Changes To Our Support Toolset for 2018

For the past 19 years, Applied Innovations has maintained a single brand promise to our customers “Make Online Business Success, Easy” which quite simply means to me that it’s our job to make it easy for our customers to succeed.  Parallel to that is one of the core values of our company “Continual Improvement in the Pursuit of Excellence,” this means we’re always trying to improve and that no matter how good we may be or believe we are, there is still room for improvement.   I mention these two items because it relates to the upgrades we’re embarking upon over the next few days on our support toolset.  You see, we heard very pointed feedback from one of our customers that we weren’t delivering on our promises.  In fact, the exact (and quite painful) review is posted below:

They don’t have a communication process internally. Management is not available for consultation or engagement. The support department is not consultative, will send you nasty emails regarding support you are PAYING FOR and then not see that you called into resolve it and continues to send you nasty emails. 5 years ago they were wonderful to work with, 2016 has not been a pleasant experience. I’m out.

That was harsh ‘anonymous’ feedback. I responded to that feedback asked for a phone call so I could learn more and had a great conversation with one of our customers, Michelle.  Michelle generously took time out of her day to call me and then spent the next several minutes informing me how we had failed her and why she was leaving.  Sadly, it was too late to save Michelle, but this was of great concern because if there’s one, there’s likely two. So I brought this back to my team and investigated it thoroughly.  What we found was something that would happen more frequently than we’d like.  We found that Michelle was not the only person in her company that would open a ticket when there was an issue with her servers. In fact, on this particular issue, I found that two people on Michelle’s team opened a ticket with two different support engineers at the same time. We had two guys in there making changes at the same time, and because our #1 priority was to get Michelle back online, we were stepping on each other’s toes.  Indeed there was no internal communication between the agents.  Now one could argue the point and ask if the customer’s own team was communicating but that’s really not the point here. Because if we were doing what we should have been doing, it wouldn’t matter. In other cases, Michelle called in to resolve an issue with one engineer only to have another engineer working in parallel to solve the same issue reaching out over email to her. Both of these were problematic and frustrating for a customer that was already very busy with her own job responsibilities and we clearly were not meeting our promise.

We didn’t stop there because as I mentioned if there’s one, there’s probably two. So we looked at other customers, and we reached out to anyone that we thought may have had a problem. We interviewed not only customers but also our team, asking what were the pains they saw and if they were the client what frustrations would have been experienced and what were we missing internally.  It was pretty clear our ticketing system was not delivering what was needed as support platform and we did in fact outgrow it. So we began drawing up a list of features and functionality we needed and among these were:

  1. A single pane of glass to know everything that’s going on with that particular customer at the moment they call or email in.  We want to know what outstanding tickets they have, what tickets they had, what services they have with our company, what alerts, monitors, etc. is going on. If there were any recent upgrades or downgrades.  Everything you’d want to know immediately for a customer.
  2. We wanted to expand upon AMP the Awesome Monitoring Platform we launched two years ago. We wanted monitored alerts to create tickets automatically when there was an issue and when the issue was addressed, automatically close the ticket. In the past, we would have a single server experience an issue, open multiple tickets and then open yet another ticket for the resolution. So in the past for one issue, we my have five different tickets opened and multiple engineers working on the same issue. So we wanted the new support system to integrate with the monitoring platform and keep tickets related to a single incident together.
  3. We wanted an open API so that we could extend the system and tie everything into it that we needed.
  4. The ability to alert multiple clients impacted by the same incident at once.  When there’s a shared server outage more than one customers may be impacted, and when the issue is resolved, we may have to notify multiple clients individually. We wanted a system that if there was a service impacting incident we could update the incident one time and that update would be fed only to those customers impacted.
  5. The ability to issue proactive alerts to our clients letting them know there’s an issue and that we’re investigating it already so that they don’t have to be alarmed.
  6. Visibility for the customer. We wanted to have a portal where the customer could log in and see all of their EVERYTHING, tickets, alerts, monitors; you name it. Full transparency.
  7. Integration with the Customer CRM and the billing system so that our team wouldn’t have to log into multiple portals to address a customer’s request and resolve it as quickly as possible for the customer.
  8. Full integration with chat, email, and phone support so no matter how the customer reached out or whom the customer spoke to, we have a history of those issues and they can be referenced quickly if needed.
  9. Lastly, we wanted a solution that allowed us to move towards the next stage of Applied Innovations growth. As the company pivots to delivering more services outside of our datacenter, we need a solution that would pivot with us and set us up for success.

That’s not the full list, but that should give you a pretty good idea what we were looking to implement over the past year, and now in the next few days we begin the first stage of that deployment.  So here’s what you need to know.

What Happens Next?

We’ll go live in the next few days with the new system shortly after the new year. It will replace our current email support software and our chat software first.  You’ll still email support at appliedi.net for support, and you’ll access support live chat from our homepage, just as before.  However, if you used the web portal: https://support.appliedi.net/ and logged in to create tickets or check on ticket status that will change.  Each customer will have their own unique organization support portal with a full history of their support tickets, etc.  As we onboard our customers onto the new support portal, the system will send login credentials for the customer portal to the customers.  If you don’t get your login credentials for this, don’t worry the support team can assist you with setting it up. Fact is only about 2% of all tickets happen via the support web portal with the vast majority happening over email, live chat and then phone support.

We’ll then continue to update the system and refine the processes as we get customer and team feedback.  After the email, phone and workflows are dialed in we’ll work on the phone and monitoring workflows. It will take until late March until the system is 100% on where we’d like to be and then, true to our core values, we’ll continue the pursuit of excellence and continue to refine and optimize the solution.

What Does the Customer Need to do?

We’ll be redirecting the support.appliedi.net site as the new portals come online, and the way our customers contact us will still be available so there’s not a lot the customers will need to do on their end. I do have one ask though. Should you have a problem with our company or feel we aren’t delivering against our values and promise, please reach out to me and give us a chance to resolve it. Chances are we will, even if it means we have to take a year to research it and come up with the right solution.

I believe the investment we’re making into our support toolset will allow us to not only deliver the level of support our customers have come to expect from us but raise the bar even further.

 

About the Author

Jess Coburn

It's Jess's responsibility as CEO and Founder of Applied Innovations to set the direction of Applied Innovations services to ensure that as a company we're consistently meeting the needs of our customers to help drive their success. In his spare time, Jess enjoys many of the things that made him a geek to begin with. That includes sexy new hardware, learning new technology and even a videogame or two! When you can’t find him at the office (which admittedly is rare), you’ll likely find him at the grill or in front of his smoker getting ready for some lip-smacking ribs to enjoy with his wife and two kids.