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Why Should Instant Support be Free?

Our industry is facing a serious challenge. It comes in the form of a deep-seated belief on the part of our clients that we should provide instant support for free, indefinitely.

Our industry is facing a serious challenge. It comes in the form of a deep-seated belief on the part of our clients that we should provide instant support for free, indefinitely. This belief is rooted in the fact that our clients, until otherwise convinced, think that technology should “just work”. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that when the tech does happen to fail our clients believe that there ought to be a “quick, simple fix”.

Image: Thinkstock

This challenge was illustrated perfectly by a recent support incident we dealt with. A frustrated client reached out, letting us know she had no internet in the home. Within 10 minutes, a OneVision specialist had replied, offering to help resolve the situation. However the client had already lost patience. Knowing that it “might cause issues with my TV”, she told us that she had reset power to the entire AV rack. This nuclear option had in fact fixed the internet. But, lo and behold, she was now experiencing a (self-inflicted) issue with the TV’s. Regardless of policies, the client’s expectation here is that we help resolve the situation on the spot for no additional charge. Imagine the frustration she would have felt had we said “We’re sorry – since you tried to fix this yourself and made the problem worse, we will not spend time right now fixing this and will instead schedule a time later next week and bill you separately.”

Our specialist patiently engaged with the client for nearly 20 minutes, attempting to gain an understanding of the issue at hand. However, due mostly to the client’s mounting frustration, we were unable to get the kind of clear answers that would have helped us ascertain what was causing the problem. At that time we made the decision to recommend an on-site visit to quickly and accurately resolve the issue. Her response perfectly illustrated the challenge of monetizing service: “If this is something you can walk me through by phone and I can do myself I’d rather do that so that I don’t have to pay you.”

If there’s something she could do herself? Bear in mind this comment was made after nearly 30 minutes of instant phone support had already been provided. It’s also worth noting that the issue she was experiencing was of her own doing. As always, our specialist kept his calm and remained completely supportive. At that point the client began an arbitrary process of resetting devices without our guidance. Something she did eventually fixed the issue. When we asked what she had done to fix the issue so that we could document it, and provide better support in the future, we could hardly believe the answer: “I’m not sure. But it’s working now. Thanks! Bye!” Click…

While this may be an extreme example, highlighting a client who truly has little appreciation for customer service in general, it does illustrate a point. How does this industry transition to service-oriented approach when clients have an implicit expectation that immediate remote support is free and they don’t want you to come on-site to fix/diagnose the problem? Their feeling is that this tech “shouldn’t” have broken in the first place, but now that it has you’d better have a quick, simple fix for them.

This is an educational issue. At the earliest phase of the sales process we (home technology professionals) should start a subtle process of planting seeds with the client about the true nature of home technology. That is to say we should help them understand these systems will require ongoing maintenance and support. For existing clients, where the opportunity to embed this message in your sales pitch is gone, the same messaging needs to be baked into the support process.

Over time our collective clients will begin to intuitively understand that tech does break, and that excellent tech support is a refined art. Even seemingly simple fixes can be inherently complicated. Once this understanding starts to sink in, a subtle, but unmistakable, change starts to take place. Instead of viewing us as the cause of the issue (i.e. “why did you sell me this stuff?”), they see us as an advocate, a partner who is there to help whenever they need it (i.e. “thank you for getting back to me so quickly!”). We will have shifted the focus from selling boxes, to being Technology Managers. And that is something that the vast majority of clients will readily pay for.

Why has this situation developed in the industry? I suspect it’s because technology has simultaneously become less expensive while also more complicated as a whole. More people have it while fewer people can actually afford to have it managed properly. All the while, their expectations are set by mainstream marketing: “this is so easy you can do it yourself!” Regardless, what’s critical is that as an industry we learn to engage effectively with these clients, and begin educating the market about the true nature of the value we provide.

This process is difficult, and only happens over time. So the question becomes what do we do in the meantime? At OneVision we believe the answer is to provide top-tier customer support as efficiently as possible. Using remote troubleshooting tools to keep costs down, you should provide 24/7, Instant TriageSM to keep your clients calling. You can monetize the client separately by charging healthy hourly rates for advanced support and separately billing monthly for subjective premium add-on services such as faster advanced support and proactive monitoring.

If you’ve had a similar experience, please share it below!