The use of deflection as a basis to justify investments in Self-Service fosters an expectation that it is only capable of reducing costs. The fact is that Self-Service delivers more tangible benefits that can strengthen relationships with customers and enhance Support’s ability to fulfill its primary mission to help customers use and apply products.
Beyond Self-Service Deflection
Deflection is a convenient indicator and well aligned to the desire to scale Support and reduce delivery costs. Deflection does not, however, inform about the impact of our Self-Services on strengthening customer relationships.
Why is the technology services industry obsessed with deflection and overly focused on cost reduction as a target benefit? This is due in part to the legacy of Support and the persistent belief that Support is a necessary evil and a costly burden to the company.
The reality is that Support accounts for the largest single touchpoint with customers and is the cornerstone of any strategy to retain customers.
Deflection does not need to be dropped as a metric. When considering future investments in Support — such as additional staffing or technologies to help scale delivery capacity — look at both the cost reduction and revenue potential.
Making Deflection Savings Real
When 20% of case demand is deflected from assisted support channels, it does not necessarily translate to actual savings until companies take action to reduce the cost of delivering support.
Few companies are likely to reduce Support headcount by 20% due to deflection. Companies may, however, curtail future Support staff expansion or reallocate some of the hours of existing staff to alternative activities. Deflection of case volume from assisted support channels is real, but the actual savings are seldom reflected in the accounting ledger. Actual savings can only be realized when action is taken to reduce the cost of delivering support.
How to Move Beyond Self-Service Deflection
It is time to move beyond the assumption that avoiding an assisted support interaction is an effective indicator of our ability to scale Support. We need to know with certainty that the knowledge, self-help, and automation we provide delivers the answers and insights customers need.
To move beyond deflection, we need to reassess the returns we expect from our investments in capturing and sharing knowledge to scale Support. We should focus on the following tenets of Support performance:
- Customers receive the information and insights they need to overcome an issue or defect and/or help installing, configuring, using, and applying your products.
- A quality answer is provided at the lowest possible cost.
- A quality answer is provided in the fastest possible time.
Although Self-Service is used widely across the industry, only 20% of companies cite it as a primary factor for reducing support demand. This suggests that even when Self-Service is offered, overall support demand does not decline, although the percent of support demand handled by support staff is likely to be reduced. This is not to suggest that Self-Service is not worthwhile. It cannot, however, be the only investment Support organizations make to reduce demand.