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Crack Dealer Rehabilitation – Part 1

by Rob Addy  |  January 24, 2012  |  Submit a Comment

It’s been almost a week now and my login credentials are still active. Better still, I have not yet been dragged from my bed in the middle of the night for some baseball bat-based “re-education” so all appears well…

As we know, product support is not universally disliked in business circles although it sometimes feels like it is. The market perception of support leaves a lot to be desired. It is the result of years of conditioning and will take a significant change in approach and behaviour to alter it. Whether your renewal notice is seen as the technical insurance policy premium that your customers don’t want to pay or the drug money that is demanded with menaces by the crack dealer providing their client with their next hit, they rarely hand their money over willingly…

“…given the profitability of support services and the high levels of product discounting that is sometimes seen one might draw an analogy between the technology industry and the trade in illegal narcotics whereby the initial product is given for free or at very low cost on the assumption that once hooked, the customer will pay in perpetuity.”

Extract from Market Insight: Introducing the Gartner Product Support Maturity Scale (G00174285)

Perception is a weird and wonderful thing.

Rat + Feather Duster + Max Clifford = Squirrel ???

Consider Squirrel Nutkin... Adorable nut muncher or fluffy tailed rat with good PR? You decide!

So how can the social pariah that is support rehabilitate itself? Can it be rehabilitated? What needs to change for it to become appreciated? Respected? Desired? Adored even? Is the concept of proprietary lock-in ever really acceptable?

Unfortunately, the support industry probably needs a little more than a prosthetic tail and the attentions of PR supremo Max Clifford! But that’s not to say the feat is impossible. Just that it may take a little more effort over an extended period…

The first stage of any rehabilitation program is to recognize the issue and accept it. Let’s focus on that this week. Support is unloved. Get over it. It’s not that it isn’t lovable or without merit. It’s just that most people fail to see past their own preconceptions and bitter personal experiences of the past. Perception is a powerful thing. We must not underestimate it. If we are to take support forward to claim its rightful place in the world we will have to change attitudes. The diagram below shows how customer perceptions are formed and influenced and the way in which support organizations can impact them.

Obviously, a whole lot of this stuff is outside of our direct control and immediate sphere of influence but that doesn’t mean we can’t affect it. It just means it will take longer and we will have to worker harder…  Consider how you interact with your customers (and the key word here is “customer” not service consumer – but we’ll save an investigation into the distinction between the two for another time). How often do you reach out? Do you mainly focus on the negatives i.e. the current hot issue, or the benefits derived over the longer term? Are you talking to the right people? If not, how can you get to talk to the right people? If you could get to them… what would you say? These are the questions that need to be addressed first.

We must remember that a messenger without a message is just mime artist. Having something to say is as important as having someone to say it to. If our customers don’t see the value; there is no value. etc etc

There is much to do, but as Confucious said A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Until the next time I wish you well on your own particular journey!

And remember… TRKFAM!

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Category: support-messaging  support-strategy  support-value  

Tags: customer-constituencies  customer-experience  customer-perceptions  customer-service  gartner-product-support-maturity-scale  gartner%e2%80%99s-fantasy-football-product-support-squad  hardware-maintenance  market-perceptions  pre-emptive  predictive  proactive  processes-and-methodologies  product-support  reactive-break-fix  service-definitions  software-support  support  support-quality  support-tax  support-value-chain  trkfam  value-proposition  

Rob Addy
Research Vice President
5 years at Gartner
More years than I care to remember in the IT industry

Welcome to my blog! I post about all things services related from the provider perspective. End-users are welcome to read but please be aware that you may sometimes find its content unsettling. I will endeavour to post frequently (as it's a lot cheaper than a therapist) but please forgive me if other more mundane activities occasionally get in the way...Read my official Gartner bio here

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