Monday, June 1, 2009

Monetizing Support Is About ‘Optimizing’ Contacts

This article submitted by SupportSoft

Bogdan Odulinski
SupportSoft, Inc.
Director, Product Management
Enterprise Solutions Group

Service providers have acknowledged that growing business, winning sales and expanding their customer base in an intensely competitive environment requires proactive programs to drive revenue. Add an unstable economy to the mix and this seems almost unattainable! Nonetheless, in their quest for growth and profitability, many are taking to transforming strategic operations such as the contact center/help desk where viable customer interactions take place and could be turned into sales. Once considered a ‘cost’ center, the view of the contact center is increasingly shifting to a new awareness that it can become a ‘profit’ center, or at least become cost neutral. The realization is that through successful up-selling of value-added services (VAS) including “premium” (paid) tech support, the contact center can help generate additional revenue for providers. This we call the monetization of support.

Key to monetizing support is that it’s about optimizing contacts rather than minimizing them. This is important to note because most support organizations’ vernacular focuses on “time to resolve”, “resolve in one” and “contact avoidance” activities—all of which do not recognize that there are ‘good’ calls which are in fact to be desired as well as ‘unnecessary’ contacts that do not provide value to either the customer or organization. Monetizing support requires the removal of internal silos that sequester support organizations to non-revenue generating activities. Historically, this sequestering has created poor customer experiences. An example of this is when a solution to a support problem handled by a call center service rep requires an up-sell -- if the call center is not equipped to handle the up-sell directly (if at all), customer expectations cannot be met.

Some providers have already started to enable their customer service reps (CSRs) to offer value-added services in connection to the support call when it is fitting. To help this to happen, they have had to determine how best to make critical sales and service/subscription data visible to their CSRs. Those providers got down to business by re-engineering their operations, changing service level agreements, adjusting customer expectations, and eliminating inherent boundaries across sales, service and support, thereby allowing agents to have a 360 degree view of the customer’s history. In so doing, their agents can now receive vital information about the issues that matter most to customers, and they can gain insight into customer goals and into what kind of offering is most likely to generate revenue. They can then translate these insights into successful up-selling.

Important to this discussion is that while monetizing support of the CSR-assisted phone and chat support channels is a good start, Contact Optimization is just as much about achieving the maximum efficiency in volume of customer requests across all other channels of support, including the self-help channel. Web-based and desktop-based self-help channels represent a largely untapped frontier for the monetization of support. Combining the ‘web-support’ and ‘pc-resident support’ framework can provide auto-remediation of customers’ routine problems so that they don’t have to call the help desk. By delivering “1-click fixes” to known “points of pain,” service providers can offer just-in-time support, as well as help customers resolve their own issues. Additionally, with real-time access to the customer’s context and system configuration, providers and their marketing organizations can be better armed with essential analytics to present targeted and personalized services in the framework of providing support. These could be premium, pre-packaged services that address home networking, security and warranty renewals, for instance, that can significantly enhance the end-user experience and can be turned into revenue more successfully.

Across the board, managing support and converting it into a revenue stream should be a major component of any service provider’s strategy, if they intend to differentiate their offering. The real question is will your organization take the necessary steps in time?

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