The video above is me talking about how executives keep in touch with front line support issues.
This video is Heath Johnson at Dell talking about the integration of social media into the support organization.
There are several challenges that organizations face in providing support, effectively captured by the octopus image in Allison Crow's graphic, below -- there are a lot of different people that need to coordinate to make support work well.
I see support as an integral part of what people are now buying. We don't want to change our own oil, for the most part, and everything else under the hood is far too complex to tackle on our own. Many consumer services are like this, and virtually all business services.
So support is central to the purchase decision. Even if we don't always articulate that to ourselves, or have a grasp of what we should pay for it. That is not the theory-in-use in many organizations, however.
I also see support as a major adjunct to sales and vice-versa. If I am buying a second monitor (which I recently did), I also want to know what i need to do to make it work on the existing system. If I call support, they should be able to sell me the upgraded video card.
This is rarely the case with a large business -- my phone company Bell is a good example. The people who make sales calls can't help with anything at all! And the support people can't sell you anything. This craziness came about to make things more efficient, but I'm not sure that's working.
From the viewpoint of the corporates in the room, what helps is feedback from customers. Everyone needs to know how the organization is performing for customers. Whatever your metrics are, share them widely.
And if it's a horrible place to work, well ... don't expect your support area to be a world-beater.
Your staff are going to support customers about as well as you support them. My professional experience suggests most employees will actually work much harder at customer service and support than the company deserves -- they often have internal barriers to overcome, and no one appreciates their heroics.
One more word about heroics -- if you are keeping a lot of stories about heroic service efforts, and celebrating them with all sorts of awards, it's a good sign that you've made it too difficult somehow. A system built on heroics is not worthy of the name system.
Next up: Four trends to consider in support