How to achieve a 100% repeat rate
If you searched for a definition of support at a software company, you would find a definition much like the one provided by Gartner.
“Software support services are generally technical support or break/fix services that are delivered for specific software products. These services include revenue derived from long-term technical-support contracts or pay-as-you-go, incident-based support. Software support services typically include remote troubleshooting capabilities, installation assistance, and basic usability assistance. Remote troubleshooting capabilities may be delivered via telephone and online communication media or without human assistance through automated means that reside on the customer’s device or are available on the Web.
Software support services may include new product installation services, installation of product updates, migrations for major releases of software, other types of proactive or reactive on-site services, and support for custom application or infrastructure software. Services may be delivered by a product vendor, a consulting firm or third-party software maintainers.
Software products and technologies covered under this category include commercial and custom operating systems, application software, and infrastructure software. Software support services do not include software license code updates and upgrades, which vendors often report as software maintenance.”
While Gartner’s definition is a critical foundation of support, we believe it does not go far enough to create differentiation. Our experience suggests that differentiation occurs only by defining support through the lens of your company mission.
To set a context, we will use our own mission statement:
Concentric alters how people do their jobs, how companies succeed, how organizations evolve, and how the world works. Concentric enables our users to achieve their potential, augmenting their intelligence with collaborative analytics.
Each component of our mission changes our definition of support and how we go about delivering it.
- Alter how people do their jobs. Most support functions focus on metrics like response times, ticket volume, resolution time, or replies per ticket. These productivity metrics focus on the service team’s effectiveness while overlooking customer productivity.In our community, we have two customer groups – resellers and brands. For our resellers, we develop programs that improve their new business win rates or lower the time they spend per project. For our brand teams, we focus on lowering their total cost of ownership or increasing accuracy of their forecasts so that their results are more predictable.Adding in these productivity metrics, yields a numerator of value that resets the entire customer value formula. We still account for fees and customer access cost. However, we also deliver programs that improve the quality of their deliverable and improve their experience with the software.
- Influence how companies succeed. Most support teams report on how well they are succeeding at providing service to their customers. Customer satisfaction metrics with the support team drive reporting and team behavior. These traditional metrics, while helpful, overlook results for the customer that are more meaningful. Results tied to the use of the software make the difference. We focus on measures like increased market share, incremental profits, or overall return on investment. We are linking ourselves to their key business questions, not just the key questions they are solving with the software. The higher calling of our mission moves us beyond our monthly internal report to their income statements and balance sheet, giving us a measure of influence on how they succeed.
- Shape how organizations evolve. All of us in the software industry know that adoption of a solution at an enterprise level is a complicated formula to discover. It is often uniquely crafted based on a company’s maturation on key adoption drivers like culture, structure, process, and expertise. Most support organizations rarely look at these issues with the intent of overcoming them. Since our mission includes looking at these challenges, we have developed support programs well beyond our core software capabilities. We have developed programs to manage user requirements, organizational change, job redefinition, skills training, and managed services to fill the gaps our customers cannot close. These are often costly and initially clumsy programs – however, over time they have built loyalty and continuity that our competitors do not seem to enjoy.
- Change how the world works. In our earliest days, we were pretty idealistic about the breadth of behavior we wanted to influence. We had lofty notions tied to our models of consumer behavior. We were upfront about them and tried to explain them to our prospects. This direct approach pretty much failed. We learned a valuable lesson – do not give up on your lofty goals. Rather, design your entire customer experience so that the ideals you want to achieve emerge through the customer experience naturally. We do not “force” our customers to sign up for the software and our mission. We silently craft and re-engineer our process so that by doing their jobs, our customers discover that they are changing the way the world works. They achieve new levels of success by being themselves, not by doing something extraordinary.
Ultimately a mission is both cause and effect. Delivering results beyond traditional metrics builds credibility for your customers. Enhanced credibility is satisfying for us in terms of a job well done and repeat customers. It also creates an effect. It usually means that our customers are provided more opportunities as well. They receive more resources and more opportunities to enrich their jobs. Our customers report that they have three types of experiences that come their way:
- They achieve their potential. While many software users become expert in the software they use, it is rare that they become an expert that influences the trajectory of their company. Delivering on our mission enables our customers to deliver on their companies’ missions, enabling our users to raise their expertise or rise in management – often times both. Their success builds loyalty and commitment that is hard to shake.
- They augment their intelligence. It’s a great shame in this day and age that so little training and education exist on how to use software to enhance people’s expertise. We hear headline after headline talking about how AI and the like will replace people and jobs. While it’s true that scaling businesses and economies need innovations to drive productivity, it is also true that those innovations will lead to new opportunities. The draconian positioning of software taking over overlooks the need for expertise that will be able to adapt to the changes technology yields. Our customers are already experiencing this adaptation. As their skills with technology improve, their companies are asking them to solve new problems that rely on their new skills – their intelligence augmented with technology.
- They build collaborative analytics. Over the past decade, corporations have lost the trust of their employees. Rapid downsizing, financial collapse, institutional indifference, and corporate consolidations have left many employees feeling like inputs. In this environment, a natural outcome has been that employees have been less likely to take risks. They have hunkered down within their departments and meet the strict formulas for success, like response times and tickets served. In our mission, we hope to liberate people from these constrictions because they deliver value for their organizations. We have encouraged and seen them not only move beyond their own measures for success but also gain the permission to include more people outside of their departments. With credibility, control, and opportunity they are uniting with others and building organizations that work together to solve problems.
Mission in service departments is a rare concept but one we have seen work well. It requires leadership and vision for those who manage it. It demands a broad array of skills and a willingness to take risks. The road to success is not guaranteed but the journey is usually worth the price that needs to be paid.