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Being proactive in a reactive world can harvest benefits for customer engagement

Marco da Silva, Head of Technical and Enhanced Support, SAS South East Europe, Middle East & Africa
Marco da Silva, Head of Technical and Enhanced Support, SAS South East Europe, Middle East & Africa

By Marco da Silva

At SAS, we pride ourselves in walking the journey with our customers. This has never been more relevant than it is today. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a shining spotlight on the importance of our relationships with our customers. The need for tech support is greater than ever and with that, the need to truly understand our customers and their needs.

Tech support has traditionally taken quite a reactive role – the customer has a problem, and tech support responds by resolving the issue as it arises. Small wonder then, that the overall relationship with tech support teams is often tainted with negativity and frustration. However, the aftersales market is crucial to the customer journey and renewals frequently rest on the relationship built by tech support during the contract cycle. Innovation and knowledge sharing are key components in the support cycle.

We have the opportunity to act disruptively and build a proactive role by engaging with our customers long before problems present themselves. We need to create more of a personal touch and a more personal relationship with our customers, by reaching out and engaging with them in order to deeply understand how they are using our software, and why. We can build a long-term view of our customers’ needs and hopefully, anticipate blockers and inflection points before they become a business issue or hinderance.

Customers are challenging our software limits – and that’s what we want – but instead of a reactive approach where we wait for customers to flag issues, my hope is that by proactively reaching out to them to ask what their experiences are with the software, how they are using it and what they are using it for, we will gain a better understanding of what they are doing with the software, and can anticipate their support requirements. This can only help us to deliver better support. 

Now is the time for tech support to focus on customer support as a whole, embracing a process that at its heart, must be driven by empathy. There has been so much focus on product and services, but if we look to focus on the overall goal of supporting the client, our focus must change to one of a long-term view of the relationship. Whether it’s a technical issue or a business issue, our goal as a team at SAS must be to assist the customer no matter what.

It’s time to start those conversations – asking our customers not what their issue of the day is, but how they are doing, engaging with them on a deeper level rather than a technical level. If we approach our customers with empathy and truly understand their needs and goals, a richer relationship will develop.

When we take the time to really understand our customers, to consult with them and identify issues proactively, we can educate our customers about how to maximise the benefits of our products and open their eyes to the opportunities our software provides them. We have the opportunity to take our service to the next level.

It’s no secret that at SAS, we embrace a growth mindset. I am passionate about growing the people I work with to be a better version of themselves to help our customers. We must be there to listen to our customers’ problem. By understanding how our customers are using the SAS software and actively listening to their concerns, we can build a stronger relationship with them. When we start receiving compliments rather than complaints, we will know that we are succeeding in this goal.

This will involve changing the dynamic internally as well as externally. We must walk the journey with our own team as well as with our clients – building a proactive mindset and developing the confidence within the team to become a person someone from the customer side can relate to and know by name.

My vision is to change how tech support adds value to the business. I want us to find new and innovative ways to build partnerships with our customers so that they experience us not just as a service, but as a valued partner who is invested in helping their business grow. We must aim high – our goal must be to become a unit that thinks of the customer first before the technology. It may sound heretical to some, but it’s time to reinvent the tech support-customer relationship to make sure that our customers get the best out of their software.

Tech support are the unsung heroes of any business, always in the background, but very much supporting the front line. My fervent hope is that as we walk the journey with our clients and our internal partners, we will come to be seen as a business unit to engage with.

Marco da Silva is Head of Technical and Enhanced Support, SAS South East Europe, Middle East & Africa

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