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Hallmarks of High-Performing Companies 2023 Hallmarks of High-Performing Companies 2023
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Hallmarks of High-Performing Companies 2023
The Importance of Quality Support

author - Emily Paxman
Emily Paxman
author - Braden Taylor
Braden Taylor
October 12, 2023 | Read Time: 8  minutes

Recent KLAS research found that proactive service is strongly linked to customer retention and technology success, and a foundational element of proactive service is quality phone and web support. HIT vendors’ phone and web support teams serve as the first line of defense when customers face problems or need answers. Most healthcare organizations interviewed by KLAS in the last year report being satisfied with the support they receive from their vendor partners, but one-third of respondents express dissatisfaction with support. To aid vendors and healthcare customers looking to create a proactive, collaborative partnership, this report highlights common failings with support, the effect poor support has on customers, and actions both vendors and customers can take to improve the support experience.

Note: This report is part of a KLAS series diving into the factors that drive HIT vendor excellence. Data shared below was collected in the last 12 months across all provider-focused software market segments KLAS measures (does not include services or payer solutions).

Phone/Web Support Augmented with Proactive Elements Is Essential to Addressing Issues & Stabilizing the Customer Experience

To provide necessary patient services, healthcare organizations rely on software solutions, and disruptions in these solutions can negatively impact operations and the patient experience. Customers trust phone and web support teams to proactively prevent and minimize disruptions. While high-quality support doesn’t necessarily contribute to customers staying with or leaving their vendors, excellent support has a halo effect on areas tied to sales and retention. Phone and web support gives vendors the opportunity to understand and address larger problems, stay ahead of software stability issues, and foster trust that creates deeper collaboration and partnership. HIT vendors that excel at support take proactive ownership by quickly acknowledging issues, providing regular status updates on open tickets, and following through to confirm resolutions are successful.

executive involvement & proactive service--by satisfaction with quality of phone/web support

Common Beliefs about Quality of Phone/Web Support Don’t Always Match Reality

The quality of phone and web support is often primarily associated with and judged by reactive characteristics. While quick reaction times and problem-solving are fundamental factors to successful phone and web support, vendors who focus solely on these factors miss opportunities to differentiate themselves from competitors. Even the most responsive support teams will struggle to meet customer expectations if those teams aren’t empowered and set up for success through proactive monitoring capabilities and customer-centric metrics.

Belief: The sole purpose of phone and web support is to solve problems uncovered by customers.

Reality: In addition to providing updates on open tickets and following through with resolutions, high-performing vendors take initiative to monitor their systems and minimize disruptions via preventative actions (e.g., warning customers about potential disruptions before they are recognized, evaluating whether a customer’s issue is widespread). High-performing vendors also proactively take measures to reduce the likelihood of repeat issues and evaluate opportunities to train/retrain customers. Common frustrations among dissatisfied customers include having to notify their vendor of problems or realizing their vendor knew about a problem but did not inform them of it.

Belief: Support team structures and metrics should be centered around speed.

Reality: How quickly a support team can respond to and resolve customer issues is a significant contributor to customer satisfaction. However, speed shouldn’t come at the cost of quality and results. Vendors should focus on customer-centric metrics (e.g., first-call resolution, customer effort score, how many times a ticket is reopened) in addition to response times and close rates.

Belief: Customers view phone and web support independently from other customer service components.

Reality: It is common for other customer service elements to affect a customer’s perception of and experience with their vendor’s phone and web support. Commonly reported areas of overlap with phone and web support include implementation projects (product rollouts, upgrades, etc.), product development, and account management. Alignment across all customer service areas helps avoid support inconsistencies and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Belief: Fully automating ticketing processes will increase the effectiveness of phone and web support.

Reality: While this report doesn’t specifically examine the performance of various phone/web support models, feedback from interviewed customers provides insights into their experiences with automated support processes. These automated processes have become more prevalent among vendors with growing customer bases or who are experiencing staffing challenges. Vendors who have success incorporating automated ticketing often provide alternate channels for reaching support, maintain the involvement of account managers, and focus on getting the best-suited support resource to solve the problem as quickly as possible. Common frustrations from less-satisfied customers include the loss of personal connections, tickets that are closed prematurely, the inability to contact support resources, and uncertainty around the status of tickets/who is assisting them. Overall, customers want to feel the partnership and human element of support that a fully automated ticketing system struggles to provide on its own.

To Deliver Timely Resolutions, Support Teams Must Be Responsive & Empowered to Solve Problems 

 commonly reported factors impacting customer satisfaction with pohne/web supportCustomers want to be heard as quickly as possible by vendor support teams, and many vendors offer various channels for customers to easily contact support (e.g., direct phone numbers/emails, web portals/ticketing systems, dedicated customer representatives, chatbots). Highly rated vendors provide exceptional responsiveness and resolve problems within a reasonable time frame; resolutions usually include fixing the core problem and any other underlying issues that may cause later complications. Respondents note that responsiveness is less beneficial when the support teams don’t offer effective solutions to problems. Customer satisfaction is also affected by the availability of support outside of regular business hours; providing 24/7 support is helpful to healthcare organizations, especially since many aren’t in the same time zone as their vendor’s support teams.

High-performing vendors recognize the importance of competent, accessible support resources in driving quick resolutions and customer satisfaction, so they focus on doing more than just developing knowledgeable, expert support teams—they emphasize empowering teams to use skills to really drive results. Empowered support teams need strong internal training to help them effectively troubleshoot issues, understand they are trusted to escalate challenges, and be able to marshal cross-functional resources to solve customers’ problems. Empowered support teams who have needed knowledge also reduce customer frustration because customers don’t have to be bounced around several times before reaching someone who can help them.

“I really like the vendor’s customer service. The vendor’s people are willing to work with us. If the initial person we contact can’t help us, then they will always get us to a person who can. The vendor’s support people also do a good job of following up with us to make sure that things are still working. We can call the vendor and get ahold of someone right away. The vendor’s people are quick to respond to us and to fix our issues. They are also really good at giving us a heads-up about the system’s upgrades and any issues that the system might be having.” —Manager

Customer Perception of Service Improves When Vendors Share Knowledge & Ownership of Problems

how phone/web support challenges influence the perception of proactive service & executive involvementIn terms of improving customer perception of executive involvement and proactive service, vendors who involve a dedicated relationship representative—whether it is an account executive or customer support manager—in the phone and web support process are likely to have a better customer experience than vendors who don’t. Dedicated relationship representatives can report known issues to customers, provide updates on unresolved tickets, and follow up on resolutions. Customers want relationships with support staff, especially when that familiarity prevents them from continually re-explaining their organization’s nuances. Unfortunately, many customers who work only with general support staff can experience inconsistent quality, which prevents them from accessing timely solutions and leaves them feeling like a number on a spreadsheet. Staffing shortages and growing customer bases are two significant barriers vendors face when trying to preserve support continuity for customers; vendors encountering these challenges often resort to a tiered support model. To help maintain customer relationships while using this tiered model, some vendors create support teams that work only with certain customers in order to build rapport and limit the number of steps customers have to take to get support.

A vendor’s ownership of customer problems also affects respondents’ perception of executive involvement and proactive service. Customers want their vendors to feel the same urgency that they do, to own the problem by proactively ensuring it is fixed, and to not charge them additional fees for fixes. Vendors can further illustrate ownership by avoiding pointing the finger at customers and other vendors; customers prefer vendors who will partner with them and solve the problem, regardless of its source.

Both Vendors & Healthcare Organizations Play a Role in Determining the Effectiveness of Support

While vendors are primarily responsible for the execution and effectiveness of customer support, both vendors and healthcare organizations can share ownership of the support process and related challenges to promote mutual success.

Best Practices for Vendors

  • Provide a simple process for customers to quickly and easily access support—support phone/email, designated service contact, web portal/ticketing system, chatbot, etc. Limit the number of steps customers have to take to get support and ensure support methods are consistent across the customer base.
  • Use customer-centric metrics (e.g., first-call resolution, number of times ticket is reopened, customer effort score) to determine success of support teams; be judicious with speed-based metrics (e.g., resolution time, first-response time).
  • Ensure proactive communication is a standard part of phone/web support processes—this includes monitoring for and notifying customers of potential disruptions, providing transparent updates on issues, and following through with resolutions. Have account managers regularly schedule meetings with customers to ask about issues and communicate the status of open tickets.
  • Allow customers to communicate the urgency of tickets and empower them to escalate issues.
  • Evaluate opportunities to train/retrain customers based on tickets being submitted.
  • Use self-service tools as a complement to direct support methods.
  • Empower support teams to problem-solve by ensuring they have proper knowledge/training to assist customers. Enable first-tier support to connect customers quickly and accurately with experts as needed.

Best Practices for Healthcare Organizations

  • Provide vendor support team with timely, clear details about issues to expedite the troubleshooting process.
  • Be willing to act on support team–suggested resolutions.
  • Use proper procedures and vendor-established channels to contact the support team; tell employees the preferred methods of contacting vendor support.
  • Provide candid feedback on the effectiveness of phone/web support; hold constructive conversations with vendor when expectations aren’t met.
  • Tell vendor the best channels to communicate with healthcare organization.

About This Report

Each year, KLAS interviews thousands of healthcare professionals about the IT solutions and services their organizations use. For this report, interviews were conducted over the last 12 months using KLAS’ standard quantitative evaluation for healthcare software, which is composed of 16 numeric ratings questions and 4 yes/no questions, all weighted equally. Combined, the ratings for these questions make up the overall performance score, which is measured on a 100-point scale. The questions are organized into six customer experience pillars—culture, loyalty, operations, product, relationship, and value.

customer experience pillars software

This report (part of a KLAS series diving into the factors that drive HIT vendor excellence) focuses specifically on whether healthcare organization customers feel their vendor provides quality phone/web support and how vendors can be successful in this area. Data was collected in the last 12 months across all provider-focused software market segments KLAS measures (does not include services or payer solutions).

author - Natalie Hopkins
Natalie Hopkins
author - Bronson Allgood
Bronson Allgood
author - Joel Sanchez
Project Manager
Joel Sanchez
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This material is copyrighted. Any organization gaining unauthorized access to this report will be liable to compensate KLAS for the full retail price. Please see the KLAS DATA USE POLICY for information regarding use of this report. © 2024 KLAS Research, LLC. All Rights Reserved. NOTE: Performance scores may change significantly when including newly interviewed provider organizations, especially when added to a smaller sample size like in emerging markets with a small number of live clients. The findings presented are not meant to be conclusive data for an entire client base.