Show Me the Money – Investing in a Support Infrastructure

I have been in Customer Support long enough to know that if you think you have achieved your Customer Support goals and have the perfect model for sustained success, you need to think again. The reality is that customer requirements, the technology landscape, globalization trends, economic conditions, and many other factors within the industry will continue to evolve. This evolution, along with a goal to provide the best possible service experience for customers, drives continuous improvement and constant change.

I talk a good deal about Service Culture and the importance of a top-down commitment to both customers and employees, but it is also imperative to invest in an infrastructure that supports near- and long-term goals. How much to invest and where to invest takes careful planning. The investment decisions you make now, will certainly impact your ability to deliver quality customer support years from now. Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind when making investment decisions.

  • Know your customers’ future requirements and where the industry is headed. Adjustments and refinements should be made along the way, but when it comes to major infrastructure investments, early action is mandatory. While voice of the customer and big data analytics provide critical inputs, support organizations should also monitor industry trends. This video “Support Services – Trends and Best Practices” featuring IDC’s Elaina Stergiades provides a summary of key trends we have been monitoring.
  • Seek to provide new, innovative solutions – beyond what customers are requesting. Here are a couple of real life examples:
    • Years before social networking vehicles such as Twitter and Facebook were common place, EMC introduced online support communities. This early insight and investment allowed us to build the very useful and active community in place today.
    • In 2008, EMC introduced Live Chat. Based on initial success, in 2010 service availability was extended to technical and nontechnical issues of all severities, and new best practices were implemented. Customers weren’t asking for this but we saw the potential benefits and invested. It has been wildly successful. Live Chat use has grown over 300% year-over-year since 2010 and has become the support channel of choice. In fact, customers are experiencing problem resolution at least 33% faster than other traditional channels. Continued investments have expanded Live Chat to all products and with multi-lingual support.
  • Be prepared to meet corporate growth targets, distribution of customers, and expansion into new and emerging markets. These investments can range from the addition of staff, skills and partnerships, to new facilities – possibly in parts of the world where you haven’t done business before. For example, EMC recently opened a new Customer Support Center in Utah. The decision to make such a significant investment was in response to several strategic requirements including enhanced levels of support for EMC’s growing customer base in the Western US and Latin/South America. (See the Why We Planted a Flag in Utah executive blog post for more.)

In short, we must support customers’ current needs, anticipate their future requirements – often before customers do, and invest in process and infrastructure to successfully meet them. Wish there was an “easy button” for that.

About the Author: Mary Cay Kosten

Mary Cay leads a team of 1400 professionals that provide operational support to the Dell Technologies Services organization. Her team is responsible for driving operational excellence and implementing innovations across Dell Technologies Services. This includes areas such as eServices & Knowledge Management, Program and Change Management, Business Services, Remote Support Contact Center Operations, Command Center, Process Engineering and Data Sciences, Data Enablement and Analytics, and the Global Centers of Excellence. Kosten has over 30 years of experience in service and supplier management, with a proven track record in building outstanding service delivery organizations. Prior to joining Dell EMC, she was Vice President of global customer services delivery for Oracle/Sun Microsystems, responsible for delivering all elements of Sun Microsystems’ support services. Under her leadership, Sun achieved the prestigious J.D. Power Certified Technology Service and Support (CTSS) Award for "An Outstanding Customer Service Experience," the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) Award for Excellence in Service Operations, and Sun was inducted into the STAR Awards Hall of Fame. Kosten is a 2008 recipient of the Denver Business Journal's Outstanding Women in Business (High Tech and Telecommunications) Award and a 2006 recipient of the Silicon Valley YWCA Tribute to Women and Industry (TWIN) Award. She also is on the Advisory Board for TSIA’s Field Services discipline. She holds an MS degree in systems management from the University of Southern California and a BS in marketing from the University of West Florida.