Archive for December 2010

Interaction Volume by Channel: The 2011 Outlook

December 31, 2010

TSIA’s offices were closed this week for the holiday, but I’ve been at my desk all week, plugging away on some research reports due this year. As I contemplated my final blog post for 2010, I decided to provide some insight into channel volumes. One of the first pieces of research I published when I joined the SSPA (now TSIA) back in 2006, Multi-Channel Adoption Trends, talked about what percent of interactions were coming from which interaction channel: phone, email, and web. This is always an interesting topic to members, who work to move incident volumes from more expensive assisted support channels to less expensive assisted and unassisted channels.

Of course, in 2011, you can’t talk about channel volumes without including social media. This week I’ve been playing with numbers from three different sources (incident volume by channel from the TSIA benchmark, self-service deflection numbers also from the benchmark, and percent of interactions handled by social media from the TSIA social media survey) to arrive at an estimate of where customer traffic is coming from for 2011. Here’s my estimate:

Estimated Interaction Volume by Channel for 2011

While most of the attention, training and funding goes toward phone incidents, these represent less than half of total customer interactions today. Email incidents, incidents created by customers online, and self-service resolved issues are all pretty even, and social media interactions represent 9% of total volume.  I did not include auto-generated and web chat incidents as these still represent less than 1% with our largely B2B audience. Some thoughts on these numbers:

  • We’ve got to stop thinking of phone as the most important customer channel. I continue to hear members say, “If it is important, they will pick up the phone and call.” This is simply not true for younger demographics, even in emergency situations. When I joked at a conference about a customer emailing to report an emergency system crash, I was informed by the audience that hard down issues are reported via whatever channel the customer prefers, and that could be web, email, chat, you name it.
  • We’ve got to improve self-service success. I just pulled the latest self-service success number (percent of customers attempting self-service who successfully solve their problem) and the news is not good: 39.8%. As incident volumes continue to climb year over year, we have to boost unassisted support volumes to stay afloat.
  • Though self-service has been around for 12-15 years, social media interactions are catching up, with an average of 9% volume (14% for consumer/B2C companies). At this rate, social media interactions will bypass self-service volume in the next 1-2 years. And while social media interactions can involve tech support, many interactions are resolved by other customers, lowering the resolution cost to next to nothing.

I will keep an eye on these numbers and will report back if I see the percentages changing. I wish everyone a very happy New Year, and look forward to working with all of you in 2011. And as always, thanks for reading!


What’s the Buzz? Top Technology Inquiry Topics for 2010

December 23, 2010

In preparing my research agenda for 2011, I looked over all the inquiries I received from members during 2010. While it would be fun to pick research topics based solely on personal interest, I tend to focus on areas with the most planned spending and areas about which I receive the most inquiries from members. The TSIA member inquiry process is one of the (in my opinion) most valuable pieces of TSIA membership: members can ask any question regarding service operations and we do our best to answer within 48 hours. Analyzing inquiry topics not only tells you what is top of mind for service organizations, it also tells you where they are struggling the most.


Ragsdale 2010 Member Inquiries

This chart shows my 2010 inquiries by topic. The top inquiry areas were:

  • Knowledge management. There are so many issues around KM–best practices for capturing, creating and maintaining content; pros/cons of the many KM solutions available today, and always questions on calculating ROI for KM projects. If you were to add in all the related areas (self-service, intelligent search) you can see that this is where I spent a majority of my inquiry time.
  • Multichannel. This is another broad topic area, ranging from best practices for improving service with specific channels (email continues to frustrate many companies), moving traffic from one channel to another, and quite a few questions this year on web chat, as chat adoption grows in the B2B world.
  • CRM. Let’s face it, CRM is a dirty word to a lot of companies. Complaints run the gamut from “we built it ourselves and it never really met our needs,” to “our platform is hopelessly outdated and IT says it will be 5-10 years before they can upgrade,” to “IT shoved a product we hate down our throats.” It is no surprise that adoption of less complex, albeit lower functionality, ondemand products are finding wider adoption, as service organizations give up trying to get value from aging enterprise CRM tools and bring in lighter weight tools that meet most of their current needs with little or no involvement from IT.
  • PSA. I was glad to see a topic from another TSIA discipline make the list. Our data clearly shows that companies who have adopted professional services automation (PSA) technology have improved operational performance. As I said on a webcast last week, it isn’t that PSA is a magic bullet and writing a check for the software eliminates your problems. Rather, moving off spreadsheets to a PSA suite forces you to formalize processes you’ve never talked about, and provides you with industry best practices in workflows and processes. It also gives you great insight into financials in realtime–not after the quarter ends.

Other topics, such as metrics, operations and social media, are obviously big topics as well, but I only receive the technology questions. Our other analysts receive more questions on these topics than I do, including Michael Israel, who launched the new support services and field service benchmark this year and is now an expert on metrics and their definitions; Tim Flannery, our support services analyst with expertise on multi-channel and consumer support; and of course TSIA’s own social media guru, Shawn Santos, who fields most of the questions on communities and social support.

Thanks to all the TSIA members who submitted inquiries during the year, and I hoped my answers helped! I look forward to working with all of you in 2011. Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!

eGain’s New Multisearch Gives Vendor “Best of Breed” Status for KB, MultiChannel, Self-Service, and now Search

December 14, 2010

One of the top support technology spending areas in the last 3 years has been intelligent search. With the number of content repositories–both inside and outside the firewall–increasing rapidly, both employees and customers need a single search tool that will allow them to access any number of content sources, in any format, in real time. As you can see in this chart from my annual Member Technology Survey, adoption of intelligent search technology rose 15% from 2009 to 2010, and almost of third of members report budget for search tools in 2010-2011.


Adoption and Planned Spending for Intelligent Search

Intelligent search is available from 2 primary sources: knowledge management vendors who have included intelligent search as part of their platforms, and specialist search vendors whose technology can integrate to existing knowledge infrastructure. But the total number of search providers has been pretty low, especially if you want a tool designed specifically for customer support and self-service–not a general purpose search tool that doesn’t really meet the use cases of support.

I’m thrilled to announce that as of last week we have one more source for intelligent search: knowledge management expert eGain. Last week eGain announced the availability of eGain Multisearch, an all-in-one search technology for web self-service and the multichannel contact center. Embedded in the eGain SelfService™ and eGain KnowledgeAgent™ products, eGain Multisearch delivers ease of navigation, content findability, and result relevance, while improving support tech productivity and ensuring best-practice compliance.

Key capabilities of eGain Multisearch include:

  • Multi-access behind a simple search box: eGain Multisearch puts their extensive set of knowledge access methods—keyword, metadata, natural language and intent-based search, question-matched search, and CBR-guided help (Case-Based Reasoning) behind a simple search box. The multifaceted, multi-path, blended navigation for answers helps reduce unproductive searches. Where the advanced version of eGain SelfService is implemented, search with a virtual assistant interface is also included as a seamless option.
  • Multi-sourced content: To further increase findability of answers, eGain Multisearch seamlessly federates and presents search results across website, contact center, enterprise, community, and social content.
  • Multichannel consistency: The underlying multichannel customer interaction hub platform, eGain OpenCIH™, ensures that contact center portion of the federated content is consistent across customer interaction channels.
  • Multi-role access: Access to search methods can be controlled by role or user. For instance, agents that are new or work in highly regulated industries can be made to follow a consistent, compliant search and interactive process.
  • Multi-process expertise: Today’s contact center agents are expected to handle process-intensive customer queries such as product selection, diagnostics and resolution, contextual cross-sell and up-sell, providing sales quotes, etc. in a way that is compliant with industry regulations and best practices.

The timing of this release is perfect, as we see companies evaluating search technology to improve support productivity and self-service success. Additionally, federating online community/discussion forum content with knowledge base content is a key step toward achieving rapid ROI for community projects. I also applaud eGain for building this technology themselves, instead of forming a partnership with a search specialist (which usually have a shelf life of 1-2 years).

If you have any questions about the new release, let me know and I can ask my contacts at eGain for additional information. Thanks for reading!