Where is Support Going?

Where is Support Going

ASP’s conference in March, hosted by ServiceNow in San Diego, was all about Artificial Intelligence (AI) in support. This, plus many conversations that I have had in the last year with support leaders has got me thinking about where support is going. This is, of course, the kind of thing that ASP cares about and is frequently thinking about.

By Al Hahn, Executive Director, Association of Support Professionals

There are many trends that are making a difference worth noticing, but three really stand out as far as making a significant difference. They are:

  • The Subscription Economy
  • Customer Experience and Customer Success
  • The New Generation of AI

The Subscription Economy

The subscription economy is significant in that it has changed the way that technology companies generate revenue in a very significant way. Instead of receiving revenue credit when a product ships (and the customer is invoiced for the whole price of the product), companies now get much smaller revenue every month or quarter as customers pay for their subscription. It typically tales 2-3 years to make any money on subscriptions. Customers can change products much more easily. This means that keeping customers happy is much more important as it basically equates with actually keeping your customers. Support is not all of the customer experience or customer success, but it is a very significant part of it. We have always felt that support was an important part of keeping customers, but subscriptions have put a fine point on this.

Customer Experience and Customer Success

Subscriptions have really driven home the importance of the customer experience/success. Many companies have a Chief Customer Officer. To be sure, this is sometimes just lip service, but there is a real significance to the attention now paid to customer experiences and customer success. I believe that this is a long-term change. Certainly not all support leaders are taking advantage of this change, but some are. I encourage all of our leaders to rise to the challenge of this. Yes, the politics are scary, but it is better to try to take the strategic high ground than to be following the lead of someone who does not understand support or the effect we have on customers.

The New Generation of AI

Finally, A I has achieved a new generation of maturity and is generating revolutionary changes in support, as well as many other areas. I really believe that bots will provide much of the level one support in the near future. They are already there in some companies. If you want to know more, come to our conference. All of these three trends cause me to think that the landscape is fundamentally changing. In the future, support may morph into more than it is today. I know that tech support people don’t like to hear this, but we have more in common with call centers that take orders than we want to acknowledge. They have the advantage that they generate lots or maybe all of a company’s revenue and they are taking advantage of that. I was made aware of a recent conference that was held for these folks and I was impressed with several things. First, it was big, very big. Attendance was in the thousands. Second, it was tiered. They had tracks for individual contributors through lower level managers, tracks for mid to upper level managers, and tracks for executives. They were providing educational experiences for all levels. Lastly, I noticed that they were using technology to a great extent. In fact, they were ahead of most support organizations in their use of technology. This is part of the difference between a revenue producing organization and a cost center. Having a P&L (profit and loss) center allows an organization to get more budget and make strategic investments that are much more difficult for cost centers. This is why we are a bit stuck on cost avoidance or call diversion in trying to justify budget requests. I think we should consider taking down the walls between support and “customer service” and merge these organizations as the fundamental aspects of keeping customers.

What do You Think?

I realize that many people will not agree with me. I am not averse to being challenged or questioned, so bring it on! I will be delighted if many respond to this article. I can be reached at ahahn@asponline.com.

Related Articles

3 Questions to Ask–and 3 Ways to Improve Your Surveys Today!

Have you ever wondered if those surveys companies relentlessly send are missing the point? You’re right. Most surveys are so flawed they’re broken. In this post, I’ll look at three ways to improve your surveys—because if flawed surveys are everywhere, possibly yours have a few problem areas too!

Changing Expectations of Support

People are far less willing to “go somewhere” on the web to get support. They expect it to be where they are. You might think it’s unfair, but if a user today is having a problem (especially in a mobile experience), they are very unlikely to go to your website, navigate to support, log in, and only then engage with you.

ASP Best Support Websites Replaces the Top Ten

Think of challenging times as a chance to build a stronger team. Going through tough times together, if done well and successfully, bonds team members together, quickly and deeply. This is your chance as a leader. How do you do that?

Use the Forced Working-From-Home to Build a Stronger Team

Think of challenging times as a chance to build a stronger team. Going through tough times together, if done well and successfully, bonds team members together, quickly and deeply. This is your chance as a leader. How do you do that?

6 Ways to Apply AI to Technical Support

Support has been relentless in the pursuit of continuous improvement, yet the function of Support has remained fundamentally unchanged for decades. AI is a critical catalyst that will help enable an inevitable Support transformation. This article introduces 6 ways to apply AI to technical support.