Customer Support on Complex Software Tools: Opportunities in the Wake of New Technologies

DQI Bureau
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customer support

Customer Support on Complex Software Tools

Considerable investments continue to be made to support customers with complex software tools. While the traditional methods of providing relevant documentation such as product manuals, change documentation, and quick tips and tricks remain in vogue, online support for customers to use software tools efficiently and effectively is also picking up. However, large software providers still run big support teams to help customers resolve issues using teleconferencing alongside inline documentation. 


Though communication technologies, mainly mobile, social, and cloud, have come into their own, customer support services continue to rely, in some cases heavily, on the traditional methods of email, phone, and inline documentation.

Help and service are being offered to customers online. Customers can access a variety of targeted documents. Customers can also ask questions online and get answers. Customers are also encouraged to rate the help in terms of whether it was useful. However, a closer analysis will reveal that, for customers using the online system without the intervention of help in person, using the available online support material is still not the preferred option. Not all content pieces are used, most do not receive feedback solicited, and the investment in people to support customers telephonically continues to rise. 

With the technology progressing to facilitate much better collective interaction and knowledge acquisition, dissemination, and sharing, there is a possibility of using the same resources in a better way for a much better impact. 


The Solution Framework

For the collective to fully kick in, you need a tool for expression, organization, and discovery of knowledge to create a unified approach. The existing models can also be extended and improved to develop this framework. 

Allow free and smooth expression: Let everyone who knows something and everyone who wants to learn something share things in a context (a question, feedback, a tip or trick, clarification, and so on). 


Let the collective sharing be organized: As people share knowledge in any file or format, whether as part of their stated responsibility as a support engineer or out of general curiosity, they should organize the content in and around knowledge areas, including the context. (This can also be done through automation.) 

Cover the loop by promoting meaningful as well as serendipitous discovery: The process of collective know-how can conclude with an unwrapping mechanism and search facility that helps users with meaningful discovery. When users search for a resolution to a problem or a piece of content, they should not only land on the specific information but receive it in the wrap of a contextual universe around the topic. This ups the game and might lead to the resolution of problems in advance. The inbuilt serendipity creates an exciting atmosphere for both users and support staff. 

This will not only ensure better collaboration, which is key to learning and problem-solving but also lead to outcomes not foreseen. For example, when a user comments on an inline support document, the support engineer answers the question, and a discussion ensues, it might lead to quicker and more plainly explained solutions to a tricky problem. And because all of this happens over a network, it could be immediately available for all other users and come up in various focused searches that customers or support engineers undertake. This can be tagged relevantly for a better organization, a burgeoning and working knowledgebase if you will.


What Is Next?

All this is fine and understood—if not as clearly as it should be. Mandates are getting formed. Intelligent people are grappling with the question. A new workforce that is more tuned to this kind of work is getting in. And the frameworks are getting refined. So why is it not happening? Perhaps the answer is that we have not yet taken or been forced to take that leap, and the inertia of the past and existing systems makes us risk-averse. Eventually, this will change, and those who get on the bandwagon early will reap the benefits and become more innovative.

Authored by Shaleen Bhabu, Director, Knowledge Team, Global Customer Success group, Cadence Design Systems (NOIDA), and S M Nafay Kumail, Sr. Principal in the same team.