Top Menu

I’ve been struggling with the following issue for some time. We’re receiving a lot of ‘how to’ questions through the tech support call center and the higher-ups believe these questions don’t fall under the tech support contract; thus we should charge the customers for these specific types of questions per call. I would like to find out exactly how many of these questions are coming in, why they are coming in and what the exact subjects are to identify a pattern. Unfortunately, I’ve been asked to move straight to the ‘how do we charge them’ item. I’ve looked into a lot of companies and I have yet to locate a company that actually has both ‘umbrella contracts’ and ‘per incident contracts’. I have a lot of red flags flapping around my head in implementing this (i.e. the poor customer service that could occur when a rep says “So sorry, I know the answer to that but in order for me to help you do that simple ‘how-to’ task, you must give me your cc number). Regardless, I’ve been assigned the task and need to find the solution. Do you know of any companies that are offering both types of contracts or can you give me any advice on how to design this type of contract separation?

I’ve been struggling with the following issue for some time. We’re receiving a lot of ‘how to’ questions through the tech support call center and the higher-ups believe these questions don’t fall under the tech support contract; thus we should charge the customers for these specific types of questions per call.
I would like to find out exactly how many of these questions are coming in, why they are coming in and what the exact subjects are to identify a pattern. Unfortunately, I’ve been asked to move straight to the ‘how do we charge them’ item. I’ve looked into a lot of companies and I have yet to locate a company that actually has both ‘umbrella contracts’ and ‘per incident contracts’. I have a lot of red flags flapping around my head in implementing this (i.e. the poor customer service that could occur when a rep says “So sorry, I know the answer to that but in order for me to help you do that simple ‘how-to’ task, you must give me your cc number). Regardless, I’ve been assigned the task and need to find the solution.
Do you know of any companies that are offering both types of contracts or can you give me any advice on how to design this type of contract separation?

1/15/2005

  Printer Friendly Format    

Question
I’ve been struggling with the following issue for some time. We’re receiving a lot of ‘how to’ questions through the tech support call center and the higher-ups believe these questions don’t fall under the tech support contract; thus we should charge the customers for these specific types of questions per call.
I would like to find out exactly how many of these questions are coming in, why they are coming in and what the exact subjects are to identify a pattern. Unfortunately, I’ve been asked to move straight to the ‘how do we charge them’ item. I’ve looked into a lot of companies and I have yet to locate a company that actually has both ‘umbrella contracts’ and ‘per incident contracts’. I have a lot of red flags flapping around my head in implementing this (i.e. the poor customer service that could occur when a rep says “So sorry, I know the answer to that but in order for me to help you do that simple ‘how-to’ task, you must give me your cc number). Regardless, I’ve been assigned the task and need to find the solution.
Do you know of any companies that are offering both types of contracts or can you give me any advice on how to design this type of contract separation?

Answer

You’ve raised a number of issues.

Question 1: How do you identify call reasons and volumes?

Answer 1: There are multiple ways to identify the reasons why people call. If your company has a quality management (QM) program, ask your QM specialists to list the reasons why people are calling. A second approach, which doesn’t require the use of QM, is to hold a focus group with your agents. (If you’re too busy to hold a focus group during business hours, pay your staff an hour of overtime and hold the focus group before or after the shift. You may need to meet more than once.) Your agents will be able to share information with you about the types of calls they are receiving. Once they do, I suggest that you create a tick sheet (which can either be automated or paper-based) and then distribute it to all agents and ask them to log all calls.

If you have a wrap up capability on your ACD, then you can also track the call categories and volumes that way. Lastly, you can use speech analytics to track customer trends and insights.

Question 2: How do you charge customers?

Answer 2: Very carefully. There are companies that have both umbrella contracts and per-incident contracts. Microsoft is the biggest company that comes to mind. There are other software companies and many field service-oriented companies that have the exact business model that you described. A customer calls, thinking that a problem is covered, only to learn that it is not under “warranty” and there is a charge for service. Of course the agents who address these issues have been well trained to communicate the bad news.

You raised a very good point about how to communicate fees to customers. I recently had dinner with someone who shared a story about a company that couldn’t answer his question without charging him. The agent told the customer that he knew the answer, but couldn’t provide it without a fee. My dinner mate proceeded to play a game of “100 questions” and was able to get the information that he needed for free. The agent had made it obvious that he didn’t like the fee-for-answer policy, but had to abide by it. As you see, they jointly worked around the issue. This is not a good situation and something that you want to avoid.

If you are going to alter your servicing policies, I suggest that you communicate this change to customers. Otherwise, it will likely turn “ugly” for your agents, who will be confronted with angry callers. It’s also important to train your agents to properly communicate the new policy to customers. I also suggest that you establish an exception policy and empower agents to use it, as necessary.

Question 3: How do you design this type of contract separation?

Answer 3: I’m going to assume that your agents have access to the support agreements and can check to see what is covered and what is not. If an item or question is not covered by the support agreement, the agent should communicate this to the customer and further explain that the information can be provided for a fee. Only after the caller agrees to pay and provides a credit card number should the agent share the information. This way there is no question that the caller has agreed to pay the fee.

Requiring agents to put customers on hold while they look up an agreement can be very costly and time consuming, besides resulting in poor service. Therefore, most companies that provide fee-based support have a servicing system that includes agent access to the service agreement.

,