By Rodrigo Rico, Vice President of the Software Advisory Board at HDI Brazil
According to the latest survey by ABES (Associação Brasileira das Empresas de Software), approximately 33% of the information technology (IT) market in Brazil is made up of the software segment, generating annual revenues of over 25 billion dollars and employing more than 120 thousand people. The software with the “Made in Brazil” seal is a consolidated export product and the country occupies the seventh international position in terms of revenue in the sector. The data leave no doubt and reaffirm the importance of software companies within the IT segment and the Brazilian economy in general. 
Most software companies have a technical service area that serves end users who have purchased their systems, and this type of service is extremely differentiated. In software support, the professionals' relationship skills and knowledge of the client's business rule make all the difference. It is a decisive factor for success. 
Technical assistance began within the Development area and, over time, gained autonomy and independence. Many reasons explain this separation. It didn't make sense to keep the team of developers tied to first-level technical support for products that were often not even on the factory production line anymore. The cost of each service was also high, given the specialization of the professionals. It made perfect sense to create, within the software companies themselves, exclusive areas to support users with specifics and processes specific to the service area. Observing this segment that grows more and more in Brazil, HDI founded a board called SOAB – Software Advisory Board – which brings together renowned leaders in the area of technical support for software in Brazil. SOAB has just completed 1 year and will soon launch a survey that will carry out an initial survey of the segment in search of answers to map the support operation of Brazilian softhouses.
But what is, in fact, the importance of Support in Software companies? The first important conclusion is to understand that Support is part of the Core Business of these companies. When a customer closes a contract and chooses a software, its management has at least three aspects in mind: the product being purchased itself, the support that will support its usability and the offer of any additional services. With regard to support, it is estimated that between 20% and 30% of the monthly amount paid by customers to software companies, also called recurring revenue, is the portion referring to the support service contracted. Now, if there is revenue and a service being provided, Support is clearly a business area and not just a Cost Center. This strategic and modern vision, which makes it clear that much more than a cost, support is part of the company's business. In addition to a good share of the already fixed revenue, Support is able to generate even more business, through SLA agreements, additional configurations, customizations, remote consulting and much more. Believing in Support is betting on profit! This vision is not always clear to company executives. 
In addition to financial issues, Support plays a fundamental relationship role for software companies. It is often the main – and sometimes only – communication channel between supplier and customer. Support knows the pain and characteristics of users and plays a decisive role in loyalty or not. Having good software to offer the market is an obligation for software companies, but excellent technical service becomes absolutely strategic and makes all the difference in the companies' success. 
Some companies have already realized the importance of the Support area and are investing heavily in strengthening and qualifying their operations. Others, unfortunately, still feel that having a Support area is simply a necessary evil. They see it, above all, as an operational cost and forget its importance. As a consequence, they are forced to live with the constant dissatisfaction of their customers and employees. Investing only in the Development area and forgetting about Support is a common and serious mistake. And speaking of teams, they play a key role. Keeping a team motivated in service, through qualification and recognition policies, makes all the difference. In general, salaries are still very low and there is no effective career plan within the Software Support Centers, and there are few policies for performance bonuses and recognition.
Looking to the future, what is expected is that we will have a technical team that is increasingly familiar with the business segment, with the ability to “speak the same language” as the user. In many software companies, there are already professionals who are not connected to IT within the service team. Nurses, lawyers, hoteliers, accountants, engineers and teachers are just a few examples of professionals who are called by the most advanced Support Centers to compose their teams, according to the market in which the software sold. The investment in the relationship with the user also appears as a success factor. Enabling teams to develop relationship skills is increasingly important. A professional who is technically strong and who is able to negotiate and gain the client's trust makes a difference and is highly valued. Another item that appears as a trend is to maximize investments in self-service tools and in the consolidation of knowledge bases. Unfortunately, few software companies place their Support area within the strategic planning of the business, but this is changing and tends to change even more. 
There is still something important to be said: there is no good support for a bad product. Many times, the Support center cannot achieve the necessary quality and customer satisfaction precisely because it has products with many bugs and instabilities. In these cases, the investment in the Support area should be even greater, as it is what will retain the customer, or not. There must be a focus on making the software more and more bearable, with tools and utilities that facilitate Support's action. This generates relief for the service operation and great satisfaction to the end user, who will have their issue dealt with more effectively. There still needs to be greater synergy between the Support and Development areas. What is observed in most companies is a real battle between these areas. Support and Development Managers must be peers within software companies, thus ensuring balance in decision making.
Invest, believe and empower. Giving the Software Support Center the value it really has as a natural revenue generator and customer relationship engine will make all the difference to this industry that is so strong in Brazil and that, little by little, is learning what, in fact, the importance of Support within your business. There is still a way to go. A company that has a mature and efficient service area will certainly have satisfied customers and preserved revenue. 
Finally, a tip: do you want to know how is the health of a software company? Visit your Support Center! It is by living the service that we have a truly complete vision. It is in Support that we observe product quality, service maturity and customer satisfaction.

quick access