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Create Competition for Innovation in Technical Support

As technology becomes more complex, so do the questions fielded by your technical support agents. In a time of growing customer expectations and increasing demand for instant gratification, technology companies need to redefine their support boundaries to find innovative approaches for improving performance.

Taking a standards-based approach to put all of your tech support vendors on a level playing field may help you measure apples-to-apples across them, but it does little to make room for continuous improvement that can lead to innovation. At the rate of customer change, standing still based on what has worked in the past is a recipe for failure. Consider the untapped opportunity that’s available if you can create an environment that rewards controlled experimentation that can result in higher value for the business.

One method for technology companies that contract with multiple contact center vendors is to create an environment of competition that extends beyond prices and rankings. Adversarial approaches rarely work and leave either the vendor or the client feeling put upon, at best. Instead, focus on creating a win-win situation that drives rewards for competitively induced innovations. Healthy competition between vendors can be inspiring and rewarding.

Apply Competitive Approaches to Service Delivery

By taking a hard look at the work “product” itself, you’re taking an approach that often uncovers opportunities for fresh thinking around efficiency, work flows, application of expertise and innovation discovery. Shared knowledge and big-picture thinking also offer opportunities for competitive advantage. Improvements in each of those areas can lead to an evolution in technical support experiences as well as improved overall operational performance.

Opportunities for improvements driven by competition include:

  • Efficiency. Contact center providers are not normally incentivized to invest in performance improvements. But using efficiency to stimulate competition amongst vendors can be highly motivating if the vendor can uncover an opportunity to increase margins, even at the expense of gross revenues.
  • Workflows. As more customers become savvy with support channels beyond voice, consider incentivizing your technical support provider to re-route calls to less expensive channels—such as web services, chat or IVR—when appropriate. By focusing agents on inbound calls that cannot be resolved through alternative channels the ability to meet customer preferences and expectations is improved, while also keeping costs in line.
  • Expertise. The vendors you partner with to deliver services to your customers are experts in support and service delivery. Challenge them to put that expertise to work by offering them the opportunity to win more of your business based on raising the standards for support, improving business processes, and/or hitting key KPIs that help your company achieve overall business objectives.
  • Innovations. The customer environment and business landscape requires continuous adaptation from all lines of business, including technical support. Products are becoming more complex, customers are demanding more and better experiences and meeting business objectives is not becoming easier. A technical support provider that covers additional verticals and other customer-facing services will have cross-industry insights and broader expertise which may very well lead to innovations in technical support that weren’t even on the radar in your industry a few years ago.
  • Knowledge.  Your company has a lot of specialized knowledge about the products you provide. Your technical support vendor has a wealth of expertise and knowledge about customer interaction design. Become the catalyst that connects the internal knowledge with external expertise to develop new opportunities to improve performance and customer happiness. Communication between both parties is essential to putting knowledge to work for competitive advantage.
  • Big Picture. Along with knowledge comes big picture thinking. The insights from the customer experience provided by technical support interactions may also indicate coming changes or trends for your markets. The data gathered in the contact center can be used to improve strategic company decisions and uncover previously unforeseen opportunities. By extrapolating the data for use in other business areas (e.g. research and development, product design) your business may find it much easier to proactively stay abreast of industry trends, rather than racing to catch up with competitors that discovered them first.

Don’t Underestimate Your Role in Innovation

Vendor management is not about negotiating pricing to the lowest levels possible or simple contract compliance, but is about building strategic relationships that are beneficial to both sides. If your technical support contact center exists as a silo, separate from other business functions, you could be missing out on aligning the customer experience across channels, touch points and for the brand overall.

As customer expectations flourish, your role in innovation is growing commensurately. You must become the instigator, leader, and coach who inspires your vendors to expend effort toward improvements that align with your company’s business objectives. By establishing a competitive environment designed to elicit innovation, you’re putting to work the expertise that is cultivated over the longer term of a relationship built on trust and access to “insider” expertise and knowledge.