Workout Session: Proactive Channel Management
Today at Technology Services World in Santa Clara, CA I co-hosted a “workout session” on proactive channel management, with my friend and longtime TSIA member, Tarik Mahmoud from Cisco. Over the last two decades, customer support interactions have evolved from phone to a variety of channels, including email, web chat, self-service, and now social media. Support organizations have been largely reactive about these changes, adding channels as customers demand them and allocating staff as channel volumes evolve. But I’m beginning to see a very different approach becoming common today: companies will no longer sit back and watch channel volumes roll in, they are taking charge and helping manage volume by channel, nudging—and sometimes forcing—customers to move to more effective and less-expensive channels.
No one knows more about this subject than Tarik. In 2008, Cisco’s Linksys division made the brave decision to eliminate email support, which was their most expensive and least effective channel. Email has always been a challenge for technical support, with many back-and-forth emails required to get all the necessary details from customers. With the lag time waiting for email responses, average incident resolution time grows, and incident costs soar. With a careful strategy involving lots of marketing, Cisco eliminated email support without a single customer complaint, successfully transitioning the majority of email volume to an unassisted channel–the online forum. The remaining traffic moved to the web chat channel. There was no impact to phone volumes. I documented this case study in a research report, “The Challenges of Tech Support via Email: Linksys Ends Email Support, Successfully Migrating Traffic to Forums.” TSIA members can find this report on our website–search by the title (or email me for a copy if all else fails, I know our search engine leaves a lot to be desired).
A workout session is not the kind of breakout in which audience members get to sit and listen for an hour. Oh no, you gotta work it girl! Tarik and I teed up the conversation, I shared data on average incident cost per channel, then we started a conversation with attendees around a few topics, such as:
- Do you know your cost and satisfaction by channel today? What are your best/worst channels?
- Do you know your volume by channel today? Which channels are growing/shrinking?
- How do you influence channel adoption today? News letters, user groups, training classes?
- What new approaches should you consider to influence channel adoption? What has worked for you?
The discussion was both fun and enlightening. We talked about how channel preferences are influenced by demographics, the importance of building use cases by customer type to establish which channels you should have, and how to encourage customers to try a new channel, such as chat.
Everyone was interested in the details of Tarik’s email story, as well as a new example of proactive channel management he provided. When the chat costs in a single country in Europe began averages 2x or 3x the cost of a phone call, chat was no longer offered in that region. When the customer selects that country from the pick list in the chat tool, they receive a message to please call for support. That way they are delivering the best experience for the lowest cost. So it turns out proactive channel management can be a very granular strategy. Each product may have different demographics, i.e., different channel adoption, and each country or region may have drastically different channel costs.
I hope everyone enjoyed the session as much as I did!
This entry was posted on May 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm and is filed under Best Practices, Consumer Support, self-service, social media, Technology. You can subscribe via RSS 2.0 feed to this post's comments.comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.