How to get your vendor to help you become a system expert.
We all know how it goes. You call in to tech support, go through an automated phone tree, and press buttons for five minutes so the system, hopefully, directs you to the right department.
When you finally get a live person, they ask you all the same questions that the automated system asked. They’re likely following a script designed to hustle you off the phone. If you’re lucky, you actually get someone at a call center in the US. Most of the time, it’s someone overseas. As if that weren’t enough, many companies hide their support numbers. They prefer you use the self-help sections on their website. Here you can experience the joys of an automated chatbot or the delays of email-based “support.”
What is Knowledge Transfer?
The reason for this, of course, is that they focus on basic support and support costs money. Many companies view support as a necessary evil. They need to provide it because the competition offers it as well. For the most part, they’re focusing on the bottom line, which is to sell more product.
As a result, they do not focus on knowledge transfer. They try to minimize the costs with automated systems and overseas call centers. Staff is judged by the volume of calls they handle rather than successful resolutions. Some call centers even have technicians handling simultaneous chats with other customers while they are on the phone with you. Can you stay focused on several conversations at once? I do not think I could.
Keep Asking Questions
Still, getting knowledge transfer is not a lost cause. Over the years I’ve learned some tricks on how to turn a support call into more than a quick fix. I can often use these support options as a way for me to learn more – to receive a transfer of knowledge. This works even with companies that try to rush you off the phone.
Once you’ve gotten someone who helps fix your problem, don’t just hang up and go on your way. Make sure you understand the situation before you get off the phone by asking more questions:
- How did they know what was causing the problem?
- Is there a fix being developed?
- What exactly did they do that fixed the problem?
- Why did the fix work?
- What can you do to prevent the problem from happening again?
Don’t Get Intimidated
Do not assume that the techs have some secret ability or are smarter than you. They’re familiar with the product because they offer solutions to issues all day. In fact, the mark of a great technician, from my experience, is one that can explain something complex in very simple terms.
To get good knowledge transfer, make sure you understand their answers. Often, when I hear the answer, I don’t understand it the first time. When that happens… I ask again! I’m shameless here. My assumption is that I CAN understand it IF the technician will explain it clearly. By doing all of this, one comes away better informed.
Understand Their Limitations (and Work Around Them)
Since they are focused on supporting a particular product, even the best techs often suffer from a kind of tunnel vision. They can only help support that particular product instead of the other elements of your system that affect the problem. This lack of understanding other elements, in a labeling or tracking system for example, can lead to frustrating finger pointing where one manufacturer blames the other for two products not working together.
You cannot prevent finger pointing. But you can still extract knowledge about that product from your support contact. Even if they don’t have the complete answer, learn as much as you can about their part of the problem before you walk away. Ask questions like ‘If the OTHER guy’s product was working correctly, how would YOUR product behave’? Or, ‘What do I have to do with this product after the other part gets fixed’?
If you are fortunate enough to find that “unicorn” tech who is knowledgeable and willing to coach you (i.e. transfer knowledge), hang on to them! Try to develop a bit of relationship with them so that you can get a direct line or email address for them in case you have issues in the future. This used to be fairly common among companies in all types of industries. A smart customer could build a “black book” of reliable experts whom to call upon when in need. The most effective people, in my experience, have the best black books.
EBI and Knowledge Transfer
In my opinion, companies that are focusing only on the sales or development aspects of a business are missing the whole point. Informed customers have more confidence in the product and the company.
As our support clients know, we want your EBI support technician to get into your black book. While most of our support clients are indeed calling us to fix a problem, often I find that what they’re really looking to get from us is KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER. We train and encourage our support team to get to know you and your operations. In fact, we assign our clients to a specific person. They are your first point of contact.
We train on the entire labeling or tracking system. When we get a support call, we actively work to transfer knowledge about how to maintain your system AND prevent problems. Our goal is to train you, call by call, to become the local company expert on labeling or tracking. We do not pressure our team to reach a ‘calls per day’ quota or force them to multitask between calls, emails and text chats.
Few companies still have this approach, unfortunately. For your labeling and tracking needs, you know that you have that with us. For everything else, try my suggestions and see if you can coax it out of them. Good luck!