For many companies, particularly software companies, customer support has been an afterthought. With the primary focus of driving sales and revenue, most software providers overlook the opportunities and financial impact that a strong support organization delivers through customer satisfaction and retention. Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Kashif Choudhary, Director of Client Success at BuyerQuest, about this topic. Kashif has spent the last decade working for technology companies, most recently at BuyerQuest. During our wide-ranging discussion, he shared his thoughts on the importance of support to customer success.
Why don't software companies put more energy into support?
KC: For decades, most companies in the software industry have been focused on sales, and rightfully so. Sales drives revenue, pays the bills, and keeps the board or investors happy. What’s interesting is that few, if any of these companies see the competitive advantage of a strong support organization to their sales.
There’s a significant investment in time, resources and energy to drive sales. In fact, the implementation team is often brought in to help support the process. Unfortunately, many companies don’t see the leverage that support can offer both pre and post-sale.
Other companies simply don’t see support as a competitive advantage and can’t appreciate how they would leverage it. Some of our clients have shared stories that once they went live with another company’s software they just seemed like a number. Eventually, customers realize that they aren’t as important as they were told and move on, switching to other companies.
It seems that companies overlook the 3rd component, support. Retention becomes a long-term issue.
Having been in this industry for years, have you seen firsthand the impact poor support can have on the ROI of software technology?
KC: Time is a major issue and the critical measuring stick for businesses. The time lost working with a poorly structured support team to get a problem from analysis to diagnosis to resolution cannot be replaced. While companies may not explicitly measure the ROI of having strong procurement technology support, they will act if they are not receiving the support they expect.
We’ve talked to some clients who have shared stories of their experiences with other company’s support organizations. They found it difficult to get a live person on the phone who understood their business and could diagnose their problem. After struggling with support to resolve issues, they realized they would not be able to achieve the value they expected.
It is well known that the cost to bring on a new customer is far more than the cost to retain an existing customer. Poor support directly impacts retention.
What do you hear from clients about support from other software companies?
KC: We hear that many companies in our space struggle to deliver a personalized experience. Our clients shared stories that they would reach out to other companies for help but have a hard time getting in contact with a person. At BuyerQuest, when a customer submits a support ticket, they get a live person who is an employee of BuyerQuest, not an answering service.
BuyerQuest customers have specific internal employees assigned to their account. It helps build rapport. We do video calls and screen shares to get the details of issues as a group. Video calls have also been excellent for training around questions on features, etc. It’s more personal than just sending a 1-page instruction guide, for example.
Can you quantify the benefits of strong customer support?
KC: It’s difficult to put a number to the contribution of support, but as part of the company’s ecosystem, it’s critical, and often helps turn customers into active advocates.
We recently had a customer who saw the value not only of BuyerQuest support but the company as a whole. Like many customers, the company decided to deploy BuyerQuest in a staged rollout. The success of the initial rollout was going to determine if the project continued. I am pleased to say that as a result of their experience with BuyerQuest as a whole, including support, they had the confidence to continue to roll out the products from one division to the next All the divisions are live and happy with the product, and now they are looking to add functionality, and the company is often willing to talk to potential clients and share their story.
Where do you see customer support going?
KC: Support continues to evolve, and companies are always looking for ways to make it more efficient, but as the technology evolves, so does the customer’s desire for an answer as quickly as possible with as little repetition of the issue as possible.
No matter what the technology, the dynamics of customer support remain the same. A person calls support because something isn’t working. They are usually frustrated, losing patience and need help. They are looking for an empathic ear to hear their problem, understand it, and either offer a solution or quickly find someone who can. No one calls support for a nice conversation. By default, support calls start from a negative perspective, “I have a problem and I need your help”. The customer service experience should be “in and out like a fast food restaurant” -- the goal is to go in, get what you need, and come out a happy customer.
Technology will continue to evolve, but the need for a dialogue with someone who understands the business and their problem will always be a requirement.