how-do-we-tech-support-our-customers A few months back, Craig Weiss posted an article on his blog titled LMS Tech Support – it is getting worse. And since this wasn’t the first time I was reading something like this, I decided to do a quick reality check on how we, at Upside Learning, support our customers on our UpsideLMS and Upside2Go platforms and if we are doing it right!

It is unfortunately a known fact (supported by a few studies in the past) that one of the most common reasons for a customer to switch to a different LMS vendor is the customer tech support aspect(or the lack of it). And its not the first time we are doing a reality check internally because, and not to sound arrogant, we have always used this as one of our key differentiators in the market.

Here are the top 7 things we have tried to do with our Tech Support team to ensure that our customers don’t leave us for at least this reason:

  1. True 24×7 Support. Having customers right from the east coasts of Australia/New Zealand to the West coast of North America, the need to be available for your customers 24 hours is more a necessity than a value-add.
  2. True 24×7 support needs people, and this incurs a cost. I remember when we started setting up a team for 24×7 Support a few years back, we decided to look at this as an investment at par with sales and marketing which will not only help in retaining our customers but also get new customers when our existing customers pass on the good word about how well we support our customers. This only meant that we setup the team with enough buffers which takes care of scenarios of having people work in round the clock shifts and also back each other up in case someone is not at work.
  3. Bare-shell vs. Well prepared. When setting up this team, it’s easy to setup a 24×7 team by having just the minimum number of people required and then load it up as and when we get more customers. While we can’t hire an end number of people, the key was that we kept adding people as we added customers (and kept our buffers too). This helps. A lot. Seriously.
  4. Ticketing System. This seems such a basic thing but I think sometimes the decision is weighed down by the cost of such a system. Most such systems are per-user and can become a decent cost. However, we evaluated the benefits of such a system – dramatic increase in our internal speed of getting someone to look at an issue, excellent cataloging of all tickets, easy to search & easy to track, seamless and errorless switching between various agents as shifts change – not losing any information and getting back to customers in the committed time, and of course not to mention the analysis can help you in determining patterns like tickets per customer, common issues, time spent per customer per month/week/year, etc. This can help you to streamline your Support process much better and hence, it was not even a question for us to have such a system in place. And there are open source options too for starters. Our customers now have to just send an email to our Support ID and our ticketing system takes over right from assigning the right agent, responding to the customer within a timeframe and ensuring someone can also track any slippage, etc.
  5. Multi-tiered Support Team. This is critical both to manage increasing number of customers and also to ensure there is a very strict control on our SLA and our responses – time of such and quality of such. And a big benefit is the availability of experienced resources to the Support agents for tricky situations.
  6. Accountability. It is extremely important to have one dedicated person who only manages Support for our customers. In hindsight, we did good by having this separation right when the team was setup. Not only it brings in a lot of focus and attention to the team, its processes, etc., it also increases control and accountability which is extremely critical. We also ensured that this team, in terms of reporting, is in parallel to our Product teams and our Implementation teams – to avoid any conflict of interest whatsoever.
  7. Training. This doesn’t really require a lot of explanation. For someone like us where we customize our solutions for our customers, training is not only a challenge but in the same vein, extremely critical. We spend time in training every new member and our Handovers from our Implementation team to Support team are elaborate, detailed and meticulous.

While it may sound like we have got it all covered and we strive to keep it that way, it’s safe to say that this is a moving target. With every new release and more customers on new release, customizations, the complexities we need to manage keep increasing. But I believe that we have setup the right team with the right attitude (we look at Support as a responsibility to assist customers and not as an additional revenue stream) and we can keep building on it as more and more customers put their faith in us. This is also an opportunity for me to thank all our customers who have taught us a lot and have been with us and continue to let us serve them year after year.

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