One of the most exciting parts of running a company involves helping it keep its bearings while its industry undergoes a fundamental transformation.
Which is why I’m proud to be at Support.com as it takes a leadership position in Support Interaction Optimization, a new industry category that responds to tectonic marketplace shifts by bringing sophisticated technology to the person-to-person interaction that is at the heart of most support operations. We’re doing this with our flagship product, Nexus®, which is the commercialized version of the in-house software that’s been the backbone of Support.com’s operations for over a decade.
A complete description of SIO, and how Nexus is poised to take advantage of it to transform the world of contact centers and customer support, is contained in the exclusive report being released today from Frost & Sullivan, the distinguished research and consulting company.
But I’d like to use this post to give my CEO’s perspective on what is happening in our industry, and how SIO represents its future direction. And what I see are two major forces at work.
First, companies have been using technology for many years to enhance their customer service operations. This begins even before a support call is answered, with integrated computer-telephony systems that figure out who the customer is from information in the customer database and route the call appropriately. We’ve become quite skilled at using interactive voice response technology to determine what the call is about, and match the call type with an agent’s skill. And once the right agent is located, the agent’s screen is filled automatically with all of the information on hand about the caller.
But then, the technology and the software come to an abrupt halt. It’s just the two people — the agent and the customer — one-on-one. For the most crucial part of the process, the part that most customers will remember about the entire experience, agents are forced to work without any sort of technology safety net. The situation is obviously not acceptable, and one of the main tasks of SIO is to use technology to optimize this final frontier in customer support: the live interaction between the caller with a technical issue and the agent trying to solve the problem.
The biggest SIO assist in Nexus comes in the form of “Guided Paths™.” Guided Paths have captured the company’s knowledge of their product — its “secret sauce” — and then formats that information into the form of steps an agent should take with any particular issue that might come up. A critical improvement that SIO brings to this process is that these steps are, whenever possible, automated. The good news is that this happens without needing to call in programmers from the IT department to write custom code.
For example, if remote operation software is needed at a particular point in a support call, it will be triggered automatically by the SIO platform. Agents shouldn’t need to spend their time launching .exe files; they should be helping customers with their problems.
This capability, I believe, gives companies the ability, as we like to say, “to make every agent their best agent.” It also brings us closer to the day when companies can offer entirely automated support that is every bit as robust and helpful as what can be attained by the very best contact center is today.
So why are we hearing about SIO now? It’s because of the second force that I see at work in today’s tech support world. That market is expanding in two directions: In the number of products that companies are being called on to support, and in the quality of the support they are being expected to deliver.
That first part should be pretty clear to everyone who’s been following technology. A few years ago “support” was most commonly associated with computers. Now, it involves a growing family of new devices: tablets, smart phones and the like. And in the very near future, we will be seeing even more devices as the “Internet of Things” brings smart, connected products to the home and work place.
Not only are there more products to support, but there has been a dramatic increase in the expectations that customers bring to the support experience. They are increasingly likely to drop products because of a support encounter they weren’t happy with. And odds are good that they’ll take their complaint to social media channels in the process.
Frost & Sullivan’s report captures another element of changing customer expectations, as it pertains to a new generation of customers. “Younger customers in particular have become more impatient, demanding, and knowledgeable,” says the report. “More and more, Generation Y consumers insist on ‘omni-channel support’ – a coherent, seamless Customer Experience, regardless of the channel through which they engage a business, from face-to-face service to self-service or support agents.”
Those words accurately describe a phenomenon we see every day with our Support.com customers. And, as mentioned, they’re a key driver of Support Interaction Optimization, a phenomenon that will be dominating the support industry in the coming years. With Nexus, and with other innovations that we have in the pipeline, Support.com plans to keep helping our customers stay ahead of the curve even as so much of the support industry changes around them.