Allister Moore has a 20-year track record of working with clients in emerging mobile and SaaS-based industries. He has extensive experience training technical support teams and has led the implementation of new customer projects across the UK and Europe.
In this Q&A, we ask Allister to reveal his ‘top tech support dos and don’ts’ and to discuss the trends he thinks will shape technical support in the future.
Allister, what are the main qualities that you look for in a good tech support team?
I always think that it’s best to get a quality team put together from the get-go. During the hiring process, the first things to assess are; is the interviewee genuinely passionate about technology and do they understand the full implications of the role? The goal is to put together a cohesive group of individuals who enjoy at least 90% of what they do in their everyday. A positive, can-do attitude is infectious, not just across the team, but over the phone to clients as well.
A top tech support team also need to be excellent at problem solving and great at relaying complex technical information in layman’s terms. When interviewing, it’s worth finding out what each candidate’s process for resolving a customer issue looks like, perhaps even through role-play. Evaluate how the candidate prioritizes tasks, and how they make use of different channels (e.g. webinars, e-mail, online chat and phone calls) in response to customer requests. It can be very easy for support staff to fall back on the medium they feel most comfortable with, but this doesn’t always work in the customer’s best interests.
What ultimately determines the support team’s success is their ability to turn a client’s bad experience into a good one. This is where empathy is an especially good quality to have. Being able to see (and communicate that you see) the problem from the customer’s angle is nearly as vital as resolving the issue efficiently.
Can you name five tech support best practices?
Here they are in no particular order:
1. Hire well and train representatives well. Provide continuous training if appropriate.
2. Offer support through all mediums and know how to choose the appropriate style of communication for the issue at hand. If it’s urgent, pick up the phone.
3. Provide FAQs and troubleshooting help online to empower customers to self-serve.
4. Set KPIs:
- What are the response times, from the time a problem was logged to the time it was acknowledged?
- What is the resolution rate?
- What is the customer satisfaction rate?
- What is the number of abandoned calls?
5. Solve the problem and fix the cause. Too often tech issues are resolved superficially/temporarily. It’s important to replicate the problem to address it fully. It may be time consuming, but it pays off in the longer term. You do not want customers to come back and complain about the same problem over and over again.
What are your biggest tech support no-nos?
A huge ‘no-no’ is to fail to acknowledge customers. Acknowledgement should be sent promptly, plus customers want to be updated. It’s always good to have a plan. If it’s going to take a fortnight to fix the problem, tell the customer what you’re planning to do over those 14 days, step-by-step.
Never make customers feel like they’re an interruption and never make a customer go to more than one support team member for assistance.
What trends will shape tech support in 2019?
The overall customer experience is changing rapidly, and for the better. Businesses are aware that customer retention is critical to their bottom line. A frequently circulated statistic is, “if retention rates rise by 5%, profits can go up by as much as 25-95%.” This means that more businesses are putting the customer (rather than product) first.
The move towards greater automation will also continue. Basic web chats will no longer be enough, for example. Customers expect engagement to be fluid and seamless, where they are able to switch between mediums such as text, video and screen sharing as required, without having to start over. The higher touch the remote experience, the happier customers will be.
Do you think that we’ll have tech support teams in the future, or will robots take over?
We stand at a point in support of trying to balance automation with the customer experience. Chatbots are now mimicking human beings, for example.
I don’t however think that artificial intelligence (AI) and robots will take over. The support teams of the future will become leaner, and they will have a higher level of technical expertise so that they can deal with more complex issues. Chatbots, meanwhile, will act mainly as receptors of information. Hologram tech analysts and charming voice AIs will proliferate, but I think that, ultimately, people want to deal with people.
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