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Innovating Support at Red Hat

 

Last week, we celebrated Customer Service Week at Red Hat. It's a worldwide recognition of all of the Red Hat employees who focus directly on our customers’ success. At Red Hat, our customers and our communities are at the core of everything we do. This deep focus on both of these groups makes Red Hat different from many companies, and as a result I do not believe it is a coincidence that we were just honored by Forbes as one of the world's most innovative companies.



Customer Service Week also gives me an opportunity to reflect on the part of the company that is closest to my heart at Red Hat—our large Global Support Services (GSS) team, which is responsible for supporting all products for our subscribers. I took over this organization more than four years ago, and before that, I served as part of the GSS team for several years. During my time here, I have seen constant innovation in the way we approach support. It's not an outsourced group, nor is it considered part of “janitorial services.” At Red Hat, support is a core function and part of our Products and Technology group, receiving the same level of focus as product management and engineering.



During the last four years, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of our clients around the world. Many of these interactions carried a common theme—the clients' adoption of Red Hat Enterprise Linux or JBoss Enterprise Middleware as their corporate standard. It is always inspiring to help customers use our solutions in a way that gives their businesses a competitive advantage and helps them lower costs at the same time.



Hearing these success stories and the customer feedback drives me and my management team to constantly challenge the status quo within the support organization and to innovate our processes. Let me give you a few examples of how we're innovating customer service at Red Hat:



- We removed the traditional level-based support structure. It's outdated and it doesn't help clients. In its place, we introduced a "swarming" model, where all of our experts are focused on specific product components. This gives us deeper expertise and in the quickest way. Nothing is more frustrating than explaining a deep technical networking issue to a generalist. It's not good for a client, and it’s not good for the technical support engineers.



- We introduced an extensive Knowledge Management approach to provide accurate and applicable knowledge on our products to our clients. We used an industry best practice known as Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) to create, reuse, and update knowledge content based on each support interaction. Checking the Knowledgebase has become a best practice for many of our clients, helping them become proactive in their system management practices. We have also invested in producing in-depth videos and tech briefs on all kind of technical topics so that our clients can learn directly from the Red Hat experts.



- We introduced a Customer Portal to unify customer interactions. The Customer Portal is not just a place to file a support ticket or to read a Knowledgebase article: it's also the place where customers can download Red Hat software, download updates, watch videos, participate in the user groups, and much more. It was started by a small team working with our products and has become an integral part of many customers’ day-to-day system management and application operation.



- Based on customer and partner feedback, we introduced Advanced Mission Critical Support offerings in Japan to help customers’ most mission-critical deployments on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This new program has resulted in some critical deployments in Tokyo, where support quality is very carefully analyzed by customers before they trust any vendor with a long-term critical deployment.



- We revamped our Technical Account Management (TAM) Services based on the changing requirements of our clients. This is an additional product we sell to many clients who choose Red Hat as a strategic infrastructure or middleware partner. Our TAM offering was changed to establish deeper and more proactive relationships with our clients. Our Technical Account Managers have more time to focus on the few accounts they look after and to understand the clients’ infrastructure and projects in more detail, and as a result, TAM recommendations are made based on long-term relationships versus short consulting engagements.



- Based on customer feedback, we extended the life cycle duration of many products. Being part of Red Hat's Products and Technology group gives us a tremendous advantage and direct influence on product life cycles and roadmaps. Our clients benefit from our influence on product features and our role as a full part of the development team.



Our innovations in support at Red Hat have not gone unnoticed by the industry. We have have been recognized as one of the Best Support Web Sites (two years running) by the Association of Support Professionals, and we've also been named an awards finalist in the HDI Team Excellence Awards. In addition, members of our support team are frequently asked to speak at industry conferences on our experiences and Red Hat's innovative support practices. Earlier this year, I was delighted to be asked to join a group of the technology industry’s top support executives on the Advisory Board of the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) Support Services Group, the industry's leading organization dedicated to services excellence.

 

And just recently, Red Hat received another validation in the form of the results of a recent Multiclient Study by IDC sponsored by Red Hat, Enterprise Software Support Services: Utilization and Satisfaction Study,1 which highlighted Red Hat's position in the top league of support providers among a prestigious group of IT industry leaders. Ask a Red Hat account representative to discuss this recent study, which describes how we ranked across the relevant support aspects, including overall costs!



While we've accomplished much, this is only the beginning. Our vision is expanding so that we can serve our clients even better and provide ever more value in our subscriptions. Stay tuned for more on our plans for how future diagnostic services can help our clients even more in this rapidly changing IT world.

 

Marco Bill-Peter

Vice President, Global Support Services

(1) IDC Multiclient Study, Enterprise Software Support Services: Utilization and Satisfaction Study, May 2012.