For the past two quarters, my colleagues and I have studied trends in IT support services. We have reviewed dozens of the latest research reports, conducted an exhaustive competitive analysis and interviewed several leading industry analysts and consultants.
One of the recommendations that came up repeatedly is to exercise caution when adding additional features to your foundational maintenance options. In many cases, less is more. Here are some cautionary tales from the experts:
- Everyone’s adding features…but that doesn’t make it right. TSIA conducted a survey in January 2011 which showed that a large majority of companies have already added or are considering adding new services to their contracts in an attempt to combat downward price pressure. While this had a positive impact on revenue for many hardware service companies, it has had a negative effect for software support organizations.
- If you decide to add a feature to your portfolio, be deliberate. Francoise Tourniaire from FTWorks in Los Altos, CA is one of my favorite experts in this space. She’s been studying trends in IT support for years and is part of the Association of Support Professionals (ASP) network. So, what’s her take on adding features to your support portfolio? Tread carefully. “Make each feature very explicit and marry it to a benefit for the customer. (Hint: If you can’t think of a benefit, perhaps you should not offer that particular feature).“
- Allow for customization. To supplement a strong foundational maintenance option, IDC’s Elaina Stergiades suggests offering flexible configurations for mission-critical support. Customers are asking for the ability to configure their support agreement to reflect their environment.
IT support options come in all shapes and sizes. Some of EMC’s peers have four tiers, some have just one. There’s no right or wrong answer. Nonetheless, my biggest takeaway from all of the research that we conducted to date is that customers will embrace a support portfolio that they can understand. Simplicity rules in both the marketing and delivery of IT support services.
There’s still room to create an innovative collection of a-la-carte support offerings after you’ve established a strong, consumable support foundation; one that’s easy to digest by sales, partners, and, most importantly, customers. What do you think – do you agree that less is more?