There is Another Path
For companies willing to think strategically, however, there is another path to better responsiveness without the increased cost for additional staff members. The answer is to get better value from the ones you already have. But in order to take the first step on that alternate path and gain the enhanced profitability, you have to accept that Support is not a separate entity or accessory, it’s necessarily a core aspect of the ongoing relationship you are selling to your customers.
The basic problem is the perception that Support, Documentation, Training, Professional Services, Sales-Support and Quality Assurance are completely separate functions. The truth, for companies who are oriented towards relationship-thinking, is otherwise. What looks like separate operational entities is actually different aspects of the same relationship product. They are all different expressions of the same essential skills and knowledge of technology and customers.
Once a company commits to the SaaS model, where the product is a long-term relationship, holding on to obsolete organizational constructs is a proven recipe for failure. The profits-realization strategy based on managed income streams provides no excess margin for inefficiencies.