Tech Support Reporting Channels
In most software companies, the support department is something of an afterthought a group that gets plugged into an organization chart that's dominated by product development and product sales groups. Often, support departments end up reporting to executives whose goals have little to do with support; occasionally, support-related tasks like training and field support are chopped into pieces and assigned to several different organizations.
While there's usually some logic to these decisions about support's place in the org chart, the net effect is usually to reduce the visibility and influence of support in top-level strategy discussions. "In many of the companies that I've been with, I've seen support report to sales, operations, delivery, and engineering," a support manager told us. "The common shortcoming of all these approaches was that these departments did not value retention as much as new sales."
Moreover, the managers who run support organizations also struggle to get respect in the company as a whole. Support executives typically oversee 15%-20% of the company s headcount and generate a third or more of company revenues (from maintenance and professional services), yet the top support executive is most often not a vice president and is generally paid less than executives with comparable seniority and responsibilities. Support managers may be the "voice of the customer" in their organization, but support is certainly not a career path that leads to a C-level job.
The good news is that support (and support managers) are beginning to acquire greater influence in the upper levels of corporate decision-making. To explore support's current position in the corporate hierarchy, the ASP polled 214 support professionals about reporting channels, job titles, and their feelings about what kind of reporting arrangements seem to work best. The report covers the following topics:
- Reporting Channels: Who does the top support manager report to?
- Management Titles: Vice president, director, or manager?
- Best practices: What factors influence the choice of reporting channels?
- The Role of the Line Manager
- Is Anyone Listening to You?
- The Ultimate Customer Support Executive