How your technical support experience is a product of the corporate culture

Jeff Coco

Have you ever called a support line and felt like you were talking to an emotionless technical support robot – someone who didn’t seem to care about your problem? Maybe he or she even put little effort into helping you, leaving you on hold for too long or passing you from one “specialist” to another.

I believe there’s a reason you went through this unpleasant experience, and it likely has everything to do with the company’s poor culture the employee is subject to.

How you’re treated by technical support – or other representatives – is often a direct result of their company’s corporate culture. Research from the University of Warwick, for example, showed that employee satisfaction directly correlates with their productivity levels. And, as you might expect, both of these can have a profound effect on the employee’s ability to meet your expectations.

Just how much does employee satisfaction affect what they do and how they perform?

Researchers found that productivity increased roughly 12 percent in happy employees.

According to the University of Warwick study, “The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.”

Unfortunately, many of today’s employees aren’t fully engaged in their jobs. A 2015 Gallup survey of 81,000 part- and full-time employees revealed that only 32 percent of employees felt absorbed in their work. Since 2011 that number has slumped below 34 percent, according to the same source.

Improving employee satisfaction – and thus fixing many of the customer-facing technical problems that stem from a displeased workforce – starts with developing an encouraging, widely understood and accepted, and meaningful set of core values. From there, the company can use these values to help build a positive office culture that trickles down to each department, such as their call center.

Core values, culture and the trickle down effect

Developing the right corporate culture begins by establishing a set of core values that not only define the company’s personality but also helps it differentiate itself from competitors. These values act as the driving force behind each business initiative, and they play a key role in how the company engages with customers and prospective clients.

For example, I believe it’s more appropriate to call Axis Communications’ call center a “solution center” because the latter better describes our department’s capabilities and offerings. I actually cringe when someone uses the term “call center” when they talk about Axis.

When I think of a call center, I envision a department that operates by rigid rules such as calls that can’t run longer than six minutes and robotic technical service reps who must follow an unbending script when speaking with customers.

Axis’ solution center, however, operates with a much more open mindset and with flexibility often unheard of in the tech world. That’s because the department adheres to the company’s set of core values, “Think big, Act as one and Always open.”

Our team looks to hire candidates who encompass these core values and thus have the potential to be a great culture fit. We want candidates who aren’t afraid to ask for assistance, who love to help each other and enjoy learning and teaching their peers.

The proof is in the pudding. As we’ve increasingly integrated our core values into our process, we’ve experienced a heightened level of service. For example, our Tier 1 technical service representatives have maintained a high level of technical support despite the challenges of a more solution-oriented product set. By resolving many inquiries on the first call, they’ve provided Tier 2 level staff with additional breathing room to handle more complex problems.

Tier 2 support is an additional level of technical assistance we offer clients, with Tier 2 reps often handling the majority of complicated questions. The latter is of particular interest considering a recent survey by International Customer Management Institute, according to Smart Customer Service, which found that 73 percent of customer service managers noted that calls are becoming increasingly involved because more and more customers are solving simple technical problems on their own.

The monetary value of corporate culture

Managers, like myself, use both our head and our heart.

However, how do we quantify something, such as culture, which doesn’t have easily distinguished measures to calculate its economic value? How do we determine how critical it is to invest in forming or recreating, and maintaining culture?

Here are two ways:

1. Evaluate employee retention rate: The cost of losing top talent is astronomical. A recent report by the Center for American Progress found that for the majority of employees earning $75,000 or less, the average cost of turnover is 20 percent of their salary.

What does this say about the value of corporate culture? Because hiring mistakes are costly, a   business must hire the right professional – one that not only has the correct set of technical skills but can naturally fit into the company’s culture – the first time around.

At Axis, our solution center’s management invests a lot of time into not only   hiring the right employees but ensuring we provide them with the most appropriate avenues for professional development. That means they have the opportunity for continuous learning   and growth, becoming Technical Support Engineers, Senior Technical Support Engineers and Technical Support Specialists through the completion of challenging in-house training and certification programs. This is all part of we call the “technical support matrix.” As you can  imagine, the more knowledgeable technical service reps are, the more likely they can assist customers quickly and efficiently.

Why do Axis’ technical employees have this distinct opportunity for  professional growth? Our managers believe in and follow their company’s core values, which  steer their decisions during the hiring process and when providing new employees with the  most appropriate tools to succeed.

2. We investigate customer satisfaction: If a company is struggling to retain clients, an internal evaluation could divulge the culprit is poor customer service. A deeper investigation could further reveal customers are abandoning the brand because the company’s technical service reps are failing to at least meet expectations. And an even deeper analysis could disclose these technical service metrics are dropping because employee turnover rate is increasing, and the technical support center simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to train new employees fast enough to keep up with client demand.

Phew. That was a mouthful. But companies constantly face these types of nightmares every day.

The impact of creating positive company culture extends beyond retaining top talent. It can affect how tech employees interact with clients, some of which are likely to feel disgruntled about a product or service.

The next logical question is: How do companies try to improve customer satisfaction?

While each customer needs something different, there does exist some consensus about what most customers seek from customer support. They want quick, accurate answers. Research from NewVoiceMedia, a cloud service company of customers service in the U.S., found that 53 percent of callers are “put off” by not speaking to a support specialist immediately. About 50 percent don’t like to repeat information to multiple representatives, and 40 percent of customers feel irritated when they’re put on hold. Furthermore, 75 percent of the latter hang up after only ten minutes of waiting on hold.

While measuring the economical impact of the word “culture” can be challenging, there are various components within this concept that managers, such as those at Axis, study to better understand how their company’s culture is affecting its bottom line. This exploratory process is a critical component of establishing and maintaining an environment that is enjoyable for employees to work in and for customers to take part in.

Don’t underestimate employees

Employees help establish and maintain company culture by upholding its core values. It’s critical organizations don’t underestimate the power they have to directly or indirectly, and positively or adversely affect that environment. Companies with great corporate cultures aren’t just helping their employees, they’re also controlling how their technical service representatives present themselves to and work with customers.

By investing in employees, particularly those who interact with customers daily, companies can reduce employee abandonment and improve customer relations.