Last July, something new  came to The HotLine Magazine. The change brought a new name and appearance, a new focus, and the furtherance of a vision that there is much more to the role of customer support than endless technological break/fix exercises. Now, six months later, the magazine continues to evolve to reflect changes in the industry. The current economic outlook is grim. Layoff notices abound, and contact centers are closing on all sides. The bleak 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.
The Difference Between Layoffs and Leadership
In a recession, those who are not viewed as directly connected with the continuing generation of income and profits are candidates for corporate cutbacks. Those who are perceived as being necessary to the production and increase of income streams are far more likely to survive and to prosper. The difference between layoffs and leadership begins with the perception of your role in the larger corporate strategy. While managing the resolution of issues, problems and complaints from the customer base may be considered important, even critical, it is not core. Problem-solving is a discipline rather than a profession, and what is needed now is the profession.
The HotLine Magazine will continue to explore the role, technologies and practices of the contact center in the management of customer relationships. To augment the management discussion, however, a new and distinct theme has been begun that will deal with what comes before management: the design and development of what might be called “product as a relationship.”
The Architecture of Customer Relationships
The time has come to intentionally explore the rapidly changing architecture of customer relationships brought by the accelerating proliferation and acceptance of the Software as a Service model. Underneath the SaaS sea-change in the software industry, despite its profound impact upon the way that software is manufactured, marketed, sold, delivered and supported, old-model patterns, perceptions and practices are still very much present and stifling the success of both vendor and customer. The HotLine Magazine as an online resource will speak to the issues, challenges, approaches, tools and best practices of designing and building lasting customer relationships in the new era.
More Than A Magazine
In less than two years, The HotLine Magazine has swiftly grown from a few articles and a handful of readers to where its voice is heard in more than 115 countries around the world. “We can make the difference,” one reader wrote as a comment when e-mailing an article here to their colleagues. “Interesting read – in the direction we’re moving towards,” noted another. First published in May of 2007, the first essay about the Definition of Customer Support  continues to be the most requested and forwarded article of all. “In Mikael Blaisdell’s article,” a member acknowledged, “ his assessment highlights exactly what is wrong with the Support Center and Desktop Services. We need to get the Corporate IT Management team to realize this or we will continue to disappoint….even if we outsource.”
Recognizing that articles have a very long life, the HotLine team is renewing the effort to revise and update the popular themes, series and material still being actively read every day. The Commentary section will continue in its present form, an ongoing discussion of concepts, trends and developments affecting the profession and its practitioners. Other sections will be redefined, the materials therein revised and republished in a more “knowledgebase” or “wiki” form as time permits. We’re looking for volunteer editors and assistance in extending the content; if you’re interesting in contributing to the profession, please send me an e-mail.
Last, but far from least, — thank you. Thank you for reading, for giving feedback, for forwarding what you’ve found useful to your companies and colleagues.