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Pillars of Support

Chuck’s blog here about EMC and Customer Support along with a few issues that I’ve had recently has inspired me to write a few thoughts on Customer Support and how it important it is.

Firstly, as someone who has been a customer of, done customer support and managed customer support teams; I’ve experienced it all. I have a huge amount of sympathy with customer support teams and the sometimes shoddy way that both customers and managers treat them simply beggars belief.

If you run a Customer Support team or have any kind of influence over a CS team; remember, the only time most of your customers speak to your company is probably via the support team. They are your most important line of communication; they are more important than any of your sales-teams, your sales-teams generally only talk to the leaders in a company; your CS teams talk to the people who make your kit work and can make or break your company’s reputation.

Also remember that people only generally call CS when they have a problem; they are already potentially unhappy with your company’s product. How your CS people react/handle problems is very important; you need to make sure you’ve got great people with great tools to turn the customer with a problem into a happy customer. But also, your CS  teams are often dealing with problems all day long and people very rarely say thank-you; this can be an ultimately soul-destroying job. Look after them and keep their morale high; train them and nurture them.

If you work on/in CS; all credit to you, you are doing a hard job with plenty of hard yards but…think about the guy who is hassling you with a problem.

That guy may not have what sounds like the hugest problem in the world; it may not sound like the most critical problem and may not feel a severity one type call but…to them, it probably is. For example, the admin who phones in with a configuration problem for a server they can’t get up; this might not meet the support definition of ‘Business Down – Severity One’ but it could be make or break for the admin. They may have a bonus riding on it, project already running late etc, etc. Treat every problem even the trivial ones as a priority one.

It is also worthing remembering that a great deal of admins leave it too long to call support; most of the admins I know have to be told to call support and get the call raised. When they are calling you, they are already stressed and often feel that they’ve failed as they don’t know everything. Treat them with respect and respect their knowledge/experience and you will find it often reciprocated; treat them like a dumb-ass and you will be treated like one back. Obviously that advice also goes to those of you who have to call CS, treat them with respect!

Sales-teams, talk to the CS managers and try to get some of the CS staff out to meet the customer; it does wonders and allows empathy to be built. Review the CS calls which have been made; if you find someone appears to have done an excellent job, worked on a severity 1 call; drop an email to their manager and them thanking them.

CS managers review the tools that your teams have and ask them if they are getting in the way of providing great service. If you get the time, phone and talk to some customers; find out what they think and find out who the stars are in your team.


  1. Jeff Hine says:

    Great post Martin. Customer service and support is indeed an overlooked topic and an underappreciated discipline. I think culturally, companies that put customer satisfaction above all – win. This stretches from the folks on the support line waiting for the call, all the way to the actions of the sales person. I’ve know quite a few sales people to be on calls with their customer at 3AM and bringing them breakfast on Sunday as the CS team works through issues. Most product launches and product campaigns are battles of functionality and thought leadership. But when customers are asked why they bought or why they plan to buy, customer service and support is in-fact a driving factor. Some of our recent research at ESG in the area of scale-out storage shows that customer service and support is the #2 factor in making a new storage decisions, and when asked to think in retrospect about storage they already purchased, customer service and support was the #1 decision making factor.

    Kudos to the support folks – unsung heroes of corporate America!

  2. Bill says:

    I also agree that CS plays a major role in which equipment is purchased. My company is in the process of kicking out one vendor partly due to their poor customer service and a general downward trend in service over the past few years.

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