Excellent IT customer support is critical for business success, which makes it a real problem when technology companies exaggerate their abilities. And, no, the promise of a 1-800 support line bot to return your call in 24 hours is NOT the 24/7 support. Unfortunately, it's the small to medium businesses that suffer most when IT providers fail them.
Consider the impact a slow or down internet connection has on a locally owned restaurant, new financial institution or growing call center. Every minute their owner or office manager can't get answers to their internet or other IT issue means a loss of revenue and reputation.
What's a fair expectation?
Your customer support expectations are more than likely completely legit. But, to be fair, you're no IT expert, and you're not certain what should expect from providers like AT&T, Comcast or C Spire Business.
But these experts do. Meet Steven Meadows, Shari DiMartino and Jim Hurst.
Combined, these veteran customer support leaders have more than 30 years of experience supporting the internet and IT needs of companies in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Even more impressive, their C Spire Business support teams boast a 98 percent customer satisfaction rate.
What is a fair exception of an IT company's customer support? Steven, Shari and Jim unanimously agree:
Businesses of all sizes - not just large enterprises - should expect dedicated and true 24/7 support with their technology. But what does that look like in a real-world setting? To find out, we asked them to address a few of the IT industry's most common complaints about customer support.
Complaint No. 1
My initial call to my provider's 1-800 support number is passed around from person to person and can take days to get answers. Why?
Likely cause: The people answering the 1-800 support phones are not technically trained well enough to deal with technology difficulties or questions.
"The first line of support that many companies provide is nontechnical people who have a script they follow when you call about an outage or a question about how to use a VoIP feature," said Jim Hurst, C Spire Manager of Enterprise Solutions. "They simply don't know how to help you beyond what is written on their note cards. The real technical staff? Their time is guarded because they are in such high demand. Getting to the technical staff who can really help you is often a lengthy process."
The fix: It's simple - the person answering your initial call should have a level of education and expertise to immediately dive into your problem. Then, if they needed help from someone with more knowledge, they would talk directly to a support engineer. "With some providers, I've heard of customers talking to a dozen support reps and still not getting answers to their issues," said Jim. "That would never happen with my C Spire team since your initial call is with a trained support person.”
Complaint No. 2
Why can’t I call one person who knows my business and will handle any question or issue I have?
Likely cause: Their sheer volume of customers.
"You are just a number or another customer to some providers," said Steven Meadows, C Spire Senior Manager of Customer Experience. "Their top concern isn't your business but their bottom line. Providing each customer with one dedicated person who is part of a larger team that intimately knows your business is not something many providers are willing to offer smaller businesses. And when large, enterprise customers get this type of support, their supposed ‘customer care rep’ usually has a sales quota to meet. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to know if you really need a product or if it's just a sales pitch."
The fix: "Telecom providers should offer ALL of their customers the opportunity to have a specific person who intimately knows their business. At C Spire Business, we call this role a Customer Success Manager (CSM). They bridge gaps, resolve issues and never meet sales quotas. Their main goal is ensuring clients are successful with C Spire's internet, VoIP and other services."
Complaint No. 3
I'm frustrated that my provider doesn't install my VoIP desk phones and train my team to use them.
Likely cause: Once a VoIP provider makes the sale, they often ship the phones, turn on the service and disappear.
"That's not OK," said Shari DiMartino, C Spire VP of Business Operations. "You're not an IT expert. Installation and education on new products is a provider’s responsibility, not yours. We know that many businesses that have VoIP don't fully use it because they don't understand how. Providers are failing clients by simply handing them some written directions and leaving them on their own."
The fix: When you buy VoIP, expect real VoIP experts to provide your team training. "Not many providers have an entire team that is responsible for training clients to use their products, but they should. Our new clients are usually surprised when we show up to install their VoIP phones AND train them on the features. They've never experienced that level of customer care. These training sessions can be live, in-person or online, depending on what the client prefers during the pandemic. But not providing training is not OK at C Spire Business, and it shouldn't be with other providers, either."