While support capabilities are eventually offered to an organization’s external customers, best in class support organizations confirm that the optimal way to perfect the process is to initially practice and support capabilities internally. Internal support capabilities may include, for example, IT services such as help desk support, asset management, hardware support, mobile computing support, and or network and systems management support. The idea behind mastering support capabilities from within is to demonstrate to employees, using real-life situations, how to achieve superior support capabilities.
This will also allow employees to feel the value of receiving the superior support that ultimately all customers crave. Based on this experience, when the time comes to extend support capabilities to external customers, happy internal customers take pleasure in going the extra mile to drive support excellence. Mastering support capabilities from within is exactly how the City of Des Moines, IA successfully built its well-documented Citizen Response System. The City of Des Moines strived to be one of the best-run cities in the country and wanted to automate the way in which it received, managed, responded to and ultimately resolved requests from its 200,000 citizens. The city had already implemented the HEAT Service & Support software solution, to assist its internal IT help desk in managing calls and providing problem resolution for users of its computer and network systems. After examining a range of possible solutions, the city’s process improvement team decided to leverage their internal support experience and settled on using HEAT as the logical extension for their external Citizen Response System initiative.
Getting Your Support Capabilities Right – What support capabilities are needed? While this will differ for each company, here are some essential components for internal support as exemplified by the internal IT Help Desk and for external support as exemplified by the external Customer Support Center.
IT Help Desk – Since adoption of distributed computing, IT departments have been faced with an increasingly difficult task of managing the support of IT services. The arrival of e-business has led to additional pressures on IT departments to provide things such as access to Internet-based applications 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Needless to say, this has amplified the need for a well thought-out IT help desk strategy, inclusive of effective processes (e.g., problem resolution), appropriate levels of technology (e.g., remote support tools), and a comprehensive data architecture. Poor implementation of the IT help desk can result not only in failure to realize the benefits of applying process enhancement and automation, but more importantly potential damage to the IT department’s reputation.
Customer Support Center – While there is commonalities with IT help desks, customer support centers tend to capture customer data into applications that enable more focused customer service and an increased emphasis on first-interaction resolution. Customer support centers also use this customer data to identify and realize cross and up-sell opportunities, determine future marketing activities, and offer more personalized interactions. Critical to the success of a customer support center is the company’s ability to employ ‘customer-sensitive’ personnel, train them well, and put into place the best tools and processes for helping these personnel deliver the ‘optimal customer experience’ each and every time.
Here then are some common and some unique service capabilities that a company will want to consider in support of long-term differentiation.