Archive for August 2009

Level 1 Shrinks…Isn’t That Counterintuitive?

August 18, 2009

Someone just asked me about staffing trends for Level 1/2/3, and one of my observations is that companies strive to push more issues (and headcount) into Level or Tier 1, since these tech support engineers (TSEs) are paid less than their more experienced Level 2/3 counterparts, therefore incidents resolved at Level 1 cost less.

To prove my point, I pulled the staffing allocation for Levels 1/2/3 from the current SSPA benchmark and compared it to the 2003 figures, expecting to see the percent of employees at Level 1 growing.  Gosh darn it! I hate when the facts don’t support my story! It turns out that as a percentage of overall employees, Level 1 has actually shrunk in the last 6 years, from 46% of staff in 2003 to 40% of staff today.

Tech Support Staffing Allocation by Level/Tier

Tech Support Staffing Allocation by Level/Tier

As you can see in the graphic, the numbers are very different by industry, with Consumer companies (who have less complex technology and more procedural questions) definitely leading the way with a whopping 82% of staff at Level 1.

I’m a bit taken aback by these numbers.  There is so much emphasis on tools (remote support, knowledgebases) to allow Level 1 to be more productive and avoid escalating issues to Level 2, that I really thought the reverse was happening.  What could be the reason? Off the top of my head, here are three:

  • Self-service. As self-service adoption grows, more of the easy questions never reach Level 1, so the pool of generalists answering password questions from years past are no longer necessary.
  • Complexity.  Are  you sick of me ranting on complexity yet? More complex issues require more investigation and longer resolve times, meaning Level 2/3 have more work to do.
  • Productivity. Maybe…just maybe…the tools and training are helping, and Level 1 is able to handle more issues with fewer bodies.

What are you seeing? Is Level 1 shrinking or growing? Does your company try to boost Level 1 resolutions?  If you have any thoughts, please add a comment or drop me an email.  And as always, thanks for reading!


CRM’s Last Gasp: Why Service and Support is CRM’s Last Chance for Success

August 11, 2009

If I were asked for a list of things I wanted to believe in, but had to admit were pure fantasy, the top three would be Santa Claus, world peace, and the “360 degree view of the customer.” Over the years I have heard a million presentations tout the promise of CRM, including a lot of abstract concepts about improving the customer experience that simply don’t jive with most company’s CRM reality. When SSPA, TPSA and AFSMI members talk about CRM, there is usually a bit of contempt in their voice, and in most cases CRM is something IT selected–and to some degree shoved down their throats–with little or no business user input.

We all know that CRM covers the disciplines of marketing, sales and service, but a dozen years into the CRM revolution, there remain few examples of cross-enterprise CRM implementations. Sales, and SFA (sales force automation), was the first priority for many companies when it came to CRM, and this SFA focus drove success for Siebel, and other SFA-centric CRM vendors. Marketing has certainly had its CRM time in the sun, with CRM vendors buying analytic platforms and data warehouses in the last 2 years to better enable demographic analysis and accurate upsell/cross-sell. But what about service?

If anyone can understand the value of the 360 degree view, it is the service and support organization, with goals and incentives largely built not around revenue and profitability, but customer satisfaction. Support has a vested interest in understanding the 360 degree view of the customer–it helps them diagnose and resolve problems much faster if they have the whole universe of the customer (products purchased, implementation dates, versions, patches downloaded, self-service attempts, service history, etc.) at their disposal.

These thoughts had been bouncing around in my head for a while, but they became top of mind after a recent conversation with Michael Tarbet, Vice President of Americas Sales for Consona CRM. We were talking about Consona’s acquisition of the SupportSoft assets (including remote support and self-healing), and how adding this technology to the Consona CRM suite, which includes full CRM capabilities from Onyx, and best-of-breed knowledgebase, search and community tools from Knova; created the industries first truly “service centric” CRM suite.  In fact, in my recent Web Collaboration market overview (“Ten Distinct Modules Comprise this Popular Support Technology“), Consona CRM was one of only two vendors (the other was Alcatel-Lucent’s Genesys) to offer all ten functional modules.

With the majority of legacy CRM implementations becoming more infrastructure than applications, companies look to their existing CRM system for basic incident tracking and entitlement/service contracts. But not much else.  It is exciting to think about implementing a service-centric CRM suite that includes best-of-breed tools for all areas of service and multi-channel support, including value added service tools like proactive monitoring and remote fixes. I’m pleased to see a CRM vendor put a lot of effort into improving the service side of their suites…which have gone largely unchanged since the first Web-based UIs were introduced in 2001 or so. And I’m also happy to see a CRM vendor specifically investing in tools for high tech firms, since the telco and financial services industries have received the bulk of CRM vendor attention for the last decade.

I look forward to Consona CRM’s roadmap becoming a reality as the latest acquisitions are merged into the enterprise platform. Can a service-centric CRM suite change the minds of technology buyers to invest in CRM once again? Will support take the lead and create the 360 degree view so it finally goes from fantasy to reality? My fingers are crossed.

Thanks for reading!

A third of tech support incidents are for procedural, or “How do I?” questions

August 6, 2009

I’m preparing for next week’s webcast, Driving Self-Service Success with Rich Media, based on a recent report I published highlighting a case study from SSPA member and partner, Adobe. Something that struck me while looking at the benchmark data regarding self-service success and customer incidents is the type of issues customer call/email/chat about.

We tend to think of tech support receiving a lot of break fix, hard down type of problems. But look at this data from the SSPA Benchmark on new support incidents by type of customer issue, which I have broken down by industry segment:

New cases by type of support incident

New cases by type of support incident

The largest percentage of issues, across industry segments, is not installation problems or product bugs and defects. Rather, a third or more of support incidents are procedural questions, or questions that usually begin with “How do I?” Not only are procedural questions the easiest to solve via self-service, but as we hope to show in next week’s webcast, they are also the easiest types of questions to successfully supplement knowledgebase (KB) articles with rich media, such as a video demonstrating the procedure.

There are lots of reasons for this large chunk of procedural questions: (more…)