Archive for January 2011

CSAT by Channel: The More Assistance, The Higher the Score

January 25, 2011

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. I’m spent some time playing with the data this morning to arrive at some satisfaction numbers by support channel, and the results are interesting: the more a service is employee is involved, the higher the score. The less the amount of employee touch, the lower the score.

First, a few caveats about the data.

  • I’m using data from our brand new benchmark survey, so the number of responses is low compared to the 300+ responses in our old survey. But, the new survey has more channel options, including chat. NOTE TO TSIA MEMBERS: Please enter your latest data in the new benchmark survey as soon as possible!
  • The data combines results of multiple scales. I’ve converted scores to a 1-5 scale, my personal favorite. (1 = very unsatisfied, 5 = very satisfied) I don’t want to go down a rat hole here, but 10 and 11 point surveys have lower average scores than 5 point surveys. Any time you factor multiple scales into a single average I think the final result is a bit iffy. But a few hundredths of a point one way or the other won’t change the findings on this chart.
  • I’ve counted data only for direct employees, not satisfaction with outsourced employees.
  • The data is for “overall satisfaction” with the interaction, not speed to answer, ease of use, customer service skills, etc.

With all that in mind, here is the chart:



Interview with CA’s Jim Turcotte on the TSIA STAR Award for Innovative Support

January 18, 2011

Today I am pleased to bring to you an interview with our recent STAR Award winner for Innovative Support: Jim Turcotte, SVP of Technical Support, from CA Technologies, a $4.3 Billion IT management software and solutions company with expertise across all IT environments—from mainframe and physical to virtual and cloud. Innovative Support is one of my favorite categories; it is fantastic to see companies trying new and creative approaches to improving the customer experience.

John Ragsdale: Jim, congratulations on your STAR Award, and thanks for taking the time for this interview.

Jim Turcotte: Thank you, John. We’re very excited about the award, as well as the TSIA award for Value Added Support we won in the spring. Winning back to back awards brings a level of validation to our efforts.

John: Let’s start with a high level question. My experience is that some companies thrive on innovation while others remain very change phobic—it seems a part of corporate culture. From the amazing content of your STAR Award application, clearly CA Technologies embraces innovation. How does the corporate culture of CA Technologies encourage and reward innovation?

Jim: At CA Technologies, we’re very focused on transforming our culture to one of innovation. In fact, I’m participating on an innovation panel in Tampa, Florida with CA’s top technical leaders. We also recently launched Idea Tree, a program to evaluate and nurture Innovation.

You need to recognize and reward innovation. And that’s the great thing about winning the TSIA STAR Award for Innovative Support—it recognizes the innovative work of the people of CA Support. It’s motivating and helps drive our culture of innovation.

John: Let’s get into some of the detail of your STAR Award application, which does a great job of describing innovation in all areas of support operations—people, process and technology. I want to start with the people side. You have a great program in place and a pretty sweet reward and recognition system for employees. Could you talk about the Integrated CA Support Employee Programs?

Jim: You’re only as good as your team, so we focus on programs to help us attract, board and retain great people—people who delight our customers. We view these programs as an  investment—not an expense—that pays big dividends in customer satisfaction and loyalty.

First and foremost, we are getting much better at attracting the right kind of people. Tests show us that Support Engineers need two key traits. The first is a desire to help people. Second, you must love solving problems. These are basic concepts. But support organizations often hire engineers based more on their technical skills than their soft skills. Once hired, we work to rapidly assimilate the new engineers into our family through our buddy program, welcome kits, executive touch points and class communities.

Last but not but least, you need to retain. Our attrition rate is just 3%, compared to a rate of 12% for the industry. Besides our rewards and other integrated programs you mentioned, our greatest successes come from Standing Ovation. This new program is changing our culture to one of empowering our engineers to delight our customers. Managers tend to spend too much effort directing and not enough time enabling and empowering. Standing Ovation is giving our engineers the freedom to exercise their own judgment, resourcefulness and creativity to solve issues.

John: I think that process innovation may be the toughest area for many companies—changing processes that have been in place for many years. You have had great success with a new program called “Go Live with CA Technologies,” which not only speeds time to value and consumption of products for customers, but also appears to be a great opportunity for Value Added Services. Could you talk about the “Go Live with CA Technologies” program?

Jim: I think everyone agrees the software industry needs to help customers both reduce time to value and realize greater value. Similar to employees, one needs to attract, board, and retain customers. So we made significant investments in technology, processes and talented people and created Go Live with CA Technologies. This program helps us to focus on boarding (reduce time to value) and increasing retention by helping customers realize more value. Go Live with CA Technologies is a four-stage roadmap for proactively assisting customers:

  1. Get Me Started: Personal one-on-one with the customer to guide the initial project setup and relationship.
  2. Set Me Up: Proactive implementation monitoring and guidance. Our Go Live command center provides 24×7 monitoring of weekend moves-to-production.
  3. Roll it Out: 90 day stabilization period with heightened issue monitoring.
  4. Get More Out of It: Programs that help our customers understand how to leverage under-utilized features.

John: While your award application demonstrated leadership across the board, you scored highest in the innovative use of technology with your Labs on Demand. Can you elaborate?

Jim: Many issues can only be diagnosed and resolved in the customer’s unique and complex environment. But replicating customer environments on our own local labs was slow and costly. CA Support now uses Labs on Demand (LOD): a sophisticated on demand private cloud. Our Support Engineers can dial up an image on demand and be diagnosing a customer’s problems in much less time. In many cases, we maintain pre-built images in our LOD Library for even faster problem resolution.

John: Nearly a third of my member inquiries over the last year concerned knowledge management tools and processes, and this is an area CA has definitely figured out. In less than two years, your program for measuring and rewarding knowledge creation, Write for Success, has quadrupled the creation of knowledge and has big impacts on customer satisfaction with your online knowledgebase. Could you give us some information on “Write for Success” and how the program has impacted problem resolution times?

Jim: Write for Success rewards both support engineers and teams for creating knowledge content based on issues they’ve resolved. Awards include Write for Success certificates, which our support engineers proudly display on their office walls, and financial incentives. With a program like Write for Success, it’s very important to ensure quality and not just quantity.

John: To win a STAR Award, you not only have to have great results, you need to be able to tell your story in a compelling way. I think your STAR Award application was a real winner on many levels. Of course your results were impressive, but the judges were also very pleased with the application itself—results and impacts are clearly stated, you used lots of great examples, and there was also a very personal angle by including anecdotes about support employees, like Kevin Harrison and the Earn Awards program, and Tom, the support engineer working diligently to resolve complex problems. Could you talk a bit about your approach to the award application, and how you pulled together such an impressive entry?

Jim: The award category had a strong linkage to our passion around Innovation as you mentioned earlier. If you really have passion for something, demonstrating the efforts and results almost seem effortless. It clearly helps to have a great team that clearly is proud of their achievements and welcome an opportunity to share their work in these kind of award forums. My thanks to TSIA for providing this opportunity!

John: Jim, it has been a real pleasure chatting with you about your STAR Award win for Innovative Support. Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom with TSIA members!

Jim: Thanks for the invitation, John.

What’s missing from social media efforts: Expertise Management

January 13, 2011

Way back in 2001 and 2002 I published a couple of research report at Giga about what I saw as an emerging area: expertise management. All the enterprise CRM and PRM vendors were just beginning to talk about enterprise collaboration, and it seemed to me that expertise management was a missing link. In most companies, the team that originally develops a product module is reassigned to other projects when the product ships, so when a customer encounters a problem months or years down the road,  tracking down the correct set of expert participants to brainstorm a solution to a complex problem will be difficult–if not impossible.

That problem is worse today, but I think the solution may be easier. Why is the problem worse? Because now social networking has added a million more experts to the mix. Customers who know the products backwards and forwards. Implementation partners who have run into similar problems in the past. 3rd party experts, including ex-employees of the company, who are happy to chime in with advice. And, as the world of customer communities and internal communities begin to merge, we have a mass audience of potential experts to help solve any problem.

But how do you find them?

It is time to renew my call for expertise management. With all the tracking done on social media activity, it shouldn’t be a big deal to mine online conversations, tag clouds, subject matter expert ratings, etc., to identify experts on any topic. In fact, marketing is already using ‘social listening’ tools to identify influential community members, and support is now evaluating community user rankings and ratings to help identify “power users” among the customer base. So how about going one step further, and provide a mechanism for support techs–and maybe even customers–to find experts on a topic quickly and easily?

I’ve only found one company among our partner network who is tackling this problem with innovative technology: Coveo, known for their enterprise search platform and customer information access solutions. Coveo offers a feature called Expertise Finding that enables users to locate colleagues that hold specific knowledge or expertise by identifying the authors of documents and files related to certain projects, issue resolutions, and more. As Coveo also supports social search, they can mine your customer and employee communities as well, identifying people who frequently post on a topic, or whose online conversations on the topic have been highly rated by the community.

Here’s a description from Coveo:

Coveo finds experts intrinsically, through their work. At the top of the screen you see experts in a certain area, “Oil funding report management,” who are shown due to the work they have done in this area, captured through documents, emails and other types of information.  By highlighting one of the experts, “Lauren Boyle,” you can see exactly what she has been working on related to the topic.  You can quickly see if Lauren is the expert you need, you can review her work in this area and you have her contact information to reach out to her.

Some of Coveo’s customers also integrate unified communications with this, so that you can also see availability, and with just a click, connect with that person. With online availability now captured in more communities, this means you can reach out to anyone, anywhere, in real time, to solve a customer problem.

What is your company doing to streamline the location of experts? Does your definition of experts include customers and other external folks? As companies continue to build out communities, I would encourage you to keep expertise management in mind, and find a way to mine your corporate and community content to find subject matter experts and leverage their expertise. With today’s tech support issues growing more complex each year, expecting a single tech support analyst to know everything–even with knowledge tools at their disposal–is not realistic.

Bottom line: looking forward, it may take a village to diagnose and resolve more complex issues. The village already exists–now we just have to start using the villagers. As always, thanks for reading!

2011 Trends Poll: Weigh in on what will most impact Technology Services this year

January 6, 2011

In my monthly article for TechTarget’s SearchCRM website, I published my top trends back in October, but these were specific to customer support. My boss, Thomas Lah, TSIA’s executive director, just launched a poll on his blog to capture input on the top trends for 2011 impacting all of technology services, across support services, professional services, field service and education services. Please weigh in with your thoughts here:

Key Trends: 2011

Thomas included the following areas in his poll:

  • Cloud computing. The move to the cloud is having big impacts on both product companies and customers. Product companies are competing on price more than functionality, and the cost of supporting OnDemand customers may be higher as more procedural questions are received from end users than in traditional on premise deployments. On the customer side, so many products are being ‘dumbed down’ to work easily in the cloud that critical functionality may be missing from applications.
  • Social media. When the topic of social media comes up, everyone seems to immediately start talking about Twitter. But the real heat here is the power of collaboration, with customers answering other customer questions (see my previous blog entry–Forums answer more customer questions than the self-service knowledgebase now), and idea storming models that actively incorporate customer feedback into release priorities.
  • Commoditization. In the endless cycle of technology emergence, growth, maturity, and decline, many products we used to pay top dollar for are becoming commodities. As I said in my 2011 predictions, open source products are maturing and becoming viable options, threatening the revenue stream for vendors in some segments. With all the predictions coming out of CES this week, it looks like the next victim of commoditization will be the laptop. With consumers (and business leaders) moving toward tablet computers, laptop sales and prices will be dipping fast.
  • New major markets. Obviously China is the big driver here, but other areas of Eastern Europe and Asia are becoming more connected, more capitalistic, with a growing population of consumers and businesses hungry for technology. Let’s face it, many companies screwed up their first foray into Japan a decade ago by underestimating how cultural differences impact business practices. You can expect to see that again in China, Singapore, the Philippines, and other countries. We are already seeing questions about partner strategies in emerging markets–old approaches don’t work in these new regions.
  • Engineering the experience. Customer service organizations began embracing “customer experience” a few years ago, and you see more companies today with executives with experience in their titles, like ‘chief experience officer’, or CXO. Thomas is tracking the understanding and importance of the experience shifting from a support issue to an overall sales and service issue, forcing companies to rethink their approach to product development, marketing, the sales cycle, etc.  I’d say social media has some influence here, as poor customer experiences are now being broadcast to millions of people, thanks to social networking sites.
  • Other. If none of these float your boat, write something in. Personally, I wrote in “Mobility,” as I see mobile requirements driving both hardware and software in 2011 and beyond.

Please take a moment and weigh in on the poll, it will greatly help us prioritize our research by understanding the topics you see as most impactful to the industry in the year ahead.

Have You Refreshed Your KB Lately?

January 5, 2011

Like many people, I spent much of Christmas day doing tech support, setting up new toys Santa brought me. My favorite is a 3G Microcell cell phone tower from Cisco and AT&T that plugs into my DSL line and gives me–are you ready for this–FIVE BARS of cell service. A miracle for this mountain dweller, who has spent the last 5 years running out of the house and down the driveway to get more than 1/2 bar anytime someone called me on my cell. Another great toy is a Zomm, a Bluetooth ‘wireless leash’ for my phone. If you spend half your life searching for your cell phone, as I embarrassingly do, this is the gadget for you. It now hangs permanently around my neck and starts beeping anytime I’m more than 20 feet from my phone.

While setting up both of these systems was fairly easy, I did run into small problems with each and accessed self-help to solve the issues. And I ran into the same problem I have any time I attempt self-help–my problem doesn’t exist in the knowledgebase. It is beyond frustrating. You encounter a problem that many new customers are likely to run into, and there is nothing online to address it. Usually, you can find hundreds–or even thousands–of conversations in a forum about the problem, yet the knowledgebase contains not a single reference to the issue.

And that brings me to the point of this post. Having just pulled the latest and greatest self-service success numbers from the TSIA Benchmark for a white paper, and finding the average has now dipped to 39%–an all time low–I ask myself: are we doing all we can to ensure customers are successful with self-service? And the answer clearly is: no way, Jose.

It seems that most self-service systems I use are filled with content that has been prepopulated–what companies anticipate customers will ask, not what they actually ask. How often are you reviewing your most commonly ask questions, including discussion forum conversations, and making sure those issues exist in, and are easily found in, your knowledgebase? This is a critical step in knowledge maintenance, and my experience tells me it is overlooked by many companies.

So here is my challenge to you. Identify your top 10 most frequently asked questions by customers. And run a report to get this information, don’t assume you know what those 10 issues are! Then go to your self-service knowledgebase and try to find the answer to all 10, using simple user-oriented search terms. Even a truer test? Call one of your favorite customers and ask them to search your knowledgebase for all 10 issues, since they won’t know the automatic tags or search terms to use. If you can find all 10, you get my admiration and sincere thanks on behalf of customers everywhere. If you can’t find all 10, you have just identified a project to attack in 2011. And I’d encourage you to make it a priority.

Hope all of your new Christmas toys are up and running and delivering value, and if you do run into problems, you may want to start with the discussion forum–with a score of 3.5, it is kicking the knowledgebase’s ass. 😉

Happy New Year to everyone, and as always, thanks for reading!