Building Engagement through Service and Support
A product is not just an object or the bits that comprise software or digital media; it is an entire experience. The complete customer experience is vital to the overall value a customer derives from their product and the on-going relationship between the customer and the vendor. The customer experience is enhanced through a series of engagements over a variety of digital, social, and personal channels. Each point of contact between a vendor and customer is an opportunity for engagement. These engagements over time affect the level of satisfaction the customers with the vendor relationship.
Service and support is a critical part of this engagement strategy. Retail and consumer goods companies recognize the importance of support to the overall customer relationship. Subsequently, these companies have integrated their before and after-purchase support into their multi-channel marketing and omni-channel marketing strategies. While retail and consumer products companies have led the way on support an integral part of on-going customer engagement, B2B companies have begun to do the same. Enterprise IT companies, which are primarily B2B companies, have been expanding their service and support capabilities to create more engagement between their customers and themselves. Service offerings have expanded to include mobile tools, analytics-driven self-help, and support over social media and other digital channels. The goal of these investments has been to make interactions more productive for the customer, strengthen relationships through positive engagement, and to gather data that drives improvements in both the product and service.
A great example of an enterprise software company that understands the value in customer engagement though support is Informatica. Known primarily for their data integration products, Informatica has been quickly expanding their portfolio of data management and data access products over the past few years. This growth in their product portfolio has introduced many new types of customers Informatica and created more complex customer relationships. For example, the new SpringBok product is aimed at making data accessible to the business user, a new type of interaction for Informatica. Informatica has responded with a collection of new service enhancements that augment and extend existing service channels and capabilities.
What these moves say to me is that Informatica has made a commitment to deeper engagement with customers. For example, Informatica has expanded the avenues from which customers can get support. By adding social media and mobile capabilities, they are creating additional points of presence that address customer issues when and where customers are. Informatica provides support on the customers’ terms instead of requiring customers to do what is convenient for Informatica. Ultimately, Informatica is creating more value by making it easier for customers to interact with them. The best support is that which solves the problem quickest with the least amount of effort. Intuitive knowledge base systems, online support, sourcing answers from peers, and other tools that help find solutions immediately are more valued than traditional phone support. This is the philosophy that drives the new self-help portal, predicative escalation, and product adoption services.
Informatica is also shifting the support focus from products to business outcomes. They are manage problems holistically and are not simply trying to create product band-aids. This shows a recognition that technical problems with data are actually business problems that have broad effects on a customer’s business. Contrast this with the traditional approach to support that focuses fixing a technical issue but doesn’t necessarily address the wider organizational effects of those problems.
More than anything, these changes are preparation for a very different support landscape. With the launch of the Springbok data analytics tool, Informatica’s support organization is clearly positioning itself to help business analysts and similar semi-technical end-users. The expectations of these end-users have been set by consumer applications. They expect more automation and more online resources that help them to use and derive value from their software and are less enamored with fixing technical problems.
In the past, technical support was mostly charged with solving immediate technical issues. That’s still important since the products have to work first to be useful. Now, however, support organizations has an expanded mission to be part of the overall customer experience and to enhance overall engagement. The latest enhancements to the Informatica support portfolio reflects this mission and prepares them for the next generation of non-IT Informatica customers.