And the Phone Keeps Ringing: Update on Incidents by Channel
I’ve had a couple of inquiries this week about incident volumes and channel distribution and thought I would share some updated benchmark metrics with you. The general assumption has always been that as self-service and e-channels became more popular, phone calls would drop. Well, phone volume wouldn’t actually drop, but the percentage of incidents reported by phone would drop. That’s certainly where we were headed in the late 90s and early 00s as email, chat and web self-service became more widely adopted. But the trend may now be reversing.
As you can see in this chart, phone incidents represented 66% of volume in 2001, dropping to 52% in 2006. But over the last 2 years that number has been rising, and currently the percent of phone incidents is 57%.
So what is behind this trend? I suspect the following based on member conversations.
- Complexity. Ever increasing technology complexity and multi-vendor support issues mean customer problems are harder to solve, and most company’s self-service systems are not sophisticated enough to handle these more complex customer issues. As a proof point, self-service success has been trending down.
- Personal touch. With more advanced service options available and higher adoption of programs like a dedicated technical account manager, companies are encouraging more phone based communications because they carry the highest potential of extending and strengthening the relationship.
During my Giga days, we were encouraged to always include an ‘alternate view,’ i.e., if our best assumption is wrong, what is the next most likely scenario? In the interest of a balanced view, I also offer these alternate drivers for this trend:
- B2B differences. In the conversations about my “Death of Email” post last year, some B2B members indicated that channel distribution isn’t that meaningful in their environments. Incidents are worked by the same people using the same processes regardless of the channel of origin, and in fact they tend to use all channels on every incident. Open via email, call them for more details, point them to some content in an online KB, etc. So channel of origin doesn’t mean that much.
- Bad self-service metrics. Members frequently ask how to calculate self-service success or call/incident deflection, and without sophisticated self-service technology, accurate tracking is difficult. It is possible the use of self-service has been under reported for companies unable to track customer clickstreams to accurately determine usage.
- Forums a wild card. As of yet we have nothing in the benchmark about number or percent of issues resolved in customer communities or disucssion forums, and frankly, most companies I talk to with an active community have no idea how to track or estimate this. If even 5% of issues are being resolved via a community, that could radically change the overall distribution numbers.
What are you seeing in your environments? Are you encouraging more phone-based communication in the interest of building strong relationships? Are your phone incidents trending up? Any real-world stories would be appreciated. Please add a comment or shoot me an email. And as always, thanks for reading!Best Practices, Consumer Support, Enterprise Support, Technology