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The Core Principles of Support

Self-Service Support is a key foundation of the whole support experience, as described in Chapter 3. For this customer set KCS (Knowledge-Centered-Support) is a key component. It has become even more relevant with the evolving influence of the Millennials in the customer base. The base foundation of Product Documentation, Product Downloads, updates and alerts relative to product are key. A small specialized team can manage the content, collecting information from multiple sources, organizing and publishing on a regular basis. Support staff should have time allocated to monitor, and develop content based on specific case experience with customers. This provides a stream of valuable, current information. Monitoring and encouraging discussion Forums is very important, the current generation use these communication vehicles extensively, and it is important to make sure the content is technically accurate.

Case Submission/Handling described in Chapter 4 outlines the key components on how incidents are submitted, worked on, and resolved.  The recommended Web Portal submission works very effectively as it assists in doing front end issue information collection, and sets up queues for assignment supporting the Direct to Engineer model.  Email, phone and chat are used frequently by the customers and it helps to show them the benefits of Web Portal submission in their early experiences with your team. With the information collected the available engineers monitoring the queues can help determine best person available to handle the issue. Underlying making this approach successful is the commitment to a robust Training Program including ongoing new product release training. Product skill development should be based on the Education Services Offerings as a foundation. The Level 2/3 engineers take the Product release input from R&D and develop additional Support training (mostly self study) that includes product diagnosis training for the specific products. This allows existing developed materials to be used in ramping the skill levels of new hires and Level 1 people. The Touch and Hold model combined with an environment of team problem solving works well. The Cubicle layout can positively contribute to this approach by using the Open Cubicle design. This facilities easier communication, and team discussions with the customer. The Follow the Sun Model works very effectively for 24×7 support once the investment is made to implement it – which can be time consuming. That investment includes a common case tracking implementation and roll out. It is important to have an effective case hand-off to next region process developed. I have witnessed large complex situations run through 2 days of continuous effort with the customer teams.

Team Problem Solving  –  Based on Swarming approach described by Greg Oxton, Consortium for Service Innovation.

In the Touch and Hold Model, the Front Line Engineer monitors the incoming case queue and selects the next case based on Product skill set – Direct to Engineer Queue Management. This engineer is responsible for the case till resolution. If more in depth technical skill is needed a request for assistance is made to the back line engineers with the appropriate skill. The person assisting may change if different skills are required. The involved Front Line and Back Line engineers collaborate with the customer team till the issue is resolved. The collaboration can include live Webinars where team members from the Customer and the TS team are online. Backline Engineers have in depth product knowledge developed by working directly with the appropriate Product Engineering teams. They engage the engineering team in issue resolution when the issue is likely Product based, either defect or new feature related. Selected Backline Engineers are involved in the full Product Development Life Cycle starting with Product inception, Design Review, Product Testing to Enablement of new function to Frontline Engineers as a part of the launch process.

Both Engineering teams should have time allocated to documenting key learnings from the case handling process. These are published in Tips and Techniques documents published in the internal and external Knowledge Base.


Issue Priority

A core part of how cases are handled is a straight forward Issue Priority definition and processes to handle. Three Priorities can be used effectively. Priority 1 – Critical. This is for down, or non responsive systems. The processing goal is to restore operation working on a continuous effort basis by both parties. Once operation is restored, the priority is lowered to Priority 2 – Critical. Other cases can be opened as a 2 also. These issues impacting the business that need ongoing focused attention to resolve the issue. Priority 3 – Normal. The majority of cases opened are situations where assistance is need in addressing a problem the customer is having with the product. Most are handled either with first contact or with a few follow up interactions.

The foundation of the above is the Support Tools implementation. All of the Current CRM offerings include Case handling functionality, and it is important to work the Support processes to implement the tools consistently across all of Support. In addition, collaboration tools like WebEx are necessary to facilitate the ongoing communication of all parties involved through critical issue resolution.

The detailed case handling metrics described in Chapter 9 are a very important tool for the first line managers to monitor the work. For the larger more complex customer installations they become key to case management status tracking with Customer Management. The reporting becomes important to Executive management in the Customer and within the company on situations that get escalated by the customer. An additional valuable metric is a transaction based CSAT tool. A subset of all incidents closed are asked to complete a transaction base survey and the combined results can be reviewed on a quarterly basis. This allows review of the looking at results by Support Region and also by Product family. This approach allows early awareness of potential customer concerns that could escalate by contacting any Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied responses directly to work through the concern. In my experienced we used a 7 question Survey included in the Appendix. We drove to a 95% Satisfied/Very Satisfied rating on a quarterly basis for over 2 years. A key step in using this approach is to reach out for a one on one discussion with anyone who responded with a dissatisfied, very dissatisfied rating. This allows the diagnosis and rectification of issues with any steps of the process, including skill level of the person submitting the case. It also allows positive reinforcement of actions that led to positive results.