For the last several decades, customer support has been generally a reactive organization. Not much has changed during this time; customers would contact support when technology goes awry or when they lack understanding in how to configure or optimize the technology.
The major changes that have occurred have mostly been with respects to the medium through which customers interact with support. The customer support medium has evolved from the telephone, through email, through automated “phone-home” mechanisms and now self-service web portals.
Whatever the medium, the support function has generally been the same, until now!
With the economic viability and availability of Big Data, and Big Data’s pivotal role in the creation of enterprise value and competitive advantage, customer support organizations need to evolve quickly, and become customer “success” organizations.
What is a customer “success” organization?
Installing databases on a standardized converged infrastructure platform is not
particularly difficult. Installing Hadoop or other NoSQL, next generation data management platforms are also relatively straightforward, especially given the volumes of “how-to” guides and configuration recipes that can be found on the Internet.
Therefore, the role traditional customer support organizations in helping clients install, setup, and maintain these platforms take a diminished role.
What customers really need is help in achieving the business problems they are trying to solve. This goes beyond traditional customer support. Customers are looking to their software vendors to assist them in applying the proper logic, programming techniques, in some cases the proper analytical approaches to specific business problems.
In other words, the customer support organizations must evolve from simply supporting customers and start proactively enabling customers for success. This would include educating customers in new analytical techniques; new opportunities for using and creating value from existing and available data sources; and helping customers to optimize their code and user interfaces for external and internal clients.
Change the way we invest in software = change in the way software is supported
As more and more software vendors move from a capital acquisition model, to an annuity subscription model, more emphasis will need to be placed on the post-sale optimization aspects of the investment by customers.
This enablement model is a careful balancing act. The customer “success” organizations need to consolidate knowledge from all its customers and available sources, while recognizing the proprietary processes, data and differentiations of each customer.
Customer success organizations will also need to create new metrics to justify the investment customers make in or “success”. These metrics must reflect
key performance indicators (KPIs) that are specific to each customer.
An example of the evolution taking place
Recently, Neuralytix received a preview of Informatica’s 2014 support offerings. Neuralytix does not suggest that Informatica is the only company that has recognized the change in customer support to customer enablement and success. However, we believe that the changes that Informatica is making in mid-2014 are good examples of the evolution that software vendors need to go through over the course of the next 24 months to stay relevant and competitive.
In 2014, Informatica goes through a major update to its support offerings. It has taken a systematic and forward-looking approach to keeping its offerings relevant and current by review its roadmap in a major way every four years, with minor updates every two.
Informatica’s new offerings focus on enabling its customers to rapid adoption. This, in and to itself, is an evolution from what they started with in 2006, where its focus was on rapid response. (In 2010, it focused on rapid deployment).
Neuralytix expects that Informatica will continue to evolve its rapid adoption to rapid execution (which in business nomenclature would equal rapid differentiation and rapid value creation).
Given where Informatica sits in the data lifecycle, a key focus around rapid adoption is both visionary and smart. It sits operationally between data sources and data insights and value.
The challenge for Informatica and other software vendors will be ensuring that its customers adopt Informatica’s operational approach, as opposed to its partners (if they differ). From data creation to data consumption, there are now a multitude of processes and an ever-growing list of applications that are looking to access the same data. Each process may have slightly different operational and schematic nuances.
Neuralytix believes that the more established data management software vendors are likely to be the winners not only in their ability to turn their customer support organizations into customer “success” organizations, but also to influence its customers to adopt its operational techniques over smaller startups.
At the end of the day, customers need to look to its software vendor, not only for the applicability of their software, but also, the vendor’s ability to enable success. Great software, with poor support simply leads to frustration and failure. That is not to say, bad software with great support would yield otherwise. However, the support or “success” organization of the software vendor will play a vast role in whether your enterprise can benefit from sustained competitive advantage.