Technical support is an operationally intensive function and it is easy to get overwhelmed with too many things that need to be addressed urgently. This makes tech support function a fertile ground for breeding crisis situations day in and day out, leading to many ad-hoc decisions. It is not uncommon for a head of tech support function to have the nagging feeling that there should be a better way of doing things, but doesn’t know where to start and how to go about bringing in transformational changes.
The first step to transforming your tech support requires you to understand the logical sequence of maturity levels that a typical technical support organization goes through. Then, you need to contrast your support organization and operations against those levels. This activity is not a simple exercise like answering a set of questions. You need a thoroughly defined model that closely matches your operations and talks about the goals that are relevant for your organization. Now, there are several maturity models available out there. Illustrative examples could be COPC, CMMI-SVC, ITSM/ITIL./CoBIT, and HDI support maturity model.
We at Mindtree found that the areas these models address are either limited to operational efficiencies or the context of the model itself is a specific enterprise. But technical support is an external customer facing activity. Moreover, when you are dealing with a technically complex (eg. enterprise class) product, the model has to go well beyond simple gains through operational efficiency.
Mindtree defines the maturity model for technical support at two levels:
1) Operational maturity model – addresses the product company’s relationship with their end customers
2) Engagement maturity model – addresses the product company’s relationship with a tech support service provider, like Mindtree
For this section of the blog, I will focus on the operational maturity model and come back to the engagement maturity model once we discuss the partner evaluation criteria etc.
Mindtree defined operational maturity model has four stages:
1) Reactive support
2) Organized operations
3) Demand reduction
4) Value added support
This model provides the framework on how a support organization can optimize their operations, improve efficiencies and ultimately become revenue generating strategic component of the overall business.
Here are the characteristics of companies and their processes at each stage:
1. Typical startup companies where the number of customers are less
2. Support is delivered as a part-time activity by product developers
3. Ad-hoc and best effort based support with very loosely defined SLAs
4. Mostly in crisis mode with non-repeatable processes
1. Streamlined operations with clearly defined SLAs that are in line with customer satisfaction goals
2. Operational metrics are captured and analyzed to identify opportunities for optimization
3. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities with institutionalized processes
1. Achieve reduction in demand for support through effective implementation of knowledge management, data analytics, and proactive processes and improving supportability of the product
Value Added Support:
1. Improve the rate of product consumption through value added support encouraging customers to invest in product upgrades
2. Introduce new revenue generating services such as customer education, remote monitoring/management and professional services
The ideal way to map your organization against this 4 level model is to relate your support objectives and your current state of operations to the maturity model. Many companies start their journey on this path with a lot of enthusiasm. But the initiative often fizzles out with the onslaught of daily escalations and crisis situations.
Have you ever done an exercise of mapping your tech support organization on a standard maturity model and taken steps to move up the value ladder? I am curious to know your experiences, if you have undertaken such an exercise.
In my next blog, I will take you through the second important step of transformation, which is moving up the ladder.