Sunday, November 18, 2012

Support Expectations

Recently, I have been coaching consultants that are relatively new in their careers working with Dynamics GP.  It has been a really eye-opening experience in learning styles, consulting styles, and how we all build knowledge and expertise in a way that allows us to craft a career path.  I know this will sound trite, but I have learned alot from them and it has brought back some of my own passion for what I do every day.  I do love my job- I love helping customers/clients/users get the most out of their software, and therefore improve their work life.  We spend way too many hours on the job to be miserable.  I also enjoy building relationships over the years with clients, former students, and fellow consultants.  Some turn in to friends, others turn in to mentors and mentees (is that even a word?).

It has gotten me thinking, though, about what I call the Support Conundrum.   A client's first interaction with consultants (beyond the salesperson) tends to be with the most senior folks in an organization.  Make sense, right?  We send out our "A" team to build the relationship, and to showcase our expertise. And, if the timing works out, these same people take the helm of the implementation project and serve in primary roles with the customer. 

So....what happens when the customer's implementation is done?  And they transition to support?  Who happens to be on the support desk?  In many organizations, it is the least senior folks.  The skill level both in product knowledge and working with customers may still be in development and uneven in some areas.  So how do we manage that?  How do we ensure that the customer is not disappointed with support, and at the same time the folks on the support desk are valued/not diminished in importance?

I believe strongly that working on the support desk is an excellent way for consultants to build knowledge, relationships, and strong troubleshooting skills. I don't have all of the answers regarding how best to support both the folks on the desk and the customers so that they don't look at support as the "2nd string".  But here are some of my random thoughts, and I hope that you will share yours as well...

1. Have a solid troubleshooting methodology as an organization, what questions do you ask immediately? 
2. Teach that getting the problem "down the road as far as possible" is as important as ultimately solving the issue, meaning that using solid troubleshooting to isolate the real issue/root cause is a productive task
3. Set expectations regarding how issues are escalated, and what information should be collected prior.  Involve the support desk in the resolution when it is escalated.
4. Teach triage (prioritization)
5. Make sure everyone understands that overcommunication in support is imperative, update clients on progress (or lack thereof) on a regular basis
6. As much of an ego boost as it may give you, do not "bad mouth" your support team...even passive- aggressively (e.g., encouraging a client to contact you directly when they should be using support)
7. Consider a reduced rate for phone/remote support services
8. Support "behind the scenes", providing the support desk with tips, tricks, etc directly so that they can provide it to the customer and learn themselves

What are your thoughts? What else could we add to the list?  Do you agree or disagree with any of these?

Christina Phillips is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Dynamics GP Certified Professional. She is a supervising consultant with BKD Technologies, providing training, support, and project management services to new and existing Microsoft Dynamics customers. This blog represents her views only, not those of her employer.

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