Anthony Rodio from SupportSoft – Part 2

This is part two of the interview Anthony Rodio, the Chief Marketing Officer for SupportSoft.

This part of the three part interview focuses on SupportSoft’s (an enterprise company) entry into the consumer market (including some lessons they learned) and why consumers would choose SupportSoft over their OEM (the computer manufacturer).

Question: Why did an enterprise software company want to get into consumer support
Answer: At the simplest level, the market we believe is going to be very very very big. There are no real analyst coverage on how big the paid for, home tech market is. The numbers range from $5 billion to $50 billion on the high end. It is really hard to get a clear number. In either case, even if it is $5 billion or $50 billion in the US, that is a much bigger market that the market there is to sell our tools to Fortune 100 companies.

Secondarily, after using some of these services we really felt there was a place for us to bring value to consumers and make the experience better than everyone else. There is a clear need out there for better tech support. The stuff doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. People get pretty frustrated bouncing around between Microsoft, their OEM, where they bought the machine, their serve provider, and maybe some ISPs – all telling them that the problem is not their problem.

There is a paradigm that tech support should be free based on where you bought the product, but by the time they got on the phone with us, they have already spent hours most of the time, trying to get their problem resolved with this “free support.” Most people feel that their time (10 hours or whatever it may be) is worth more than $39 to them or $100.

We had a feeling that we could do this better than anyone else in the market based on the ten years that we’ve been solving these problems for enterprises.

Question: What lessons has SupportSoft learned about servicing consumers since starting Support.com?
Answer: Support.com has been great from obviously trying to grow a consumer business, but also for our enterprise business. We are pretty confident that we have the best technology in this space. What we have learned through Support.com is that the tools we provide to enterprises are not as usable for the analyst as they should have been in the past.

Having our own techs eat our own dog food if you will and use our tools on a daily basis to solve problems that aren’t the same that you would see in an enterprise, has helped us understand that we need to have more flexibility in our tools, focus on the tools they use most often, make the tools more discoverable.

Even in our call center where there is 15 to 25 people working at any one time, that those people are using our tool set differently, despite whatever training methods they’ve had. The biggest lesson for us is that while the technology does enable a lot of really interesting things, you need people to use it.

Our customers have been telling us for years that our stuff is great, but a lot of times, their analysts don’t use all the functionality that the customer bought. Now we understand that the issue is in our product and not just the customer’s training.

Question: Why do you think consumers would choose Support.com instead of just calling their manufacturer?
Answer: In many ways for the reasons I touched on before. The way that most manufacturers run their support organization is trying to minimize handle time. They try to get the customer off the phone as fast as possible so they can hit their performance metrics.

One of the ways you do that is explain to the customer that the problem is not an OEM problem – it is not a Dell or HP problem – it is a problem with your graphics card, or your printer driver, or you’ve got a virus or the software doesn’t work. The consumer gets to the point where all they want to do is have their computer working. They aren’t getting the problem solved when they are calling their OEM or the software manufacturer, frankly.

We are agnostic as to where the problem came from. The only reason we exist is to solve the problem. Our research on this found that consumers are more than willing to pay a reasonable amount of money to get their computer working as soon as possible. They don’t want to sit on the phone with long IVRs, long hold times, be transferred four times, and then be told the problem wasn’t theirs.

We have found that the category is still forming in some ways. More so, six months ago or when we first started this 8 or 9 months ago, people would call us and want tech support to be free. Over time, we have gotten less and less of those calls. We’re getting more “I’ve tried four other people and got no” or “I’m just so happy to get it fixed now.”

We believe that is the future. The way I describe it is sort of like my car. I want to have to know how my car works. If it breaks down, I want it fixed as fast as possible. It would be great if the “warranty” fixes it, but after you drive it for a little bit of time, it never does. I don’t care about knowing how my engine runs – I just want it fixed as fast as possible. I don’t care whose fault it was or what part went wrong. I just want my car fixed.

That is the way most people in the country look at their computers. Critical to their daily lives, but they don’t describe themselves as tech influencers or experts. Technology has become a part of their life whether they like it or not. And when it doesn’t work, it is very frustrating.

Unfortunately, our computers do not work like other critical things do. Your refrigerator works every morning and your food is cold. Your car starts almost all of the time, but most people spend hours every month trying to get their computer to work the way they want every month. A study we did showed that people spent about 12 hours a month trying to fix their computer. That is a lot of time trying to get something important working the way it should.

4 Responses to “Anthony Rodio from SupportSoft – Part 2”

  1. Ankit said:

    Nov 15, 07 at 2:42 am

    I was going to ask what makes your company’s offerings different than Geek Squad or a local computer shop, but then I realized that your support is instant, not something that has to be scheduled.

    Where do most of your customers come from? You’ve obviously got a good domain name and so that’s working for you, but when someone needs help at 2AM to finish their presentation, how will they know to come to you?

  2. Kathi said:

    Nov 15, 07 at 4:43 pm

    Unfornately, I have experienced the pains of your computer not working many times. I feel extremely lucky that the tech guys at my office willingly offer advice for our personal computer problems. I agree with Anthony’s statement that I don’t care what is broken or why, I just want my computer to be up and running without interuption.

  3. Brandon - Call Center Consultant said:

    Nov 17, 07 at 2:08 am

    I think that offering support for a specific problem is an absolutely fantastic idea. I can see a huge market especially for business travelers who need an answer immediately.

    I think a future product SupportSoft could sell would be marketing presentations for those same business travelers. They could give you the presentation materials and you would convert that to a PPT.

  4. Service Untitled said:

    Nov 20, 07 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks for your comments!

    Ankit: I think they are doing quite a lot of marketing. I will ask the rep from SupportSoft to check out your comment and respond to you.

    Kathi: It is customers like you that Anthony is hoping will find value from Support.com and its services. 🙂

    Brandon: It is certainly something they could consider. I know SupportSoft does a lot of things related to customer service and support.