7 Strategies To Build A Powerful Technical Support Team

strategies

In this week’s blog post I am sharing an article written by Alice Methew. Alice is a professional writer and has written articles for many different sites. She is committed to the pursuit of excellence through writing and has a passion for technology.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a technical support team? First of all, you need to realize that the technical support team is the flag bearer of a business’ goodwill and reputation. Of course, this team has to play a big role in the process of client retention. Unfortunately, many business owners have not yet realized the true significance of a technical support team, because the benefits that this team offers are not tangible. On the other hand; smart business owners give utmost importance to technical support team and they continuously monitor the performance of this team to maintain the productivity of the business at an optimal level. Here are the 7 strategies to build a powerful technical support team based on lessons learned from Enterprise Systems, a leading IT Support Organization in Houston, TX.

1) Hire technicians who have the potential to maintain a harmonious balance between technology and humans

If you want to build a good technical service team, you have to appoint the right people. It is a well-known fact that there should always be smooth coordination between various departments within your organization to ensure optimal productivity. If you want to minimize the number of issues that the technicians have to tackle, your technical support team should have the potential to coordinate efforts with other company business departments. That is exactly why you need to hire support engineers with adequate technical knowledge and they should also have a proper customer support background. If a technically accomplished professional does not have the patience and ability to listen, he can never be a good member of a technical support team. In such a situation, you may have to deal with a lot of problems.

2) Proper documentation of problems and their solutions

Many tech support teams often get stuck on problems even if they had dealt with similar issues earlier. This situation occurs mainly because of the fact that the technical support team does not have a clear cut list of standard procedures to address frequent problems. Whenever the team gets a call, the members keep on re-inventing the wheel and this situation does not help you build a strong team. You have to make sure that the technicians are preparing notes on how they resolve each problem. These notes must also be handed over to other team members as cheat sheets. Then, a list can be compiled to form a quick reference guide. This approach can reduce the problem resolution period from hours to a few minutes.

3) Show the team members the correct career path

When it comes to highest turnover rates, technical support field stands tall. Many company owners complain that their technical support team members are leaving the company too often. Within the IT Industry, most members of the support team become developers or programmers after a short period. You must understand that there is no point in holding them back. You have to provide continuous training and flexible work hours so that they can learn faster and keep them updated. Business managers must meet them frequently to talk about the career path and goals. You have to give them opportunities to move up in your own organization. In such a situation, they are not going to leave your organization like many people do.

4) Ask the team to focus on satisfying the customer

All dynamic technical support teams strive hard to track measure and analyze the operations. In such a situation, the teams clearly understand what is working and what areas demand improvement. When a support team prepares these critical data points, they can easily improve the existing processes. If you want to build a good technical support team, you have to realize that all metrics should be geared towards achieving satisfied customers. The bottom line is that you must ask the support engineers to focus on one metric; customer satisfaction.

5) Get curious and passionate people

You can hire people who have a natural curiosity to find out how things work and progress. People, who come with this attitude, are excellent options for placing in the technical support team. Human resource managers must identify candidates who are passionate towards assembling things, tinkering with equipment and solving puzzles. These types of people possess the right frame of mind and they also have the patience to address ever emerging complex problems.

6) Do some simple calculations

When you do some simple calculations, you can come to know how your technical support team is performing. First of all, you need to check how many cases your support team is handling every week. Then, you also have to analyze how many cases are being handled by other departments and how many of them are being solved completely. This data can be used to analyze the existing performance of your technical support team in a realistic manner.

7) Set up different types of goals

When you have the existing performance data on hand, you can understand where you are heading and rebuilding process can be done by setting short, medium and long-term goals. The short term goals are for rebuilding your technical support team and they also allow you to choose the right tools that are being used to accomplish this rebuilding process. Short goals also allow you to put them in place to make the rebuilding process highly effective. Medium term goals can be set up to handle all calls within the team before the customers become really annoyed. Long term goals are primarily meant for reducing support costs. These goals can be materialized by lowering costs per product line, customer attribute, and product launch. This systematic three-step method of approach is going to deliver excellent results.

Many companies follow a wrong philosophy of maintaining cold vibes with customers. Quite often, they end up making a lot of mistakes. You cannot build a good technical support team by undermining the importance of customer requirements. You must try to develop a culture within the team that focuses on customer satisfaction and in such a situation, your customers will start noticing and appreciating it with immense satisfaction. The bottom line is that if you follow these 7 strategies, you can build a powerful technical support team in an uncomplicated manner.

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The Fine Art of Selling Services

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Managing a Field Service Organization (FSO) as a profit center has become a strategic imperative for many companies.  In order to carry out this mission, field service executives must continually focus on top-line revenue growth.  Yet, research indicates that nearly three-quarters of FSOs are struggling to achieve this objective. My personal observation is that they haven’t mastered the fine art of service sales and marketing.  At issue, field service executives often confuse marketing with selling, and selling with marketing.   While there is some overlap, the two functions are significantly different.

Marketing is Not Selling

Marketing is a set of processes, activities, and/or instructions a company utilizes to create value and customer demand for the products and services it offers.  Basically, this is about turning a need into a want through promotional activities.  According to Jon Janstch, of Duct Tape Marketing fame, marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you.

In contrast, selling involves the fine art of persuasion.  It requires that the salesperson utilize a planned, personalized communication to influence a customer’s purchase decision.  Not only must a salesperson uncover a customer’s needs and wants, they must persuade the customer as to the merits of buying their product or service.

Telling is Not Selling

A common sales strategy that FSOs utilize is to involve field service technicians and managers in the sales process. The conventional wisdom is that since these people deal with customers every day, they are perceived as individuals the customer can trust for advice. As a result, they are in the best position to advise the customer on additional products and services they may need to purchase from the company.

This strategy is based on the premise that the field service technician/manager functions as a brand ambassador. Their focus is on building a relationship by solving problems, uncovering new opportunities, and telling the customer how their company can help.  This seems more like marketing than selling.  Indeed, the problem with this approach is that it often results in free consulting. In essence, the customers may not buy but instead rely on information their brand ambassador shared with them and seek competitive bids, or simply choose to do nothing at all.  It also assumes that that service salesperson can spot opportunities and effectively open up a sales dialogue with their customer.

A Structured Sales Process

Field-service leaders can avoid free consulting, increase their prospects, and improve their team’s sales closing rate by implementing a structured sales process and training their service-sales people on this process.  The sales process consists of three basic steps:

  1. Relationship Building: There are two critical aspects here. The first is bonding and rapport. This is how a salesperson gets a customer to know, like, and trust them.   A sale cannot be made without bonding and rapport.   The second aspect is known as an upfront agreement. This requires mutual consent between the salesperson and customer that each is open and willing to participate in a sales conversation. It also requires that when asked about moving to the next stage of the sales process, the prospect can provide a yes or no answer.  Upfront agreements help salespeople know where they are in a sales process with a customer and keep the sales process from stalling or falling apart.
  1. Qualifying: Sales processes may break down if the salesperson hasn’t done a good job of qualifying the prospect.  Qualification is more than just determining if the client has a need and budget.  It’s really about understanding their pain (i.e. problems).  The truth is that people don’t buy just because they like something; they buy to alleviate a pain they are currently experiencing or will experience if they don’t own the product or service. The greater the pain, the more likely they will buy.  It’s the job of the salesperson to uncover this pain.  Once done, the salesperson can discuss the budget that is required to resolve this pain.  In other words, the “pain conversation” puts the budget discussion into context for the customer.  Of course, understanding how decisions are made within customers’ organizations is also part of the qualifying process.
  1. Closing:  The closing step involves two parts, fulfillment and post sell.  Once you understand the customer’s pain, budget, and decision process then you can have a conversation about how your service will solve their pain, what the investment will be, and what it will be like to work with you after they accept your proposal.  That’s basically what fulfillment is about.  Post sell means confirming they are happy with the decision they’ve made.

Iterative Process

It is important to understand that the sale process may involve multiple, iterative conversations. This is because very few products and services can be sold in the first conversation.  The failure of the salesperson to effectively address one step of the process may impact their ability to address the next stage and thus jeopardize the sale.   If this happens, the salesperson must go back and repeat the sales process from where it failed.  This may mean they have to review or revisit previous steps with the customer to get the sale back on track.   It’s also important that understand that “speed kills” when it comes to the sales process. In other words, rush the sales process and you may lose a customer.

Think about your last conversation with a salesperson.  If you purchased from them, chances are they effectively addressed every stage in the sales process.  If not, it was probably because the sales process broke down.  Also, evaluate your own company’s selling process and closing rate.  Does your company follow a structured sales process or are service salespeople simply winging it?   If you follow a process like the one outlined here, do you know which steps are working well and which require improvement? If you’d like to learn more, schedule your free service sales strategy session today.

Field Service Staffing — The Variable Workforce and FMS

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The unemployment rate, outsourcing, part time employees, changes in the workforce; these are all topics that have been in the news for several years. Is it just that there are less jobs or fewer full time positions? Is the economy really in bad shape? Or is there a staffing trend that we need to examine.  Full time employment means a guarantee of wages, benefits, and paying the employee even when there is a lull in the business.  For companies in the Field Service Industry there may be peaks and valleys in workflow and need for field service personnel. And while so many functions can be performed on a remote basis, sometimes someone just has to be there.

Enter the Variable Workforce, offering highly skilled, well trained, specialized Field Service Engineers who are available on an as needed or project basis. These individuals are normally highly motivated as they essentially run their own small business and best of all; they work this way by choice.

Now we have people to hire.  How do we manage that? Freelance Management Systems (FMS) offer online cloud based systems allowing companies looking for qualified workers, including Field Service Engineers, to find them quickly and easily.  FMS provides companies with the opportunity to achieve significant cost savings over time and the ability to accelerate strategic or organic expansion resulting in new clients, new service offerings, and/or new sales territories.

So what is the actual experience of companies using a Variable Workforce and FMS platforms? Have they been able to achieve these benefits or is it just hype?

A survey seemed to me to be the best way to get answers. So we designed an online survey for the Field Service Industry to ask professionals who handle field service staffing or make decisions about field service staffing requirements, for companies with field service functions for technology equipment they sell and/or service.

We wanted to examine the benefits of Variable Workforce models, particularly FMS. In doing so, we could assess concerns regarding using FMS, the motivators for using FMS and the benefits that have been seen by using it.

Over 200 Third Party Maintainers (TPM)/ Independent Service Organizations (ISO), Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), Value Added Resellers, Systems Integrators, and Self-Maintainers participated.  The companies range in size from over $500 million in annual revenue to less than $50 million varying in size from those who manage less than 100 field service events per month up to more than 1000. These field service events included emergencies, installations, inspections, and preventative maintenance or calibration. And the types of technology supported included Information Technology, Network Connectivity, Printers, Point of Sale, Telecommunications, and more. The companies also varied on how a Field Service Business is run – as a cost center, profit center, strategic line of business, or revenue contribution center.

Over three-fourths (77%) were currently using some type of Variable Workforce Model.  The survey respondents were two-thirds TPM/ISOs or OEMs.

Most participants (81%) use the Variable Workforce for project based work.

We found that the top three reasons that companies made the move to a Variable Workforce were:

  • The ability to be agile and scale the workforce based on customer demands.
  • Over half agreed that “We didn’t have enough work in selected geographies to justify hiring a fulltime Field Service Engineer.”
  • Almost all said that controlling labor costs was a significant motivator.

One of the most important results was that the Variable Workforce users support more types of technology on average than non-users.  That is, those companies who use Variable Workforce are able to support 4 types of technology versus only 1.8 types of technology for non-users.

Nearly two-thirds of those utilizing the Variable Workforce use a Freelance Management System (FMS) to manage the staffing.  Of these FMS users, almost all have been using it for at least one year and 60% for three years or more — another sign that something must be working.

FMS users tend to support more types of technology as well. On average, companies who use FMS support 4.3 types of technology versus only 2.8 types for non-users.

Ultimately the most compelling reason to make the switch was that the FMS platform is agile, giving companies the ability to scale up quickly to meet seasonal, cyclical and short term demands. In fact, 71% of users found this to be the case.  FMS adopters have been able to gain more business and have been able to increase their field service work. They have experienced such success that 76% of them reported an increased demand for FMS just in this past year, most by at least 15%.

The survey results certainly indicate that usage of Freelance Management Systems for the Variable Workforce in Field Service will continue to increase over the next year as well.

Stay tuned for future posts where I will discuss what our survey revealed about the Key Performance Indicators and how use of Variable Workforce and specifically FMS impacts the Field Service Industry.