The global consumer electronics market was estimated at $681 billion in 2010 by Business Insights and 83% of consumers say that their purchase decison is influenced by support services accoding to Research Now. And consumers now have questions that frequently go beyond the realm of standard service agreements, involving multiple interconnected devices and programs from separate sources.
So it's no wonder that OEMs, ISP carriers, software vendors and major retailers are all seeking creative, cost-effective methods of providing solutions to the burgeoning volume of inquiries fielded by their tech support agents every day.
Some companies have found a way to deflect costs and monetize customer support by either offering premium paid support to users or bundled packages. Others are taking advantage of the cost savings and quality service offered by virtual contact centers staffed entirely by work-at-home North American-based agents.
Organizations providing premium services are increasingly turning to Montreal-based Radialpoint to facilitate 24/7 click-to-chat and phone service for subscribers. And California's Support.com has written an impressive success story by bucking the industry trend of outsourcing technology support to India, building a highly trained and disciplined staff of over 1,000 agents working from their home in just over four years.
“We’re redefining what the support boundaries are between in-scope and out-of-scope inquiries,” said Jordan Socran, VP of Business Development for Radialpoint. “Companies provide support for their own products, but there has been a proliferation of out-of-scope calls dealing with other core products. Until recently, companies had to decide whether to take these calls at no charge, transfer them elsewhere or advise callers that they were required pay for the service being requested.”
Radialpoint takes measures to ensure that the customer experience is consistent. "All agents run the same scripts and utilize the same toolkit to solve problems for consumers –whether they are existing in-house staff members that we retrain or part of a workforce developed by one of our preferred BPOs," said Socran. The process is monitored and analytics are employed to determine if any changes need to be made.
In developing its cohesive workforce of at-home agents, Support.com adapted an online hiring program used by a company they acquired called YourTechOnline, They scaled it up to a system that could funnel in tens of thousands of applications and screen out 80% oft hem with a multiple choice and essay test. Candidates who pass both of these phases then go through tecnical and not-technical interviews.
"Resumes are not a part of our process," said Paul Vaillancourt Senior Vice President of Contact Center Operations. "Support.com believes in evaluating the person, not the skill set. We look for people who are articulate, comfortable working at home and able to do research." The proof of the success of this philosophy can be found in their remarkable attrition rate of 17.5%, far below industry standards.
Support.com also established minimalist standards for determining what agents needed to provide superior at-home service, ultimately winnowing down requirements to just a PC and ISP connection that meet their standards. The only equipment now sent to their at-home agents is a $20 headset.
Support.com delivers their services direct as well as through leading broadband service providers, software vendors and PC OEMs including Comcast, Sony, Time Warner, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples and many others.
Radialpoint has agreements in place to help Canada’s largest mobile service provider and a worldwide multimedia company offer premium consumer support programs: Rogers Communications recently announced their Tech Expert service and Virgin Media is now working with Radialpoint for their Digital Home Support program.