Premium Support

I’ve been thinking about premium support and how it should tie into customer service. It isn’t uncommon to see a company that offers premium support models. If they don’t offer, premium support, they may offer different levels of support.

For example, check out the Automattic Support Network. Neither service is cheap (start at $2,500 / year), but for double the price, you get a faster response time and some extra features. It makes sense – not everyone needs a 6 hour response time or “scaling and performance tuning”, so why should companies have to pay extra for it?

Some things that customers may want to pay extra for:

  • Faster responses
  • Longer/more detailed responses
  • More qualified people responding
  • People who speak their language responding (i. e. US only support)
  • Less hold time
  • Person answering the phone (no IVR system)
  • Personal relationship with employee (i. e. account manager)

and so on. What other things do you think people would be willing to pay for?

Another thing to consider when offering premium support is whether you want it to be a profit center, break even center, or loss center. The break even and loss aren’t fully accurate since happier customers may recommend you more, etc., but in regards to the actual support being offered, they may be break even or loss. A profit center would mean that you are actually making a profit off of your premium support offerings.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you should keep your standard level of customer service the same and still keep trying to improve it. That means, once you start offering premium support, don’t cut your staff by 30% or downgrade your computer systems. Keep trying to make the two levels of support better (the same person should not run both) and improving all the time.

Use your premium support to your advantage. If a customer is having an issue, offer to upgrade them to premium support for the future. In most cases, it’ll make them happy. Use premium support agents to get a better idea of the problems you are experiencing and the customer feedback.

The approach I like is asking the customers what they want. You may find out that a majority of your customers don’t care about the accent of your customer service representatives, but do want to get through to a human within 30 seconds. You can then tailor your premium service offerings around that knowledge.

I’ll talk more about the operational side of premium support and how to do it at a later time. I’d like to talk about how to make it happen, who you should have manning the phones, and so on.

What is your experience with premium support – either as a customer or an employee?