Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. I think he may have been in technical support!
Technical support and customer support leaders must begin to think of their top priority as incident prevention not incident management.
- Incident management focuses on reacting to customer demand (incidents, tickets, questions) and solving problems. It’s about reducing case aging, reducing backlog, achieving service levels and achieving case closure SLAs. And… as I mentioned in a previous post, there is a BIG problem with problem solving as it happens too late in the process. In most cases, once there is an incident, we did not meet our customers’ needs.
- Incident prevention focuses on activities that will reduce or eliminate a customer’s need to contact you. It is about identifying and eliminating problems before customers know they are there. It is about working upstream, not at the end of a process.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of incident management versus incident prevention:
1 & 2) Proactive & Strategic:
Even the most sophisticated capacity or demand plans, cannot predict all future volume and activities. You may also find that your tech support leaders are often spending time on “drop everything” P1 incident remediation. When you spend all of your time reacting, you have no time to invest in the future. An incident prevention mindset will help move your organization from reactive to proactive, from interruption management to time for thinking and planning.
3) Investing In The Future:
Shifting your focus to incident prevention will help with your department workflow in the short term and the long term. As you analyze trends and uncover opportunities, you will likely find some low hanging fruit that will improve the success of your operation in weeks or months. Other opportunities will be more complex and take longer (e.g. product usability changes), but once implemented can have a significant, positive impact on future results.
4) Cost Savings and Revenue Opportunities
Incident prevention saves costs not only in customer support, but across the organization. Think about the time your engineering organization spends today fixing the same defect multiple times. Think about the time cross-functional staff members spend on the phone with customers to discuss major outages, instead of selling or marketing.
Incident prevention can also mean revenue for your organization. Multiple incidents may indicate that a customer needs additional training or could mean they need complimentary products to make their system more stable. The incremental training and new products should prevent future incidents, while driving revenue.
5 & 6) Solving For Many – Product Quality & Usability
Incident resolution is about solving one customer’s problem at a time. Incident prevention is about looking at a group of problems with a balcony view, identifying trends and looking for long term solutions that will improve product quality and usability.
7) Your CRM Can Do a Lot More
Many organizations use their CRM system like a Chevy not a Cadillac, only using the basics, but not the full catalog of options.
For example, your CRM can act as an early warning system to help you identify incident trends and automatically notify management of growing problems via email or SMS. Your CRM can help you plan and execute on a proactive, customer contact program.
_8) Collaborate, Integrate
When teams are in reactive, incident management mode, I often observe a lot of finger pointing. “The case is still sitting in engineering. I’ll find out what “they” are doing about it”. “I am sorry that sales told you that the product could do that. It is working as designed”.
Preventing incidents drives cross-functional collaboration between Support, Sales, Product Development, Engineering and other key teams. It forces us to think about the greater good, the big picture and what’s best for many.
9) Engage Your Employees
Incident management can be very stressful. Your employees must work to calm irate customers, resolve issues under tight deadlines and cover P1s on evenings or weekends. Incident prevention allows employees to step back, think strategically, develop new skills and use their full potential to fix issues for the long term.
In Aspect’s white paper called, “Five Reasons Why Proactive Customer Care Means Customer Loyalty”, they shared that, “Proactive care agents who spend time solving customer issues, providing useful information, and having meaningful interactions with customers have a more satisfying work experience and keep their jobs longer – easing the corporate burden of costly employee turnover, while building strong relationships with customers.”
10) Drive Loyalty Not Just Satisfaction
At some point in our careers, we have all worked with administrative assistants. Some assistants are excellent at reacting to our needs and when we ask for something, they get it done on time with expected quality. Other assistants get the basics done well AND actually anticipate our needs and deliver things before we ask for them. When we ask for X, they provide X but also offer a few other, better options such as Y and Z. In addition, they keep us informed and provide “heads ups” so there are few surprises.
Who would you rather work with? The first type meets our needs. The second type exceeds our needs, as they are in proactive and prevention mode, which helps us save time, save money and make better decisions. Our customers want the same things too. Our customers want incident prevention.
© 2011 – 2012, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.
Great article with great ideas about being proactive. Too few people realize the importance of saving time and energy the way this article states it.
Marci, great article. I just posted this quote from Benjamin Franklin on my tag in Skype. I have used metrics and good old fashioned conversations with customers, users, analysts and other support people to put this practice in place! All the activities you mention drive up customer satisfaction AND employee satisfaction!
Bob.. thanks for your comment. Great to hear that you have observed the benefits of prevention techniques for both customers and employees.
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