Posted tagged ‘SSPA’

Yes, Support CAN Sell: Lessons from the B2C World

October 14, 2009

I’m preparing for tomorrow’s webcast with LivePerson, “Live Chat: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,” and we are going to talk about something we’ve never tackled on an SSPA webcast before:  upsell and cross-sell.

This is always a touchy topic for tech support, with some long-time support techs not happy about putting on a sales hat.  But trust me, it was also a controversial topic 10 years ago in the consumer support world.  I did some research on this during my time at Forrester, and many of the lessons learned by consumer companies can apply equally well to the enterprise support world.   I will be covering this during the webcast tomorrow, but here is a preview for you.

Lessons learned by consumer companies who incorporated sales into service

  • Include sales training in product training.  During training, include appropriate upsell/cross-sell offers along with technical training on common problems.  Newly minted support techs will learn both simultaneously, getting over the “service vs. sales” mentality.
  • Training must be ongoing.  Just like customer service skills, soft sales skills training should be ongoing, especially for those with low extend/accept rates.
  • In many cases, sales is PART OF servicing the customer.  One company told me, “When agents hear YES often enough, they stop thinking of it as selling.”  Some SSPA members (IBM, HP) already do this. If a customer is struggling with technical problems on older equipment, offering them a special deal to upgrade will solve the problem and create revenue.
  • Measure offer extends and accept rates, NOT total revenue generated.  Learn some new metrics.  “Offer extends” is what percent of the time an agent extends an offer to the customer during the call/chat/email.  “Accept rate” is the percentage of the time the customer accepts the offer. The biggest barrier at the start is getting agents to extend the offer, and soft sales training helps them work the extend naturally into the conversation.
  • Support techs/agents should be incented, not goaled.  Don’t give them a goal, because when the goal is reached agents stop selling.  Instead, provide incentives, such as a sales commission or per-accept reward.

Please join us for the webcast tomorrow if you can, I’ll expand on these points and have some other advice to share.  Thanks for reading, and I hope to see all of you next week at Technology Services World Vegas!


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!

Announcing the Fall 2009 Recognized Innovator Award Categories

June 24, 2009
Fall 2009 AFSMI, SSPA, TPSA Recognized Innovator Awards

Fall 2009 AFSMI, SSPA, TPSA Recognized Innovator Awards

I am happy to announce the categories for the Fall 2009 Recognized Innovator Awards, which will be held in conjunction with our upcoming Technology Services World conference in Las Vegas, October 19-21 at the Mirage Hotel and Event Center. Awards are presented to association partners, and judged by a panel of association members and industry insiders.

In time for the conference, JB Wood, CEO of the AFSMI, SSPA and TPSA, will publish a new book detailing the immense challenges – and opportunities — facing the technology service and support industry. To support this theme, the Fall 2009 Recognized Innovator Awards will focus on categories that are key components of the book, illustrating how association partners enable member success by providing innovative technology and services to help companies survive the complexity onslaught– and even prosper. The fall categories are: (more…)

TSW Day 2 Recap: Technology Spending Trends

May 6, 2009

Today is the final day of Technology Services World (TSW) Santa Clara. I’m amazed at the huge amount and high quality of the content in breakout sessions, and the positive buzz has been terrific. This post will provide a brief recap of what I was up to yesterday.

I gave my keynote address yesterday morning, providing details from my 2009 Member Technology Survey about technology budgets, adoption and spending. It is no surprise that technology spending is down, and we saw a pretty big decrease in average budget to maintain and acquire technology in the last year. But there remain some bright spots, with members having budget for spending in several areas. Overall, comparing 2008 to 2009 technology budgets, the following trends can be identified:

SSPA Member Technology Spending by Product Category

SSPA Member Technology Spending by Product Category


HP: Monitor External Conversations about Your Products

May 5, 2009

Tara Bunch, VP of Global Customer Support Operations, Imaging and Printing Group, HP, gave a keynote this morning at our Technology Services World Conference about consumer support in a down economy. The fascinating part for me was how HP is leveraging Web 2.0 media to understand customer attitudes about their products and brand, and to engage customers in conversations. Though 57% of SSPA members now have a customer discussion forum, few of them are proactively monitoring what customers are saying about them outside their firewalls. There is a forum for just about everything out there–especially consumer electronics–and according to Tara, just because you don’t own that forum doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active in it.


Tara Bunch, VP of Global Customer Support Operations, Imaging and Printing Group, HP

Tara Bunch, VP of Global Customer Support Operations, Imaging and Printing Group, HP

Her example was how when a consumer complains about a product in an open community that allows anonymous postings, people tend to “pile on” a negative post complaining about any and all things related to the vendor or product. Rather than ignore these forums, HP tracks these external conversations and takes part when lots of activity occurs around an HP topic. Reaching out to frustrated customers in the forum with an offer of assistance usually stops the ‘piling on’ immediately, and typically there is a rush of customer posts afterwards complimenting HP for caring enough to monitor what people say about them. She also suspects they are receiving extra credit from younger customers for even knowing about these sites and caring enough to get involved.

Announcing the Spring 2009 Recognized Innovator Award Winners

May 5, 2009

This morning in my keynote address at our Technology Services World (TSW) event in Santa Clara, CA, I announced the winners of the Spring 2009 Recognized Innovator Awards. These awards are presented to partners of the AFSMI, SSPA, and TPSA for outstanding innovation; the categories for the awards change for each event. Winners are chosen by a panel of judges composed of association members, our industry alliance partners, and industry insiders.

Faced with an uncertain economy, AFSMI, SSPA and TPSA Research took a “back to basics” approach for the Spring 2009 Recognized Innovator Awards, identifying categories that enable operational and financial success for service and support operations. The Collaboration category looks for business value amid the Web 2.0 buzz; the Infrastructure category digs below functionality to identify how new and innovative technology platforms are contributing to success; the Revenue Generation category recognizes technology with a proven track record in boosting services revenue. Partners submitted applications, and for the first time, customer case studies showing real business value from the innovation was required. For more information on the categories, see this post.

TSW Registration Desk Opens: Workshops Underway

May 4, 2009

I am onsite at the Santa Clara Convention Center for our Spring Technology Services World (TSW) Conference, sequestered in a sunny room for member 1:1 meetings.  For all of you attending the event, I have several 1:1 slots still open so please sign up!  The official open of the event is 3pm today, but many members arrived early for professional development workshops and advisory board meetings.

Spring TSW 2009 Registration is OPEN!!!

Spring TSW 2009 Registration is OPEN!!!

I just spent a few minutes in Implementing Knowledge-Centered Support, a workshop led by longtime SSPA friend and partner, David Kay of DB Kay & Associates. Knowledge management is one of the perennial hot topics at TSW, and there are signs that this event is no exception.  In fact, the few member conversations I’ve already had today are about this topic.

David Kay's Knowledge Centered Support Workshop kicks off

David Kay's Knowledge Centered Support Workshop kicks off

One of the main KM themes this year, I predict, is the merging of service and support KM practices and higher level corporate KM practices.  I am seeing inquiries from members about the differences between corporate content management strategy and tech support knowledge strategy, and I know this can be a big political issue within companies that have a CIO who is closely engaged with KM/CM, or companies with titles like CKO: Corporate Knowledge Officer.

While there is definitely a lot of overlap and some best practices both sides can share, I would advise everyone to keep in mind that these two initiatives have different business goals, different tools, usually different processes, so support executives should not let corporate KM gurus intimidate you or force you to assimilate.  Stick to your guns. Shaving seconds off a phone call is not a goal of corporate CM/KM initiatives.  1-click content retrieval is not a use case requirement for corporate knowledge repositories. And most of all, corporate KM systems are not usually available to outside users, while support center KM tools are purchased and implemented with customer self-service in mind.

I’ll be trying to post frequently this week to highlight some of the great content from presentations and hallway conversations. If you are at TSW, please track me down and say hello, and please attend my keynote presentation tomorrow at 10:45am in which I will present findings from my 2009 Member Technology Survey, and present the winners for the Spring 2009 Recognized Innovator Awards.

Where the rubber meets the road: Putting innovative technology to work

April 24, 2009

Our Spring 2009 Technology Services World conference is just a week away, beginning Monday, May 4th at the Santa Clara Convention Center here in Silicon Valley. Recession be damned, we will have near 500 attendees at the event, and registrations are still coming in! Historically, many of our top attended sessions come from the “Innovative Service Technology” track, in which members present case studies of how they have leveraged innovative technology to achieve measurable business results. Members tell me they love these sessions because there is so much hype out there about ROI, and it great to hear real-world stories of how technology, wedded successfully with people and process, are driving improved service levels, lower costs and higher revenues.

To me, these sessions are so popular because they prove how taking a chance with leading-edge (and sometimes bleeding-edge) technology pays off. It is the ultimate example of where the rubber meets the road, and something positive happens.



Here are some of the sessions featured in this track for TSW: (more…)

Bay Area VC Funding Ignores Service and Support Innovation

December 2, 2008

When the Q3 2008 list of Bay Area/Silicon Valley venture capital (VC) funding was published recently, I read each entry line by line. I’ve done several reference calls with VCs over the last few months, and I was hoping to see that cool new technology for service and support was well represented on the list.

It wasn’t.

I wrote a piece of research about this, which just went live on the SSPA website today.  Here are some highlights:

With a high concentration of both VCs and early stage technology companies, Silicon Valley startups typically represent between one third and one half of the total allotment of VC funding to North American technology companies. To identify trends in technology innovation, the Q3 2008 VC investments in Silicon Valley were analyzed, with the following high level findings identified.


Think Strategic Service Partner, Not Outsourcer

November 17, 2008

The SSPA has historically not done a lot of research on outsourcing. This is definitely an area where we encourage SSPA members to collaborate and share best practices–we don’t pretend to have all the answers to the incredibly complex issues of what, where and how to outsource.  As a chief service executive from one of our largest members said, “We have 400 analysts whose full time job is analyzing outsourcing contracts and identifying best practices, and we still don’t have it figured out.”

I’m happy to announce that this Thursday at 9am PT I am moderating a webcast with SSPA member John Laino, Director of Enterprise Support Planning for NetApp, who is reprising his well attended and highly rated presentation from our recent Vegas conference, “How Strategic Support Partnerships Can Become Keys to Success for Technology Companies.” Click here to register!

I will be sharing what I’ve learned about successful outsourcing from speaking with SSPA member companies, for example: (more…)