Anthony Rodio from SupportSoft – Part 3

This is the third and final part of the of the interview Anthony Rodio, the Chief Marketing Officer for SupportSoft.

This part of the interview talks about some challenges SupportSoft is dealing with, what changes users can expect over the next 6 – 12 months, a bit about licensing their technology to other companies, and then a wrap up about how remote support has the potential to change customer service.

Question: A big part of your product offering is remote help. What do you do if the customer can’t get on the Internet?
Answer: We can triage some of the stuff. The large part of the value that we provide is having an Internet connection. If the problem is that their router isn’t working, we can walk through some basic fixes over the phone. However, if we cannot get an Internet connection established or if they are at blue screen or they have had a major hardware failure or something along those lines, then we won’t be able to help them. In those cases, we don’t charge them anything. It is only a small percentage of our calls. We knew going into this business that it would be about 10-15% of the calls and that is what we’ve seen. A consumer in a hardware type situation gets the benefit of what is basically a free opinion. We may say that they need a better graphics card and they go in somewhere else and tell the customer to change out their motherboard or the hard drive, the customer knows he or she doesn’t have to go to that level of expense.

If we can’t get in our tools on the machine, then the reason that we are different and better than everyone else in our eyes goes away. We’ll never be in the business of sending cars out to people. Our model is definitely about our tools, which is enabling remote tech support.

Question: What are some of the challenges you’re dealing with?
Answer: The most challenging area that we deal with is about how tech savvy the customer is and their knowledge of what is going on with their computer. We have an offer that we call Comprehensive Problem Resolution. The average customer that calls us with a problem does not really know what is going on. The diagnostic time is the biggest challenge. For us to be able to make money and keep our prices at their current level, we need to be able to asses the problem quickly. We can fix most problems in a reasonable amount of time, but if we don’t know what is causing the problem, then that diagnostic time is the biggest challenge for us.

The other thing that is a challenge for us is that by having a small business and being a relatively small company in a category that is still forming in many ways, is people discovering us and getting the word out. We aren’t going out there and spend $100 million on marketing like Geek Squad is. That will be a challenge for us as well.

Part of our whole plan is to delight our customers so they tell their friends and we get positive word of mouth.

Question: What will be the big changes that customers can expect over the next 6 – 12 months?
Answer: As I said before, we are very committed to continuing to differentiate on technology. The TuneUp product that you used is right now the only one that uses that assisted workflow framework all the way through the entire experience. We have a virus and spyware removal product coming that has an embedded scanner from one of the AVG folks. So instead of downloading two different clients and wait forever, it will be in one container. We are going to continue to do that with everything we do.

Change wise, you will see more of that consistent service delivery with all of the offerings that we have on our site. We will continue to expand our offerings wherever there is consumer need. A lot of partner interest in what we’re doing and we will grow our offerings that way. You’ll see in a lot of other places other than just on the web site.

Question: By licensing some of this technology to big companies like the Dells and the Microsofts, aren’t you sort of competing yourself?
Answer: In some ways. We don’t view it that way. We believe that the mission of the company is around resolving technology problems. The world of technology problems is very vast. If we can help them resolve technology problems everywhere, I think that is okay with us.

When it comes to large companies like Microsoft, they use our tools to keep their employees productive. The fact that Microsoft uses our tools and then maybe when that Microsoft employee goes home and has a problem, they call us. That isn’t competing with ourselves.

In the Dell world, sure. We just announced a large deal with Dell where we are going to provide most of the technology behind their efforts behind their efforts to reinvigorate their service organization experience. The more stuff solves with Dell customers, the less likely they are to pick up the phone and call us, but we believe there is so much need for what we are doing out there that it isn’t a problem. There is plenty of business going around.

Question: Anything to add?
Answer: We’ve covered most of it. The highest level is that we really believe 2-3 years from now, it is going to be an accepted consumer practice that consumers will pay for tech support. And that the consumers will go to where they have the best experience paying for that tech support. We believe that the remote, inexpensive, good tools way that we are doing it is going to become the model that will win long term. People want this stuff fixed as soon as humanly possible. People want this stuff fixed as soon as humanly possible because this stuff is critical to their lives. Scheduling someone to come to your house or going down to the store and having to wait a few days after that, is not getting it fixed as fast as possible.

Beyond getting the problem actually fixed, how fast it can be fixed is another big issue for consumers. We believe that remote support will be the way to market this over time. Over the history of time, technology based solutions generally bear well versus manual based solutions and we think it will be the same in this market as well.

3 Responses to “Anthony Rodio from SupportSoft – Part 3”

  1. Tim Proctor said:

    Nov 16, 07 at 2:19 pm

    A very interesting appraoch that is focused on providing a non stressful experience for the customer. Many times the technicians that work for the Big Box “Squads” are hired for their technical skill and don’t know how to work with customers that aren’t experts. Sounds like SupportSoft is taking a different approach.

  2. Brandon - Call Center Consultant said:

    Nov 17, 07 at 2:53 am

    I think you’re 100% correct that in 2-3 years people will be expecting to pay $40 for some tech support. When you spent $2,000 on a computer, $40 isn’t much to get it working.

    With that said I don’t think the traditional manufacturer call center tech support is going anywhere anytime soon.

  3. Service Untitled said:

    Nov 20, 07 at 6:16 pm

    Tim: Definitely. SupportSoft employees know their stuff technically, but the software is also a big help. I also think they get more training than the services at the big box companies.

    Brandon: Exactly. The market will be big enough for both companies and models.