Support Excellence – Building on the Basics

A Harvard Business Review article I read last year resurfaced on my desk. It initially grabbed my attention because the headline, “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers,” seemed counter-intuitive to our work as customer service professionals. The article is largely focused on Customer Effort Score (CES) as a key metric in determining the likelihood of customer loyalty. CES is designed to measure how much effort the customer must put forth during the issue resolution process. This post isn’t about metrics though.

For me, the article is an important reminder that we must remember the basics in our quest for service excellence. “Are we making the resolution process as effortless as possible for our customers?” Certainly this goal is nothing new to EMC, but I do believe posing the question in this way ensures this important facet is not forgotten. Here are some of the strategy elements that help ensure success.

  • Provide service through vehicles most desired and convenient for our customers. This is a huge priority for us. Technology, social media, and other advancements have broadened available channels, and individual customer preferences vary. A solid customer support strategy must include multiple vehicles beyond traditional phone such as community forums, online chat, and a customer-accessible knowledgebase. Each must be tuned to achieve fast issue resolution.
  • Invest in online service. Simply making a vehicle available doesn’t make it effective and efficient for the customer. These channels require ongoing investment and process refinement to ensure success.  For example, EMC has a very active online support community. Global customers engage one another to discuss challenges, ask questions and resolve issues. EMC plays an active role that extends beyond just investing in the technology. We have implemented a staffing rotation program that ensures knowledgeable staff is available to assist with responding to requests and updating the knowledgebase.
  • A proactive support strategy helps resolve issues before they impact a customer environment. At the core of this is remote support technology that allows secure around-the-clock remote monitoring, diagnostics, and resolution of potential issues.  EMC provides this through our EMC Secure Remote Support (ESRS) capability. We also provide a portfolio of personalized support options that customers can choose from to implement a broader proactive support strategy. Such a strategy helps customers maintain a current environment, identify issue trends before they become impactful, and perform root cause analysis.
  • Empower the front line by providing support engineers with the right knowledge, resources and processes to do their job effectively. Customer services professionals want to serve their customers! Opportunities for ongoing education and certification credentials are critical. For EMC, this has driven high staff retention rates and an average length of service of eight years.
  • Use customer input to make key improvements in the organization. For additional ideas on this, take a look at a post by my colleague Frank Coleman, Data Scientists – Big Data Often Starts Small, So Get Your Foundation Right.

Well I will end this post by simply admitting that I still want to delight our customers.

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.