The Future Of Support: Empathetic, Proactive Services For The Real-Time Enterprise

Andreas Heckmann

Not so long ago, people with lots of technical training and experience were the main users of technology. Product support mirrored this audience as technicians offered just-the-facts responses to technical questions through iterative, ticket-based communications.

That type of support won’t give customers what they need in 2017 and beyond. With technology changes such as cloud computing solutions, mobile devices, hyper connectivity, and the Internet of Things reshaping the business landscape, the user community has changed. Solution providers must reimagine support to meet this new reality.

As Generations X and Y populate the workplace, user expectations for technology are shifting. People who click to complete a purchase on Amazon, swipe left or right to meet potential dates, and ask their smartphone to answer questions – whenever and however often they want – are unwilling to accept traditional methods of delivering support. These approaches are unsatisfactory, especially for digital enterprises that need to support a real-time business.

Technologies enabling responsive support

In 2016, I wrote about the features that organizations needed to adopt to provide users with responsive and meaningful support services. Clearly, people should be able to connect with their support organizations through multiple channels because ticket systems and chat windows alone are not enough. Omnichannel support, in which users can find answers in the channel of their choice (or multiple channels, if they like), is essential in the delivery of a delightful user experience.

Real-time support is another goal. Today’s highly mobile workforce expects to get answers anytime and anywhere. Always-on support can be enabled through chat services that provide access to support professionals for discussions about functional areas of the solution.

Innovative businesses are experimenting with new features that will bring support into the product itself. Instead of visiting a support portal or calling a technician when they have a question or a problem, users can click on a link or make a voice-activated request to get help, wherever they are within the product. Beyond that, support services must become more proactive, offering assistance before the user is facing an issue. Even predictive support is on the horizon.

All of these features will help enhance the support process and deliver the experience that users expect. But as we look ahead, the future of support will demand more than just new technical bells and whistles.

Delighting customers. Always.

Solution providers must embrace a new vision for delighting customers by always putting the customer first. Meeting this goal requires companies to improve the quality of interactions between customers and technicians by introducing empathy into every support transaction.

Empathy is the ability to understand, relate, and share the feelings of others. Support technicians who can empathize with users understand why an answer or resolution is needed while providing respectful assistance that helps users get back to work as soon as possible.

To deliver proactive, innovative support services that are also empathetic, solution providers may need to rethink and reimagine how they staff their support teams. Where we now divide support experts by functional area alone, empathetic support may require different experts in each area. Perhaps, for example, a technical engineer would handle the initial occurrence of a problem by performing the root-cause analysis and troubleshooting the system. Knowledge management experts, in the meantime, would productize and humanize information.

By moving data into the product’s technology infrastructure, machine learning technologies can consume it and make it available for user self-services through a fully automated chat bot. This process would allow people to engage in meaningful dialog for simpler solution support issues, leaving human-to-human communications for more serious problems. Support personnel interacting with users would then need to possess excellent communications, conflict resolution, and situational awareness skills to handle remaining service requests.

By providing empathetic support, organizations can help their customers incrementally realize higher value from their technology solutions. Ultimately, companies buy technology to add value to their businesses – and the more effectively our support services can make that goal a reality, the better the future of support will be.

For more insight on support solutions, see Farewell To The Landline: The Future Of Customer Service.


Andreas Heckmann

About Andreas Heckmann

Andreas Heckmann is head of Product Support at SAP. You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and WeChat at AndHeckmann.