For the final post in my series on how to succeed as a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP), I’m going to explore an essential area for success—customer support. (You can read part one here and read part two here.)
The most successful Microsoft CSPs sell thousands of Office 365 seats every month. Even more impressive are the activation rates that these partners are seeing—some up to 90 percent—mostly through inbound support calls or targeted outbound call campaigns. But these successes aren’t by chance; the most successful CSPs see returns on their investment in superior customer support.
The top three reasons why customers churn and stop using Microsoft cloud products are:
- A weak or poorly communicated value proposition that creates unrealistic or confusing expectations.
- An inability to get quick access to support during every stage of the buying process.
- A faulty or non-existent onboarding process.
Two of the top three reasons for customer churn are due to a lack of support, which begs an important question: Why is customer support something that so few companies seem to get right?
For many businesses, customer support is simply too costly. Even planning to implement a system requires a significant amount of time and resources, and the actual deployment can be too daunting to follow through on. Faced with these obstacles, many companies simply avoid customer support altogether.
However, customer support is more than a requirement of the Microsoft CSP program. When offered as a complement or wrapper to a core product like Office 365, support can be a huge opportunity for differentiation and premium pricing. (In the world of cloud service commerce—where there is heavy pressure on margins—CSPs should consider any factor that can allow them to charge a premium.)
Buyers are often willing to pay a premium for onboarding and customer service because it can reduce costs, measured in both time and dollars, across their own organizations. For example, when an Office 365 user has an issue, who receives the initial complaint? It is generally funnelled to the IT administrator, who is then responsible for reaching out to your customer support for help.
However, if a CSP has great user onboarding, the IT administrator will see a decrease in issues from his or her coworkers. (Likewise, your support team will see a matching drop in reported problems.) Moreover, when the IT administrator does receive complaints, good onboarding and training programs will enable him or her to tackle the issue without needing to log a customer support ticket with you. Another by-product of a positive customer experience is increased usage and retention. Research has shown that once users adopt cloud services, they become “sticky” and lead users to purchase additional services.
Strong customer support can increase a solution’s perceived value, boost customer loyalty, and drive sales and revenue all while lowering future support utilization. Customer support should be top of mind as you plan or reevaluate your Microsoft CSP go-to-market strategy.
Christophe Girault is Director of Global Customer Success at AppDirect