New Year’s resolutions are a tricky subject. I’m a big believer in them, for one specific reason. They force me to get out of the day-to-day cycles of my life and take a step back. Most of my life looks like a continuous cycle with little time to reflect after pushing through this quarter’s goals. The last two years, I’ve set (and achieved) significant goals that I set as resolutions. What I have learned is that there are two different kind of resolutions – by addition (like exercising 30 minutes a day) or by subtraction (like cutting out chocolate desserts). I have (and am) doing both.
Support executives need resolutions more than anyone else. Customer support looks more like the movie Groundhog Day (where Bill Murray lives the same day over and over) than any other part of the organization. There aren’t natural points where the support organization can step back to take stock. There might be slower times, but the backlog doesn’t reset every quarter, and cases still stream in on holidays.
I have two resolutions for support executives this year. Both of them emerge from one of the biggest challenges that execs talk to me about all the time. It’s the lack of respect for the support organization. Even as companies spend thousands to anticipate and prevent customer churn, they still don’t see the value of the support team. As support executives, we are saddled with perceptions built over decades where the support team might have been the “helpless desk.” But that isn’t what we are today. We play a key role in the customer acquisition and retention process – the stage that HubSpot calls “delighting” our customers. But support executives aren’t getting the respect they deserve.
What can a support executive do to get more respect?
Resolution 1 (by subtraction) – Stop speaking your language
Customer support has a detailed language of measures and process names that can be a challenge for any outsider. When we are trying to build a strong relationship with our partners in development or sales engineering, talking about an operational-level agreement (OLA) will produce confusion, at least, and possibly drowsiness. Support executives also talk about measures that don’t make sense to anyone outside your organization. Schedule adherence, for example, is important to the consistency of service required to run a complex, global support organization, but doesn’t make any sense to the sales engineers who are pivoting from one prospective customer to the next.
Resolution 2 (by addition) – Measure the gaps and partner for a solution
Lots of support organizations I work with complain about the challenges working across the organizational silos, both taking in new customers (from sales or services organizations) and handing off issues (to engineering or product teams). My biggest problem with this complaint is the lack of a measure. How many bug requests really went unfulfilled? How many cases were actually created to fix issues left undone by a services team member? In my blog Mind the Gap, I lay out a simple way to assess gaps both coming in and out of the support organization (along with a suggested way to measure them). Once you have measured the gaps (and shared them widely… that’s an important way to speak the same language as the rest of the organization), you will get the attention of your peers and can start partnering for a solution that speaks to a need that both of you have – closing those gaps.
Resolution 3 (both) – Get a better look at where you stand
A third resolution? I only promised two. In Louisiana, we call this lagniappe, or a little something extra. Want to see your organization in a different light? Change your window to your organization and recreate your dashboard. Get started by being among the first to receive our report, created by industry leaders and co-authored by TSIA Creating an Executive Dashboard for Customer Support.
It will give you
- Insight on the need for new customer support standards and KPIs
- Six high-level, outcome-based metrics
- Specific recommendations for applying these metrics to your own executive dashboard
Good luck on your resolutions! Happy New Year!