When a business needs customer support from their software vendor, they rely on a competent support staff, clear communication, and a coordinated effort between support and software development in order to resolve their issues quickly and effectively. You should evaluate how a prospective software company handles client support calls as you select the right vendor for your business’s software. A software company can take one of two approaches to handle customer support calls. You might view customer support calls as a cost of doing business, or, perhaps much more beneficial to the customer, you can view customer support calls as a valuable piece of the relationship. This can help you see support calls as a method to ensure customers receive the desired utility and value from their software investment. Those software companies that view customer support calls as a “cost” might outsource their customer support to third-party call centers. Outsourcing to a call center has financial advantages for the software company, but the trade-offs come at a cost to the customer experience. Maintaining an in-house support team is more expensive, but has advantages that directly benefit the customer.
Why Call Center Support May Be Bad for Your Business
Call centers are often located far from the developer, and many are located overseas. When call centers are located in countries where English is not the primary language, there can be a language barrier and cultural differences between the support representative and the customer. Some call centers are virtual and use representatives based out of their homes, where background noises and distractions can come into play. Call center employees are isolated from the rest of the team. This introduces additional levels of bureaucracy between the customer and the developer. Communication between the customer support representatives and the development staff must filter through layers of management at both companies. When the customer support staff notices an issue that requires attention from development staff, it takes longer for the information to get back to the correct people with more opportunities for delays and miscommunication.
Many outsourced call centers provide service for multiple companies. Some call centers have separate departments for each client company, but in some centers the same representatives handle all the accounts and never know what kind of call they will take next. This means the representatives must be trained on many different issues for separate companies, so their knowledge base tends to be superficial. They typically are only able to spend a fraction of their time taking calls related to the product the customer calls about. Call centers are paid partly based on how many calls they handle, and their employees are graded by how many calls they can take per day. Employees who do not take enough calls get reprimanded or even fired, even if their quality scores are excellent. This pressure creates an environment where the agent has an incentive to rush the customer off the call so they can take the next caller. If the customer is calling about a symptom of a deeper issue, the agent might not take the time to get to the root of the problem. The customer must waste time and call back when the problem reoccurs. Call centers have one of the highest annual employee turnover rates of any industry.
A 2005 report by Cornell University found the average call center turnover rate was 33%, with subcontractor call centers experiencing a turnover rate exceeding 50%. The 2008 economic downturn has reduced those rates somewhat, but as the economy improves the turnover rate will likely rise again as call center employees move on to better jobs. When a company outsources their support, they must share customer information with the third-party service provider. Some companies try to mitigate the additional security risks by providing limited access to the call center employees, but the result is frustration for the caller when the representative does not have information about past issues.
The Benefits of Cougar Mountain Software’s In-House Support
Customer support can significantly impact a small business. The time and frustration of multiple calls, explaining the issue to different support representatives, and lengthy response times put business at risk, especially for critical software like an accounting system. These are the reasons Cougar Mountain takes a different approach.
“It’s rare to encounter a problem with the software, but they are always there to help walk me through it.” She continues to note the supportive nature of the accounting team at Cougar Mountain, which has furthermore contributed to the day to day success of Monarch. Sally Hancock, Monarch Cleaners
Cougar Mountain views customer support as an important element of the customer relationship and as a way to ensure customers achieve their business goals when they use Cougar Mountain Software. The decision to build and maintain an in-house customer support team differentiates Cougar Mountain Software from many vendors in the market. The team isn’t measured on how quickly they can get a customer off the phone, call volume, or other call center oriented metrics that other software companies use. Cougar Mountain Software Customer Support representatives work in the same Boise, Idaho location as the other company departments. They have direct access to all areas of the business, which include management, product development, operations, and sales. The teams work in the same location, so sharing information is immediate and convenient. This significantly increases the representatives’ ability to identify, understand, and resolve any issues. The result is faster resolution time and less frustration.
The Cougar Mountain Customer Support staff is always up-to-date on the latest news, support, and business issues. Employee turnover rate is low, so representatives can deliver quality support consistently, year after year. Customers might even ask for a particular support representative by name. This minimizes the need for customers to “introduce” their business and its challenges every time they call. The support team works exclusively for the company and only handles calls from Cougar Mountain customers. They don’t need to share the clients’ confidential data with outside vendors, which greatly increases data security. All support representatives are educated in business and accounting, in addition to Cougar Mountain products. The benefit to the customer is working with a support team that can not only address product issues, but also offer suggestions on different approaches to solving business problems. When customers call in with problems, Product Development and Support work together to resolve issues quickly. Cougar Mountain customers can be confident the representative has all of the required tools and information and all of their training and experience is focused on providing a swift and thorough resolution to the problem.
Customer service is a significant element in successfully using accounting software. As your business grows, so does your reliance on the data contained in the software. When you have a strong support team ready to help your business achieve its goals, it can be the difference between hours spent on support calls and a speedy resolution that allows you to focus on continuing to grow your business.