Tech Support Marketing

On from Analytics Culture

Marketing is all about acquiring customers, and up/cross-selling them once they’re onboard. What if there was a lot of value that could be added just by keeping them? This is not a new idea, but I would like to bring your attention to an area of growth that is rarely discussed in Marketing: Tech Support.

Everybody knows that giving great support has beneficial impacts on customers’ satisfaction, and we can all swear that a satisfied customer is a customer for life (well, ain’t really so anymore, is it?). However, many companies see Tech Support as a necessary evil, as costs of doing business. Other companies, a little more opportunistic (and in business, that is certainly not bad) see customers contacting support as more opportunities to sell them something. The problem is, customers are rarely in the mood of being upsold, especially when going through solving a problem.

But what if you could use Tech Support as a great source of marketing data? First of all, many products and services today are very complex, regardless of how much efforts companies put in simplifying their use. By that I mean that if you use them, you will at some point contact Tech Support. You will have an issue, a bug, a problem, a glitch, or you will simply need to learn how to do something.

A busy Tech Support then means customers using your products or services (if not always enjoying).

And in a world where more and more of what we consume is subscription based, this is great news! I know, Tech Support is expensive, and is hard at heart. Frustrated people are not always nice, and they often call or write with high expectations of quick resolution of the issue. The opposite is a very quiet Tech Support department; would that be good news that nobody seems to really use your products? And if they don’t really use them, what are the chances they will renew their service, license, etc.? What are the chances that their CFO will ask “why do we keep paying for this again”?

Years ago, I told a US software company (an analytics one to boot) that I would be willing to bet that opening tickets was a strong predictor of renewing maintenance. Needless to say that maintenance renewals are a healthy source of revenue. My hypothesis was that there must be a sweet spot, a number of months without opening a ticket that was predictive of dropping from the service. I suggested that if they never heard from a company through Tech Support, that company would probably defect within two renewal cycles at the most. I don’t think they ever tried that analysis; their current position in the market tells they probably should have.

We (KWANTYX) recently completed a project with a very interesting twist. Our client asked us to perform semantic analyses on the content of thousands of support tickets, generating hundreds of thousands of exchanges between their customers and support people, in order to categorize them by topics, and spot people they could upsell based on what they wrote about. Very clever. And definitely full of potential. Along the way, we discovered something very interesting. We noticed that the vast majority of customers who contacted Support belonged to the best quintile!

In other words, the most active customers, using the most services, were the ones that needed the most care. Apart from confirming the need to keep great service and maintain satisfaction, this certainly demonstrated how much that touch point becomes important to service renewals. And the correlation is there…

Marketing people should care about this. They should make sure they collaborate with their Operations colleagues, and work together to validate satisfaction. Yes, those customers using their products and services can definitely be up/cross-sold. But by opening tickets they send a very strong signal that “they’re on it” (I even saw this works in pharma), and Marketing should have communication programs that target those who ping Tech Support.

Data is everywhere; we all know that. Among all that data, customer-related data is the most precious, a true asset. Which means it’s Marketing’s business to grow its value, regardless of what system generates it.

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