Interaction Volume by Channel: The 2011 Outlook

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!

Explore posts in the same categories: Best Practices, customer support, social media, Technology

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14 Comments on “Interaction Volume by Channel: The 2011 Outlook”

  1. Dbkayanda Says:

    John –

    This is great data! I totally agree with the observation that people will use the channel they want.

    I’m surprised to see web self-service resolutions lower than phone resolutions. In B2B data I see, it’s generally 10:1 self-service to assisted service, and far greater than that in B2C, especially if there are entitlement restrictions. (Think Microsoft or Adobe.)

    Support execs often seem surprised that entitled B2B customers, even in mission-critical areas, will self-serve rather than phone, but as you say, people go to their preferred channel. (Being a semi-introvert, I know I’d rather search on a vendor site, or Google, rather than call if *I* had a choice.) Besides, even with mission-critical products, most issues aren’t mission-critical.

    Anyhow, I know it’s hard for people to estimate self-service volumes, so maybe pull them out of the pie and focus on the channel mix of assisted service and support interactions?

    HNY, dbk

  2. jragsdale Says:

    Hi David!
    I also avoided assisted support if at all possible. What does that say about us?

    You are correct, this data is heavily slanted toward B2B. I’m using some of our newest benchmark data, from the survey launched a few months ago, and not a big mix of industries so far.

    I know self-service numbers are shaky, but I encourage people to leave them in the mix for increased visibility. If you don’t know where to start, do this:
    Send a personal email to 100 users who accessed self-service last month, asking them if they found the answer to their question or problem. As “back of the envelope” as that is, it is a starting point to estimate how many people accessing your self-help are successful.

    Now, I know for some companies the bigger problem may be getting the data from IT on how many users accessed the system and who they are. If this is your challenge, let me know and I can give you some threats…er….escalation ideas to try.


    • Dbkayanda Says:

      John –

      Your “send a personal email to 100 users who accessed self-service” is such a simple, powerful idea. We actually have called 100 users for a few clients, and it’s just astonishing the insight you can get…along with raw numbers like success rate and escalation rates.

      I know it sounds like it will take too much time, but it’s really not rocket science, and can you *really* think of a more valuable use for a smart person’s time than talking with customers about their online support experience? Carve out a half-hour a morning for a couple of weeks and see if you’re not sold! (obAd: we’re happy to do this for you, too, of course. But seriously, just do it yourself. You’ll be happy you did.)

      • jragsdale Says:

        Hey David, if you want to create a special offering for TSIA members: they give you 100 customer emails who have used self-service and you do the survey and report back findings, I’ll promote it!!!!

  3. Excellent data, thanks for doing this John.

    Have a very happy year’s-end party, and a wonderful 2011.

  4. […] Found at Interaction Volume by Channel: The 2011 Outlook « Ragsdale’s Eye on Service. […]

  5. […] I was reading a post by @JRagsdale the other day – Interaction Volume by Channel: The 2011 Outlook. […]

  6. This is crucial data, John, and I appreciate it!

    We have to prepare NOW for the reality that channel share continues to shift with the demographics of the workforce.

    The prepared will prosper.


  7. Laura Says:

    Which channel includes interactions on a company’s discussion forum or community site? I would guess Social Media, but I think I’ve also seen it classified as Self Service. Thanks!

    • jragsdale Says:

      Hi Laura;
      I lumped discussion forums/community into social media–it represents the majority of that quadrant. You make a good point, I will look at doing a slice by agent assisted, self-service, and customer assisted (community answered) at some point.


  8. […] by John Ragsdale, from the Technology Services Industry Association in his 2011 Outlook for Interaction Volume by Channel Estimated Interaction Volume by Channel for […]

  9. […] the Score I’ve had lots of questions about channel traffic since my recent post, “Interaction Volume by Channel: The 2011 Outlook,” some people asking about effectiveness by channel, or customer satisfaction by channel. […]

  10. Joe Edelman Says:

    Interesting information. I don’t really think statistics like this can be as pure as you want them to, there will always be a small or large margin of error that simply must be embraced :/

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