Customer support cutback

Times are tough everywhere. You can tell by the financial reports you get from companies. You can also tell by the number of layoffs announced by even most profitable companies. So, as a CEO, who do you lay off? Typically, the layoff comes from service organizations (i.e. non profit generating area of the company), like HR and customer services.

This is where most of the companies make mistakes. Cutting back on customer service during the crisis time can backfire on them when the economy recovers. They will remember the 3 hours on the phone they waited to get tech support on their laptop or being passed around from department to department because of "the problem is not solved at my department" attitude. You can bet that next time they are in a market for a laptop or even laptops, they will remember their experience.

So, how can a company cut cost yet provide better service to the customers? Here are some suggestions.

1. Use technology to improve efficiency.
New web based technology and inexpensive database allows companies to be more efficient. Invest more in to technology in the downtime to allow support personnel to serve more customers in less time.

Some web based technology, like live chat, is a great example of such technology. Provide ways to customers to text live support person to ask questions. What chat offers versus telephone is multiplexing. When someone calls in, they expect that person to provide 100% attention to the person on call. The support person can only interact with one person at a time. With chat, they can interact with several people at once, while providing perception to customers that they are only focused on them. Customers are used to the pauses between text, because they are multiplexing at the same time. One more advantage of chat, you don’t have an accent when typing an answer.

Another technology is information. Having a great search engine on support section of the web site will decrease the inquiries to live support. Make sure that the site is easy to navigate and quick to find relevant information. One tip is to have one of the tech person peruse company’s forum and pick out most asked questions and add to the FAQ section of company’s support area.

Using database to store customer information will help with shortening support calls. A good database and information filled in by the support personnel as they interact with customers will save time when repeated support is needed. There is nothing more annoying, at least for myself, is to having to repeat information over and over as I get passed on to the next support person. How difficult would it be to have simple things, like what customer perceives as is wrong with product or service, move from person to person so customer doesn’t have to spend next 10 minutes explaining the situation again? Using technology will pay off in this difficult times.

2. Empower the support personnel
If the frontline support person is empowered to make decisions, they can support customers more efficiently, thus cutting down on time served and increase customer satisfaction. It’s important that these people are trained to answer, make decisions on the spot and make customers happy. Make sure that communication is clear to the support personnel so that there is no confusion.

As an example, there is a video getting a lot of hits on It’s about Verizon Wireless and the rates it offers for data. Here is a link to the videos.

This type of services to customers can be legend in the cyberspace, not in a positive way. Make sure the training is up to date and the front line support knows what is expected from customers.

3. Win the heart of customers
It’s easy to think about only profits when dealing with customers. However, this is the golden moment for smaller companies to win the heart of customers and keep them when the economy improves. Customers are more willing to take chances with lower cost items when the economy is not good. At that time, they will make note what type of service they receive during that time. When the economy improves, they will more likely stick with the lower cost item, if the service was better than the larger competitor to make up for the brand trust.  Do the little thing and do more than usual to increase customer’s heart.

Remember, spend the money on support to win the heart of customers will pay off more in the future when the economy improves.

On February 23, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by
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