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How Customer Support Teams Can Benefit from Incident Management

When you hear the words incident management, you may think of IT pros managing backend systems. Customer support teams probably don’t come to mind.

But in fact, customer support teams have much to gain from incident management, too. Read on to learn more.

Keeping Customers Happy

Something that I think pretty much all IT pros can agree on is that customer support issues are generally a bad thing. We don’t want our customers to experience any tech support issues. Not only are there direct costs associated with providing customer support, but a customer who experiences problems may be less likely to do business with the organization in the future.

The bottom line is that it is important to keep customers happy. Remember, a happy customer may tell a few friends about their experiences with your organization. An angry customer is more likely to share their experiences with their Twitter followers, or perhaps even with the Better Business Bureau.

So, what does this have to do with incident management? Customer support by its very nature is reactive. Typically, a customer experiences a problem and calls tech support, and the tech support department reacts to the customer’s complaint. Although incident management can be reactive too, it can also be proactive. With the right monitoring solution in place, minor issues can be resolved they turn into greater problems. This translates directly into fewer support calls, which leads to happier customers.

Although the idea of reducing support calls through proactive incident management sounds appealing, it will only work if the incident management plan is properly implemented. Software can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you by suppressing unimportant or duplicate warnings, while alerting IT staff to more pressing issues. Ultimately, however, an incident management program’s success hinges on the IT staff’s ability to take decisive action when issues occur.

The Importance of Having People On-Call

One way of helping to make sure that incidents are resolved quickly is to make sure that the IT staff is always available to deal with any issues that may occur. If an organization does not have around-the-clock IT staff, then it will be necessary to have a support team on-call. This is not to say that everyone has to be on-call all the time. A rotating on-call schedule can help to ensure that someone from IT is always available to help out with issues that might occur—but without unfairly burdening individual staff members by keeping them on-call all the time.

The idea of having someone on-call to deal with after-hours emergencies is nothing new. I think it’s safe to say that most seasoned IT pros have been called in after hours, on the weekend, or at some other inopportune moment at least once or twice, if not more.

Even though most IT shops are not shy about calling someone in to deal with an after-hours problem, there are a couple of things that can be done to make life easier for everyone involved.

Best Practices for On-Call Operations

First, alerting the IT staff to an after-hours problem should be an automated process that is driven by incident management software. Using automated alerts ensures that the IT staff is made aware of the issue as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the IT staff may not find out about the problem until someone notices it and calls IT. By that time, customers may have begun to experience issues as well.

Another reason why it is important to use an automated system for alerting the IT staff to support incidents is that the incident management software likely knows enough about the issue that it can contact the person who is best equipped to deal with the issue—instead of someone calling a low-level IT staff member who then has to figure out who to call.

This brings up another point. In all but the smallest organizations, it is generally preferable to designate an on-call team, rather than assigning on-call duties to an individual. Information technology is a complicated field, and it is probably going to be unrealistic to expect anyone on the IT team to be an expert on every technology that is being used throughout the organization. Designating an on-call team ensures that if an incident does occur, then there will be a group of people with complementary skill sets available to fix the problem. This is greatly preferable to designating one individual to be on-call, and hoping that the on-call tech has the skills necessary to resolve whatever issue happens to occur. A rotating call schedule can ensure that there is always a team available to deal with issues that may arise, without having to subject anyone to the burden of being on-call all the time.

Being on-call after hours is never fun, but for organizations that service customers 24/7, it is critically important to have IT expertise available around the clock. Customers are an organization’s most valuable asset and it’s critical to keep them happy — your brand depends on it. Proactive customer support teams that leverage an incident management solution can prevent issues from being customer impacting — leading to happier customers.