How to Provide a First Class Support Service

At iMeta we take providing a fantastic support service to our customers very seriously indeed. We pride ourselves on the high proportion of customers who commission us to provide additional development for them, beyond the scope of what was originally delivered. This is in part due to the highly skilled, dedicated and experienced developers, testers and project managers that we employ, but equally important is ensuring that our customers are pleased, no, delighted with the support service that we offer.

My name is James Watson and I manage the support team at iMeta Technologies. I’m very fortunate to work with a team of dynamic high achievers, however there are a number of things we do to ensure that we maintain an exceptional level of service. In this article I am going to share some of the secrets of our success with you.

Let’s start with the basics – know your customer! By ‘know your customer’, I don’t mean make them your best friend, go out drinking with them and send their children birthday presents, what I mean is ‘know their business’. You can’t clearly communicate with a customer on a support matter if you don’t know what they do, what their software does, and what the consequences of what they are telling you will have on their business.

Make sure you keep up to date with each customer. This is easy with the customers that you speak with frequently, but more difficult with those you have infrequent contact with. (I will discuss the need to maintain frequent contact with your customers in a later blog). It also helps significantly to know who you’re speaking with and where they fit within the organisation. A business user is likely to want a far less technical explanation of a problem than an IT administrator – it’s important to establish a rapport with the person you’re dealing with and respond to their specific needs.

A number of our customers are large banks or financial businesses that provide fund and trust management services. Understanding the business of these customers can be a challenge due to the complex nature of what they do – Can you explain to me what a non-default cash standing settlement instruction is? The more complex the customer’s business, the more important it is that you understand what they do and how they do it. This understanding can make the difference between providing an adequate service and a superb one.

A well supported support team:

The support team at iMeta are technical people. We are all capable of writing well structured and thought out code, of thoroughly testing the code and of providing it to a customer in a release to solve a problem. However, even though each person is able to do this, I can’t express enough the importance of team work and peer review into the way in which we operate.

Our support team is ring fenced from development. This means that we are self-sufficient in terms of skills, knowledge and expertise – we don’t need to bring developers in to help us to solve technical problems. This also works well for our customers, who are able to build up a relationship with a fixed team of people and are not forced to work with a developer who has been assigned to support just for that day. Things usually work very well on this basis. Our developers are insulated from support, our support team is able to directly solve the issues raised with them; so have a real sense of achievement with their job and our customers know who they are dealing with and have consistency between issues. Things usually work very well…

From time to time an issue will come up that is either very technically complex, very difficult to understand or follow, or that involves a technology with which the support consultant has limited experience. When this happens it’s important that the support person is well supported and knows where to turn.

Within my team, the first port of call is other members of the team. We all regularly discuss the problems that we’re dealing with and use each other as sounding boards for ideas. This serves several purposes; it ensures that nothing is missed because everything is peer reviewed, it allows for someone else to take over in case of sickness or other absence, but most importantly, it ensures cross-fertilisation of ideas amongst the team.

Occasionally something comes up that no-one in the support team is able to solve. When this happens we know that we have the full technical resource of iMeta to fall back on.

The very last thing you want to happen is for your support people to be stuck with a problem with nowhere to turn. This is difficult for the support person and they will become de-motivated very quickly. As for the customer, they are waiting for a solution to their problem, and for the software house as a whole, the result is lost time and reduced productivity.

My advice – make sure that your support team know where to turn, who to turn to, and when to turn there.

James Watson
Global Head of Support