Gaining Innovation from Technical Support Vendors

Selecting technical support vendors means a change to the status quo. It is also a choice that will reflect on customer service executives due to the growing value of customer experience and the proclivity to share their experiences with others being adopted swiftly by your customers. If you’re going to risk changing the status quo, it’s important to consider what you’ll get with a new support vendor.

Continuing to deliver service as you always have is a nice benchmark, but it doesn’t do a lot to keep your service in step with customers who are becoming more demanding. Technical support shouldn’t be static. With the speed of new product rollouts and updates to existing technology, not only must the vendor you choose be adept at change management, but at finding new ways to delight and serve your customers. A customer service call can be adequate, or it can be outstanding.

To get to outstanding, you need a vendor that brings innovation to the partnership—not one you have to continuously push for more.

Five Signs that the Vendor You Choose Will Bring Innovation:

  1. The vendor has the ability to apply its experience from serving the customers of very different companies to your program. It’s always nice that the vendor can show you customers similar to your company. But, what is often overlooked is the level of alignment with the programs they provide to the program you want. Companies different from your own with similar program goals can be a great source for inspiration about how you may be able to innovate the support provided to your customers to something more satisfying than they receive now.
  2. The vendor has proven and proprietary methodology for service excellence. Contact centers and support service has been something companies have provided for years. However, until recently, it was provided as more of a cost of doing business than as a way to grow business or build advocacy. Vendors that have looked beyond the way it’s always been done to bring new methods and processes to their customers demonstrate forward thinking that will add to the value beyond the contract requirements.
  3. The vendor originates the discussion about customizing support offerings for your customers. Many vendors have a canned program and set of processes that are applied in the same way for program delivery across their customers. Standardization of processes and workflows is a good starting point, but vendors who can pick up on the nuances and factors that set your brand apart and affect your customers’ expectations will deliver better experiences.One example is using the same profile for recruiting agents for all customers. Different situations require different skillsets to recruit agents that have the highest potential to become top performers under the circumstances unique to your company.
  4. The vendor uses data in unique ways that bring demonstrable business value. Data has come to the fore in the last few years and contact centers are ripe with it. Gathering it is one thing. Using it effectively is another. A vendor that has developed tools that render insights from call data that can help you make better decisions about how to apply resources for the biggest return brings higher value than those that cannot.For example, customer service often reacts to the squeaky-wheel syndrome. However, it’s been proven that issues that rise to the top may not provide the overall improvement across your customer base than others that may not be so obvious. A vendor that can mine the data to show you impact differentials to key performance indicators (KPIs) will deliver more efficient operations that produce higher customer satisfaction that will be reflected in business results.
  5. The vendor has overcome the challenges represented in your technical support operation. Challenges abound for the provision of technical support. Examples include the need to find certified technical staff with system knowledge that are highly skilled in comparison to those tasked with providing more traditional customer service. Another is the ability to scale quickly to meet a higher volume of inquiries. Scaling up can also mean longer hours of operations to meet customer demands and preferences.A vendor that has the most efficient options for meeting these challenges—and can prove they’ve done so for other customers—will bring more operational innovation to the partnership. Things to consider include the vendor’s virtual agent program, training programs that match the level of certification and skill sets required, and a track record for flexibility in operations based on established practices for change management.

Getting to Innovation

According to Wikipedia, “innovation is the application of better solutions to meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.” Innovation is about doing things differently, in new ways, rather than just doing the same things you have been doing better. Company executives often suffer from the “curse of knowledge.” They are so close to the products and services that their companies provide that they’ve lost their ability to be objective and step into their customers’ shoes without the baggage of that knowledge.

An outsourced technical support vendor “sees” service and support through a variety of lenses reflected by different industries, different products and the differing business goals of the companies they serve. The constant, however, is customers. Technical support vendors have a more varied view of customers in a variety of cultures, using a variety of products. These insights coalesce into the expertise that the vendor applies to bring innovation by understanding when a process needs to be executed differently to gain a better result.

But the most important factor to consider is that innovation is based upon change. The status quo will not survive innovation—and that’s really the point. Taking the first step is about finding expertise you can trust that will help you do things differently as the market you serve demands. This most definitely includes the way in which your company provides technical support and customer service.

Nick Sellers

Author Nick Sellers

Nick Sellers is the Senior Director of Strategy & Marketing at SYKES. An outsourced contact center and customer experience veteran with almost 30 years of understanding and satisfying the needs of companies and their customers, Nick focuses on customer service through online channels (chat, social media, community forums, self-help) and support solutions for technology sector companies. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or on my personal blog at www.journey2excellence.com.

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