How to work with Rational Client Support: Behind the curtain

Kelly Smith, from the Rational Client Support Knowledge Management team, invites you behind the scenes to learn how they work, and even what software they use to make sure that they're serving you well. Her lively description and her enthusiasm for making you successful with Rational software might even make you look forward to calling tech support.

Kelly Smith (kellys@us.ibm.com), Rational Client Support, IBM

author photoKelly Smith is a self-described “knowledge activist” with the Rational Client Support organization who works out of the IBM Mass Lab in Littleton, Massachusetts. Obsessed with knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and proactive support, she is one of the voices behind the "Notes from Rational Support" developerWorks blog. You can reach her on Twitter @kellypuffs.



19 April 2011

Also available in Russian

Who we are

You've heard it said before (particularly if you've been following the "Notes from Rational Support" developerWorks blog), but I'll say it again: the best part of IBM Rational Support is the people. We're a global team of more than 550 support professionals with expertise across the broad Rational software portfolio. We have support centers all over the globe and engineers who provide technical support on the phone and on the web, in several languages, including Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Japanese, Korean, English, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Spanish, all with one goal: to ensure that you are successful with your Rational and IBM products in your unique environment.

Figure 1. Rational Client Support global locations
World map with 18 locations, 10 languages

Larger view of Figure 1.

Some of those folks are technical support engineers (TSEs) who work directly with you on the phone and on the web to answer your questions and resolve your issues. We also have accelerated value specialists, business intelligence experts, knowledge managers, electronic support architects, service planners, and people dedicated to client programs.

As you can imagine, today's technical support environment is complex and growing ever more so. It involves complex technologies, end-to-end business solutions, integrated technology, distributed resources, and -- let's not forget -- a need for speed.


Best practices that we follow

To give you the best support experience possible and fine-tune our own business, we have adopted several key processes and practices. We've highlighted just a few of those here.

Kepner-Tregoe Resolve

Since 2007, Rational Client Support has been using Kepner Tregoe (KT) Resolve, which is a certified process for problem-solving, decision-making, and project execution methods used to resolve client issues. To meet the challenges of supporting you and complex technical environments, we have implemented this efficient, simple, and scalable method to achieve these goals:

  • Optimize the first interaction with the client (speed and quality of answer)
  • Reduce the number of customer contacts required to define and resolve issues
  • Reduce areas of weakness by using a functional rather than an empirical approach to problem resolution
  • Provide faster and more accurate problem solving

In 2008, Rational Client Support won the KT International Rational Process Achievement Award for demonstrating increased client satisfaction, reduced time to resolve client issues, and reduced support costs. Those benefits continue to be realized with increased client satisfaction and reduced backlog, year over year.

Knowledge-Centered support

Knowledge-Centered Support is another one of those industry-leading best practices that is helping us transform our business, one in which we make knowledge work a key component of the Problem Management Record (PMR) workflow. Rather than have a few dedicated knowledge workers, everyone in Rational Client Support is a knowledge worker. We work on our technical support content (technotes) dynamically, in real time. The most relevant content is that which assists in solving today's problems, and sharing that knowledge with peers and clients is our primary job. Knowledge isn't power. Shared knowledge is power.

"Knowledge isn't power. Shared knowledge is power."

As a result, the answers that we provide are the result of a vibrant, robust, and comprehensive corpus of knowledge that we continually update. Our solutions evolve and improve with every case we handle.

A technical support engineer's job is not to answer one call, provide one solution to that client, and then answer the next call. Our TSEs provide answers and solutions to benefit not just the person they are talking to on the phone right now, but to benefit all of our clients, the support organization, and the next TSE who has to pick up the phone and answer the same question from a different client. Better yet, with constantly updated knowledge base, clients can find and apply the solutions themselves, thus they can avoid having to call tech support. As we work your issue, we are capturing the knowledge we gain as part of our PMR workflow, not as a separate or additional activity, which means that we are maintaining and updating our collective knowledgebase consistently with each PMR that we work.

With Knowledge-Centered Support (see Resources), we improve our support center capacity and improve your ability to find and solve your own problems (we call that "client self-assist").

Business intelligence

Results, results, results! How do we know what we are doing is improving our ability to help you and improving your ability to help yourself? By measuring our business and results and aiming for continual improvement.

Our Business Intelligence Team measures client satisfaction through the survey that you are asked to complete. We measure PMR arrivals, closures, backlog, time to close, and other transactional metrics. We also measure web accesses of technical support content and traffic to our key web areas. We measure our content activity and document-level feedback that we receive. (And we do love feedback!)

To compile results and analyze them against our metrics, we use IBM® Rational® Insight performance management software and IBM® Cognos®,10 business analytics tools (see Resources for links to more information about each of those).

Social business

IBM Support Portal

Our Support Portal brings together all IBM online support resources and tools for IBM hardware, software, and services in a consistent, customizable interface that is tuned to your specific needs. In 2010, it was named one of the winners of the ASP (Association of Support Professionals) Ten Best Web Support Sites.

Since 2009, we have proactively and informally shared our knowledge by using social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and our "Notes from Rational Support" developerWorks blog. We also run open mic webcasts on technical topics, key products and core technologies, where you can learn by asking our subject matter experts questions, including our TSEs and development and product managers.

By connecting with you through these channels, we can often help you find the information that you need to be successful with IBM and Rational products before you need to open a support ticket. We share the information that we learn through our support calls with you and others who might need it, so that you don't have to call. By holding open mic calls to share information on relevant technical topics and to field questions, we want to arm you with the information you need.

Please note:
Technical support is not provided through our social business channels To open a Problem Management Report (PMR), please use the channels listed in the next section.


Keep in touch

As you can see, a lot of work and thought goes into providing you the best support experience possible, and we are working every day to make it even better. Rational Client Support is here for you. The passion and energy that people on this team display every single day is, dare I say it, inspirational. We are your advocates, and we're here to help you be successful.

Ways to contact Rational Client Support

Web: IBM Service Request (SR) – our consolidated, customizable online problem management for clients with valid software and networking support contracts

Email:sw_support@us.ibm.com (you can even send data to IBM Rational Client Support)

Phone: 1-800-IBM-SERV (1-800-426-7378) options 2, 1, 6 in North America or check this list of worldwide phone numbers.

Stay connected

We have several ways for you to get timely product information, too:

  • Subscribe to RSS or email updates through My Notifications to receive daily or weekly announcements through email, custom web pages, and RSS feeds.
  • Read the Notes from Rational Support blog, which contains information on product support updates, product releases, and IBM Rational Support events.
  • Follow Rational Support on Twitter (@rationalsupport) for daily updates of information from various IBM and community resources.
  • Subscribe to Rational Support on YouTube, where we regularly update technical demos of our products.
  • Join Rational Support on Facebook for rich content from various IBM and community resources, updated daily.

Be sure to check the Resources section for many more ways to get the help and information that you need.

Resources

Learn

  • Check these many additional ways and places to get support:
    • IBM Rational Support main page offers support for all Rational products, plus downloads, search, problem reporting, and a support handbook
    • IBM Support Portal is a single, unified and centralized view of all technical support tools and information, covering all IBM products.
    • developerWorks Rational, the premier technical community resource for software developers, providing a wide range of tools, code, and education.
    • IBM Education Assistant, a collection of multimedia educational modules designed to help you gain a better understanding of IBM software products and use them more effectively to meet your business requirements.
    • IBM Software Support Handbook, which includes worldwide numbers, escalation options, and support processes.
    • IBM Support Assistant (ISA), the free local software serviceability workbench that helps you resolve questions and problems with IBM software.
    • IBM Passport Advantage, where you can order new IBM software licenses, renew maintenance, and get technical support
    • Service Request (SR), where you can submit and manage Problem Management Records (PMRs) on demand, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
    • IBM Publication Center, where you can search for IBM manuals and documentation.
  • Explore both the overview of Rational Insight performance management software overview page and the developerWorks page, which leads to technical articles and additional resources.
  • Find out more about IBM Cognos 10, a business intelligence and analytics tool that can help your organization with planning, scenario modeling, real-time monitoring and predictive analytics, so you can make decisions, allocate resources, anticipate and shape future outcomes.
  • Watch the Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) in 5 minutes presentation if you want to know more about this method.
  • Stay current with developerWorks technical events and webcasts focused on a variety of IBM products and IT industry topics.

Get products and technologies

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