Technical Support: The Right Level
Software companies face many of the same challenges as other firms when it comes to finding the best path to success. When planning your technical support, you need to be ready to deliver. For many, the product and marketing are the easy part. They have great programmers and a keen sense of what tech customers want to see from a marketing standpoint. The issue for many of these firms, however, is that they don’t always know how to help their customers after the sale. So, what is the right level of post-purchase technical support you should be providing?
Post-Purchase Technical Support is Critical
The one clear factor that helps to differentiate the countless software providers from one another is aftercare. Unfortunately, this is the one area in which many companies encounter their greatest struggles. Customers need help for even the simplest software programs, and yet firms often seem unable – or unwilling – to provide the type of post-purchase technical support needed for those customers to get the most out of their purchase.
Failure to provide a proper level of technical support can greatly diminish any software company’s odds of success. The good news is that much of the industry is so mired in mediocrity when it comes to aftercare that your company can differentiate itself immediately if you can determine the right level of support for your product.
Make no mistake: post-purchase technical support is a time-consuming and costly affair. It can also be a tremendous distraction for many firms – which may explain why so many companies provide only cursory support for their customers. The problem is that the most qualified support personnel almost always ends up being your development team. They know the product, they designed the product. So they’re usually best-equipped to handle questions about its operation.
But can you afford to have your development team bogged down by the technical support process? Won’t it prevent them from doing what they do best – designing new software that you can bring to market? Yes and no. They need to be involved in the process to some degree. Your job is to design a support system that limits their involvement as much as possible. Afterall, they should not be spending hours on the phone talking customers through simple usage issues.
Factors to Consider
There are a variety of key factors to consider when you determine the level of post-purchase technical support your company needs to provide, and what system to implement. Here are a few things you should examine when making those decisions:
- Do you intend to offer the service for free – and if so, for how long?
- If you intend to charge for it, how can you price support into your software package?
- Will you provide assistance in multiple languages?
- Which communication channels will you use?
- Do you have a plan for response times?
- What do you want your customers to expect in terms of help?
- What support do you expect your company to provide?
You need to answer these questions before you lay out your support plan so that you know what the ultimate goal will be. While most companies would love to be able to provide around-the-clock, real-time support for every customer, that’s just unrealistic. You need to set your expectations in order and then craft a plan that you can communicate to those who purchase your software.
Implementing Your Plan
The first thing to recognise is that you need to provide real technical support. Half-measures won’t do. With that mind, there is a rational way to approach the problem. These guidelines should help you to design the right kind of support system for your software firm:
- Commit to answering every request and enquiry within a set time frame, and communicate that commitment to customers to manage their expectations.
- Implement an email and ticketing system. Create a process in-house to ensure that all support requests are delivered to the right people, and so that none get missed.
- Make your help centre contact details available to your customers. No buyer wants to suddenly discover that they have no way of reaching the software provider when a problem arises.
- Set clear guidelines for prioritising. If possible, make your phone support a last-resort since it will consume the most time. It may be wise to only provide your support phone number to customers with urgent issues – and only deliver it to them via email.
- Create a system to track issues, responses and successful resolutions. This will be an invaluable tool for future development and documentation purposes.
- Use social media if you choose to be selective when it comes to giving out your phone number. Allowing customers to interact with you via social media can allay many concerns and demonstrate your responsiveness to their needs.
The bottom line is simple: to build a loyal client base and ensure complete customer satisfaction, you need to provide an appropriate level of technical support. However, this does not mean that you need to devote every waking moment to resolving customer concerns. The key to successfully managing technical issues lies in your ability to leverage your expertise and communication resources in a way that solves problems without tying up every moment of every day. So what is the right level of post-purchase technical support? The answer is as much as needed to ensure that your customers can use your software as they should do. It’s how you choose to provide that assistance that will determine the success or failure of your technical support efforts.
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