The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
By Mikael Blaisdell

Underneath the window dressing of the brave new world of SaaS, there lurks an ugly little secret. Down in the depths of the customer contact center, the quality of service that the customer sees hasn’t changed, hasn’t kept up with the promise. To the reps, the name of the game is still: When something breaks, fix it. Nothing happens until the phone rings, the e-mail arrives or the chat window opens. Once energized, the rep then goes to work to resolve, as best they can, whatever is preventing the customer from being productive with their technology purchase. Hopefully, the efforts are successful and the incident is closed. The rep documents the specifics of the problem and what they did to resolve it in the hopes that other reps may find the record useful in dealing with other customers. After filing the case, the rep then reaches for the next incoming call. Another hour, another ten or more calls. Handle those, and here come ten more. Stop, rewind; let’s take another look.

Where is the Value?

Where’s the value in the above traditional interaction? One customer got a problem resolved. The contact center team got a searchable record that might later help another rep solve a similar or related problem. And the rep got a point towards a successful performance review. While it may have been necessary, the scenario certainly didn’t offer any economic value to anyone except indirectly to the guy collecting a salary for answering the phone. Everyone involved had much more profitable things that they could, and should, have been doing.

So long as Company, Rep and Customer all think that the role of the contact center is about Break / Fix, the result will be a repetitious pattern of waste and dissatisfaction for all concerned. The shift to SaaS and the Cloud, with its single instance of a program, will necessarily bring some relief in the shape of a somewhat lowered demand for support. But even at a lower volume, the traditional pattern of activity in the contact center is still a waste. Support is still the illegitimate red-headed stepchild of the company. There is no way to win under this paradigm. To succeed, to offer the full potential of technology and the organization and receive the maximum profitability in return, the SaaS/Cloud applications manufacturers have got to get beyond perceiving Support as a seemingly endless series of Break/Fix incidents.

Time for Reinvention, Redefinition

It’s time to completely reinvent Support and the customer contact center. Just as the old days of “free” “tech support’ had to give way to fee-based plans when the fall in software license fees could no longer cover the costs of the service, the break/fix model must likewise be retired — and for the same reason. No one can afford to do business that way anymore.

The starting point is a total change in focus. Instead of wasting the skills and knowledge of the rep on fixing single problems, the purpose needs to be about generating direct value for both company and customer in every interaction. The challenge is substantial, but so are the rewards.

July 18, 2007