Posted tagged ‘self-service’

Conversation with Francoise Tourniaire of FT Works: Winning Support Websites

April 9, 2012

One of the benefits of attending our Technology Services World Conference is the ability to spend a day in a professional development course, doing a deep-dive on a subject critical to your organization’s success in 2012. Our Spring TSW event will be held at the Santa Clara convention center May 7th-9th, with the professional development courses taking place on May 7th from 8am to 1pm on the 2nd floor of the rotunda. For a complete overview of the courses being offered, follow this link to Monday’s schedule.

I’m very pleased to bring you an interview with one of the professional development course instructors, longtime TSIA partner, Francoise Tourniaire, founder of FT Works.

John Ragsdale: Thanks for agreeing to share your wisdom and expertise with TSIA members at your upcoming professional development course at the opening of our Technology Services World conference. Can you give my readers an overview of the course?

Francoise Tourniaire: Winning Support Websites is focused on taking existing support websites from whatever their existing states may be to GREAT! It’s targeted towards the many support executives and managers who feel that their websites are not that great but don’t quite know what to do about it.

John: Could you talk a bit about how the course is structured? How will attendees spend their day?

Francoise: We are going to work hard, and by that I mean all the attendees will work hard! I will ask all the attendees to bring screenshots of their current sites and their top 3 design concerns, and we will work together on solutions and improvements. I will introduce a set of best practices but most of the time will be spent doing real-time consultations on websites. We will also cover the process for redesigning websites so that the participants know what to ask and what to watch out for once they decide to embark on a redesign initiative.

John: TSIA continues to expand our membership, now offering research and conference content across technical support, professional services, field service and education services. What departments and titles do you see as the target for your professional development course? Any positions you would like to see paying more attention to this topic?

Francoise: One of the big themes of Winning Support Websites is that a great support website should not be siloed. We tend to think of ourselves as support people, or professional services people, or educational services people, but customers don’t care about how we organize internally: they need help to use the products more successfully and they expect to find everything they need in one place. So I advocate a unified approach to support websites, one that gives customers full access to all the various services that the company offers.

John: What are some of the common challenges you run into when working with companies on support websites? Do you see companies struggling with similar problems?

Francoise: Each client is different, naturally, but the big themes tend to be the same:  (1) there’s no solid analysis of what customers are looking for on the site so it’s not clear what they should do when they visit, (2) navigation is challenging and (3) the site looks like it’s ten years old, and not in an attractive, vintage way. Also, companies often focus too much on functionality: do we have a community? Do we have a knowledge base? And not enough on how users interact with the website. It’s great to have a community, say, but if it’s hard to find, or disconnected from the other troubleshooting options it’s not to useful. So you need a vision for what customers want to accomplish on the site, not just a checklist of features.

John: What are some of the key trends you see making support websites a critical topic for service professionals? Why should companies focus more on this area?

Francoise: Support websites are a critical component of success for self-service, naturally, but also for peer-to-peer support and assisted support. So investing in a great website brings dividends for customer satisfaction and cost – a great double win. And since most support websites are not so great, the opportunity to improve is very large.

John: Francoise, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, and good luck on your professional development course!

Francoise: My pleasure John. See you at TSW!


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!

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!

Making Knowledge Work for You: Interview with David Kay, KM Guru

August 12, 2010

When I analyzed all of my member inquiries for 2009, 31%–nearly a third–related to knowledge management, search, and web self-service. You’ve all heard me complain about how shockingly low self-service success rates are, with the industry average dipping down to 40% at the beginning of 2010. Clearly this is an area that companies haven’t figured out, even though spending on knowledge technology has been strong for the last decade and a half.

Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a day with someone who has all the answers? Here’s your chance. At our Fall TSW conference in Las Vegas, David Kay will present a full day workshop, “Making Knowledge Work for You: Best Practices in Support KM,” Monday, October 18 from 8am-2pm. David is founder of DB Kay & Assoc, and co author of Collective Wisdom: Transforming Support with Knowledge, a must read for all support knowledge workers. David is my go-to guy for all things knowledge, and I wanted to take this opportunity to interview him about his workshop, and why KM is such a challenge for today’s support organizations.

John Ragsdale: What a pleasure to speak with you David! I’m excited about your upcoming KM Workshop, “Making Knowledge Work for You: Best Practices in Support KM.” You have spent time with many SSPA and TSIA members over the years, helping them create new knowledge processes and implement new tools. What would you say are the 3 most common problems you find regarding KM initiatives within tech support?

David Kay: I’m excited about the workshop at the Las Vegas TSW conference!  We always have great conversations. The three problems I see the most have changed over the past several years.  It used to be that KM efforts lacked executive sponsorship, but–as your numbers suggest–most support executives understand the benefits of knowledge, so that’s less of a problem.  What we’re seeing instead is resistance among operational managers, measurement challenges, and a paralyzing fear of being wrong.

I feel for the operational managers I work with.  Every day, some executive stops by and says, “hey, do this one other new thing,” and then walks away before the poor manager can ask, “what do I get to STOP doing?”  With rising pressure to serve more customers, with more complex issues, with constrained resources, it’s not surprising to me that they see knowledge management as just one more thing they don’t have time to do.

The reality, of course, is that knowledge management will really streamline the job of support.  Done right. it makes the job not only more efficient, but more fun:  who wants to answer the same question over and over again?  But line managers will need some convincing, and expecting that line managers will support KM just because they’re told to is a mistake.

Knowledge measures are different from other support measures.  Typical measures are straightforward:  all things being equal, we should close more cases per person, resolve cases more quickly, and get higher CSAT scores.  But when it comes to knowledge, numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Is authoring more content good?  Yes…but only if it’s needed, and if it’s findable, usable, accurate, and timely–otherwise more content is actually bad.  Knowledge measures require a mindset shift.

Finally, there’s something about writing something down in a knowledgebase that makes people just a little…crazy.  Say someone to a customer, OK…write it in an email…fine…but write it in the knowledgebase?  EMERGENCY!  EMERGENCY!  Someone’s going to take their entire network down!  Let’s get 13 subject experts to review it first, with a side trip to Marketing and Legal.  Never mind that, by the time the content goes through its review process, we’re going to be shipping the next major product release.

I don’t mean to be cavalier about quality, and much of the work that Jennifer and I do with clients involves building quality and continuous improvement into the KM process.  But even if your knowledgebase is 100% perfect today, customers will still misinterpret it, and it’ll be obsolete tomorrow morning.  Perfection isn’t an option, any more than it is in product development or in case resolution.  The goal is the most value for customers, and efficiency for ourselves.  And I find this requires taking a deep cleansing breath and giving up the illusion that perfection is an option, while figuring out how to get things as right as possible, as quickly as possible.

Everybody asks: How to calculate self-service success?

September 22, 2009

I have written a lot about the decline of self-service success, based on SSPA benchmark data, and one of my most common inquiry questions is how to track this metric.

Self-Service Success 2003-2009

Self-Service Success 2003-2009

The truth is, accurate tracking of self-service success isn’t easy, and it doesn’t help when knowledgebase vendors make ridiculous claims like “80% of consumers who access one of our self-service sites find what they need.”  How do they figure that?  I’ll tell you: anyone who views content and then leaves the website is counted as a successful visit, even if they left because they were disgusted by the poor quality content. If this is how you calculate self-service effectiveness, your numbers are meaningless.

Here is how I recommend figuring self-service success, and how SSPA members calculate the metric to enter in our benchmark.  There are three approaches, each more detailed:

  1. The easiest and most direct way is to give customers a prompt on every knowledgebase article that says, “This article solved my problem. Yes/No.”  The problem with this approach is response rate. My research tells me that the average response rate for these prompts is under 5%, and some members tell me that their response rate for article prompts is less than 1%.  If you can’t capture enough responses to have a good sample size, go to step 2.
  2. The next approach is to send a survey to every customer that accesses your self-service site asking if they were successful.  The response rate for these surveys can average as high as 30% (according to members), though the current benchmark average response rate for self-service experience is only 7%.  If you still need more details, go to step 3.
  3. The most detailed approach is to use cross-application reporting to see how many customers who accessed self-service had an assisted support interactions afterwards.  In other words, did any of the self-service customers call or email you, or create a support incident online, within 24 hours of the self-service attempt? If so, these can be counted as unsuccessful attempts.

There are obviously challenges. For consumer companies, who don’t require a logon to access self-service, steps 2 and 3 may not be possible. Other companies think the ’24 hour’ rule in step 3 isn’t enough, and look at the following 48 hours. In other words, your mileage may vary.

How do you calculate self-service success?  If there are other accurate approaches I’d love to know! As we speak, Michael Israel, our field service research expert, is working on the overhaul of the SSPA benchmark questionnaire, including beefing up many of the definitions of metrics and how to calculate them. This would be a great time to identify any emerging best practices for calculating self-service effectiveness.  If you have any thoughts, please add a comment or drop me an email.  And as always, 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…)

Support’s Perfect Storm Rages On: Incident Volumes Up; Self-Service Success Down

September 25, 2008

An SSPA partner asked me this morning for an update on my 2006 stump speech, “Support’s Perfect Storm,” which documented how rising technical complexity was driving up incident volumes.  I just pulled the latest 2008 AFSMI/SSPA Benchmark numbers and compared them to my information from 2006, and I am sorry to say:  The Perfect Storm continues to run rampant over technical support operations.  With the financial services crash certain to create even more cost cutting for support operations, will technical support find itself riding out 2009 in a FEMA trailer? (more…)