Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Doing business in Korea

For several times in the recent years I was in direct contact with Koreans trying to sell them my company’s product and support services. Analyzing the install base as well as checking the competitors to whom we have lost at past POCs, I have noticed that the install base is relaying on local vendors, in most cases familiar only in the local market. Asking around I have learned that Koreans only buy products from people they can trust.
Korean give as much importance to the products foreigners try to sell as to the person who is selling them.

Generally speaking, selling products involves (in most cases) convincing the customer about the quality of the product and company who is selling the product, where Koreans put less weight on that, they need to feel secure with the person they are buying the product from. They tend to be suspicious in almost any deals and try to verify that they are dealing with someone who will intervene in their favor in case something goes wrong with the deal.

Here is a non-high-tech example, see the two cars below. Both can be spotted on Seoul roads, one in higher volume than the other.

The one on the left labeled as Renault Capture while the other one is Samsung QM3. Both cars are assembled in the same Renault factory in Spain, however the average Korean will prefer to wait for his 2014 QM3 for some 6 months rather than drive away on the spot with the same car (that is labeled slightly different).
According to a (Korean) friend of mine, the local market prefers to purchase “local” brands as they like to think that the future service that they will get is better. They hesitate doing business with those who don’t speak their language.  
Going back to the high-tech sales process, it is not a quotation of how much your product is beast of bread and technology is superior, it is all about the people that behind this product.
It means that the Korean prospect will spend a significant amount of time having sincere conversations with you, their foreign counterparts. They don't want you to convince them that you impressive install base with important customers. They want/need you to show them that although you are a foreigner, you want to be good friends and want to help their business (if you can help them that will add extra points…).

Golf and tennis are common activities, as well as going together to bar drinking some alcohol, in the name of bonding and building a friendly relationship. In forcing you, the one that looks to penetrate this market to engage in such behavior, you Korean prospect want to make sure that you behaved comfortably but unethically. They want to get to know you on the deepest personal level, and get you to say things and do things that show the real personality.

Korean tend to view the spoken agreements they had with their partner to be more important than the signed contracts as they expect their foreign business partner to be very flexible when they negotiate deals. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

MIP: Reducing repeat questions that should be self-resolved by a KB

A linked-in discussion [here] asks for insights, checking "How do you reduce repeat questions/FAQs that should be self-resolved by a KB?"

In my opinion, Mission impossible...
We have stopped reading. We cannot stand still and waste time to read things. We need an instant answer…

As a former KB owner and a senior supporter at present I can count handful customers that are actually accessing the KB looking for info before they open a case. Moreover I see a significant degradation in case descriptions provided by customers when opening a case.

If five years ago people ware actually reading  the manuals in  their hardcopy form, accessing the KB and web forums, now days with the "instant" culture, when everyone have this e-mail machine in the palm of their hand, it is easier to email the support saying "Hi there, I have a problem please fix it ASAP".
Worse than that, I see cases reported by field engineers, asking for guidance and help for things that are well documented.

RTFM was my answer to my students in networking courses that I have taught, when asked to assist in the lab.

Although it looks like an impossible mission, our job as supporters is to make it possible, by any mean. "Complex" case opening mechanism, to direct customers to KB, add some FAQ popups that will be triggered but keywords entered in the complaint. Providing SLA based on customer product certifications.  

Anything that force the customer to think twice before opening a case will do the trick.   

Monday, December 30, 2013

Three-tier Customer Support – the right perspective

This schematic diagram of three-tier Customer support shows the various tiers relate the customer. Usually Customer Support is integrated throughout the entire organization. Well-managed interaction between the Helpdesk (Tier 1), TAC (Tier 2), and Escalation (Tier 3) provides support targeted to user needs.
It is often illustrated as a triangle, where its head illustrates Tier-1 of support, the initial point of contact for the customer. Each level of escalation is wider, as tier-2 and Tier-3 are normally have much more expertise to focus on.
In my perspective, I’m seeing an “upside down’ triangle, where its base is the Tier-1 and head’s is Tier-3.

The reason, regardless the type of support you provide, the lower the (tier) level of support, their knowledge, in high level covers (should be) all product’s aspects while the higher the (tier) level goes, they are focused in vary narrow aspects of the product.

Confused? Don’t be…

Tier-1 needs to have high-level of knowledge with product’s current feature set as well as the roadmap. Basic troubleshooting skills for the product as well as its eco-system (i.e. if I’m supporting a server, I need to know to troubleshoot the client as well as the network in between). The HelpDesk representative, need to determine if the problem is with a creation sub system or another, so when they will escalate it, it will reach the relevant TAC team.

Tier-2, aka TAC, focuses on part of the system, with more knowledge, they can “dive” into lower level of that system/service for troubleshoot and fix.

Tier-3 – R&D like team focuses a specific server or service to provide resolution for a problem.

See the differences?  The wider the base is, the vast knowledge the helpdesk has will make your support organization stable and efficient.

Less escalation means  that cases are being closed faster and efficient.