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Unsung Heroes: Modernizing Customer Care in the Enterprise
Modernizing customer care to provide support after the sale is critically important to the success of any enterprise software product.
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By Rich Jardine, Vice President, Strategic Customer Success, Broadcom Software
When it comes to innovation, at Broadcom Software we believe it is not just about technology anymore. There is tremendous innovation happening in enterprise customer care and support. Driving it is a growing awareness that being able to support an enterprise software application after the sale is critically important.
In my career, I have seen customer support evolve from waiting by the phone to the emergence of predictive care. It’s a journey that I feel lucky to be part of and that reinforces my view that the people supporting the product are the unsung heroes of technology. Salespeople sell the software and get the glory, engineers create so many amazing things, but at the end of the day, someone’s got to take those amazing things, put it into a customer’s environment, and make it wildly successful.
Waiting by the telephone
In the early days of enterprise software, customer support was a waiting game. Customers procured and deployed software or hardware products and when something went wrong, they called tech support.
Customer support was purely a reactive, “break/fix” model. The problem is that it ultimately ends up leading to a slow resolution to the problem. Support professionals wait for a problem to happen. And when it does, they are unaware and must wait for someone on the customer side to contact them to start the troubleshooting process. The longer that delay is, the longer the resolution takes and the more likely it is that it will lead to downtime – costing the organization money and credibility with their customers.
Moving to proactive support
Customers need a new, higher level of support: proactive support. Proactive support’s goal is to prevent problems and rests on three pillars that are each essential to success:
Proactive support starts with accountability. It’s being assigned to an account or set of accounts. And after being assigned to those accounts, it means assuming and taking accountability to become part of the team dedicated to making a solution successful for the customer. It’s about understanding the customer’s environment, change control processes, and the overall desired business outcome.
That’s a huge mind shift from how organizations have traditionally thought about customer support. It’s no longer a transactional relationship but one in which support is a trusted advisor and part of the customer’s team. That’s opposed to the prior way which has been more along the lines of having a transactional relationship with a customer for five minutes on the phone while helping them through a particular situation.
Taking ownership in a proactive support model means assuming the responsibility to advocate for that customer until the issue is resolved to that customer’s satisfaction. It’s about working that case until that issue gets resolved by whoever has the right skill set. It’s to make sure that the customer has what they need to effectively run their software and ultimately their business. And it’s about implementing “status page” type technology to automatically update customers on the status of their software services to increase transparency and to further reduce business impact.
Act with urgency
It’s obvious that we need to react and resolve issues as they come. But from the standpoint of proactive support, it means more than speed.
Proactive support requires putting things in place – the processes, tools, and other services in preparation for when an event might happen. In the traditional support model, a server or an application might go down and the first thing the support person is going to ask is: “What version are you on? What is your configuration? Do you have any logs?” The accountable customer success professional would have already ensured that those things are defined, would have the customer ready to capture relevant troubleshooting information, and would know how to expedite getting that information to the right subject matter expert. Having these pre-planned preparations in place shrinks the resolution time significantly.
The next phase: predictive care
Though the reactive, “brake/fix” model is still the typical paradigm, many organizations are embracing at least some level of proactive support, and new innovations continue to emerge.
One of these innovations – predictive care – is support-enabled by AI and Big Data. It provides the capability to detect and fix problems before customers know they exist. So, for example, if a service or even an entire data center has a problem, predictive support will detect that problem and before a customer suffers an outage, automatically shift that customer to another service or data center. Predictive support is about analyzing knowledge base search patterns and software usage trends from multiple customers’ and using pattern recognition to help identify problem trends that can be avoided by using current versions.
Predictive support brings together the formerly separate domains of customer support and business continuity. Until this becomes more widely adopted, the best way for customers to stay up-and-running is to ensure that software versions are always kept up to date, continue to move to SaaS, where appropriate, and implement the proper training to ensure each software deployment and use is successful. As a pioneer in enterprise customer success, I’m passionate about putting these technologies, tools, processes, and people in place to provide a holistic approach to customer success while preparing for the next level of predictive care.
I am proud of the role that those of us in customer support are the unsung heroes in the technology story. Proud that we’re helping all this phenomenal technology to be used effectively in our customer environments. And proud to be the people helping our customers realize the full value of their investment. It’s where customer success happens, where the rubber meets the road.
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