The keys to Building a Support Organization (with 97.5% Customer Satisfaction Rating).

What calling support feels like

Let’s face it, calling Technical Support isn’t something you look forward to dealing with regardless of whether you are in the consumer or enterprise storage business. Voicemail jail, endless wait times while listening to elevator music, being forwarded like a hot potato to another agent, and clueless people who do not understand or know how to fix your issue. Most of us have experienced at least one or more of these nightmare situations.

As an experienced leader of several Technical Support organizations, I am not immune to these poor support experiences and in fact these experiences seemed to be amplified since I KNOW what needs to be done to build a support organization with  97.5% Customer Satisfactory Rating (CSAT).

The key ingredients to building a successful Technical Support organization are PEOPLE and PROCESS.

It’s all about the People

  1. Find Technically Motivated staff

A Technical Support team should be staffed with people who are interested in technology (in our case storage and VMware) and enjoys helping people. Finding these people to hire is a challenging task when you are often limited to a typical 30 minute interview.  Often a candidate’s response to non-technical questions provide subtle clues.  Learning about what someone does when he/she is not working could provide hints of how motivated he/she really is.  If a candidate is involved in volunteer work there is a clue that this person enjoys helping others.  For a college graduate, a resume from a well-known university is likely an indicator of book smarts, but doesn’t provide any indication to motivation, technical expertise, and ability to work in teams.  Asking a candidate to solve a problem under pressure helps to determine if the candidate has this very important skill that a Technical Support Engineer needs to deal with customer issues.  So… don’t be surprised if you are thrown a logic problem during an interview.  Don’t be scared because I’m focused on a candidate’s approach to solving a problem rather than getting the correct answer… just as the saying … “focus on the journey and not the destination”.  Hiring the best talent isn’t always about how smart you are but includes how smart you will work on the job.

  1. Communication 

Technical Support engineers must demonstrate an ability to present and discuss information, problems and solutions clearly and concisely. From the graduates that I have hired, I have noticed that our education system doesn’t put enough emphasis on business communication in the form of writing, presentations, and speaking to customers. Being able to demonstrate the ability to write and speak clearly and logically is a very important attribute for a successful Technical Support engineer.

  1. Workplace Culture 

For a Technical Support team to thrive and succeed, a team of people must have shared values and a common commitment to getting work done.  I believe that cultivating a workplace culture requires trust and teamwork and they both directly impact the performance of the employees and the performance of the team.  In a startup, working hard is expected but I believe that taking time to play hard is also important.  Go karting, paintball, hiking, and music videos are a few special ingredients included in my team’s workplace culture.

Culture based teamwork is like a school of fish.  Scientists believe that fish swim close together to reduce friction and conserve energy while swimming.  Being in a group allows the fish to locate food easier since many sets of eyes and noses have a better chance of finding food.  Like a school of fish, a team with a common workplace culture will find less friction when working to solve problems.  Working together in a team will maximize the resources and having multiple sets of eyes on a problems will often provides new perspectives to finding a solution.

Teamwork is not only isolated to the Support team since Technical Support interacts with various organizations such as Engineering, Sales Engineering, Sales, etc…  Cooperating and working with others collectively to solve customer problems is vital to ensuring customer satisfaction.  But the most important part of teamwork is working together with other support staff as a single voice to customers. They should assist other support engineers in crisis and be willing to be assisted.

Process

  1. Documented

Technical Support Processes must be documented so that it is repeatable.  Processes must be simple and flexible to allow the support staff to find creative solutions.  Simplifying the number of steps to create a case on CRM ensure efficiency to follow a process.  A flexible process to empower the support staff to make decisions to satisfy an unhappy customer immediately raised the customer satisfaction rating. For example, by giving support engineers the authority to spend up to $500 to resolve an unhappy customer such as sending out new hardware or upgrade to expedited shipping has ensured customer satisfaction goals are met.  Developing and documenting processes will enable the Technical Support organization to measure their results and progress to ensure they meet their goal of 97.5% or higher CSAT.

  1. Training

Training Technical Support team must include hands-on activities such as lab exercises and simulated customer cases.  Sitting through classroom training often leads to much of the content being forgotten so I prefer to focus on hands-on training.  To provide hands-on training, I have adopted the model of ‘train the trainer’.  By giving Technical Support staff the training responsibility, the trainer becomes an authority figure and also needs to know more about the subject in order to train others.

We at Coho Data have built our team based on these characteristics and will continue to “scale out” our support team. We love to engage with our customers and we take each engagement as an opportunity to leave the best Coho Data impression on our customers. We welcome you to experience Coho Data’s support culture by contacting us at 1-855-RUN-COHO. You will not be disappointed.

Interested in Coho Data? You should download our datasheet or  get the independent analyst review by ESG here.

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