Top 11 Social Metrics for Support

Social media strategies introduce non-conventional opportunities to deliver Support. Instead of providing direct assisted services or self-help content, Support creates an environment for others within the community to provide the expertise to help other customers. As Support develops social channels it must consider how to measure the impact of these strategies relative to their pursuit of technical support excellence.

Top 11 Social Metrics for Support

Here are eleven social metrics for Support

1. Active Forums

The number of distinct sites where your products and service-related issues are discussed in an active and ongoing way.

May include your own discussion forums, or those hosted by third parties (e.g. product user groups, professional associations, publications, etc.).

2. Thread Density

The proportion of discussion threads that include topics directly related to your products or services.

Density may be as high as 100% if an active forum is dedicated to your product.

3. Customer Engagement

The percent of the customer base that actively uses the community.

This indicates the extent to which the entire installed base for a specific product line or brand uses a community (e.g. if individuals from 100 companies out of a total installed base of 1,000 companies use a forum the Customer Engagement rate is 10%).

4. Entitlement

The percent of customers that use the community that are also entitled to support (e.g. they are covered by an active support contract).

This is the percent of the “engaged customers” that are entitled to request assisted support.

5. High Severity

The extent to which topics of high/critical severity are discussed.

High Severity of 5% indicates that at least 5 percent of the discussions about your products relate to issues that impeded the user’s ability to successfully use a key product feature and/or to use the product to support a critical business function.  You can align this metric with your own severity level definitions.

6. Deflection

The rate that existing threads successfully resolve customer issues to the point where issues are resolved without engaging assisted support resources.

For a definition of deflection see the article titled: How to Define and Measure Deflection

7. New Issues

The rate that new topics related to your products are being discussed but have not been previously reported to Support.

If 20% of issues discussed through the community are unfamiliar and no solution has been developed the “New Issue” rate is 20%.

8. Resolved by Known

The rate that topics discussed within the community are resolved by a “known” answer.

If 30% of issues discussed through the community can be resolved by a previously documented answer to an issue from the knowledge base or other discussion thread, then the “Known Issue Rate” rate is 30%.

9. Knowledge Overlap

The extent to which topics discussed within a community are currently covered within the knowledge base.

Like the “known rate”, knowledge overlap indicates the rate that issues discussed within the community could (or should) be answered by existing knowledge base articles.

10. Knowledge Gap

The extent to which topics discussed within the community are not covered within the knowledge base.

Like the “new issue rate”, knowledge gap indicates the rate that issues discussed within the community cannot be answered by existing knowledge base articles.

11. Sentiment

The general tone of the active forum as it relates to customer / user feelings about your products and services.

A sentiment score is typically calculated by using a text analytics tool designed to extract customer “feelings” from the text of a community post.

Featured: Social Media - Implications and Opportunities for Service and Support

Social media’s ability to empower consumers by giving them the voice to discuss their problems and perceptions publicly has dramatically shifted the business/customer relationship. Companies need a strategy to engage socially with customers. Service and support organizations should view social media as a platform to gain insights about the issues, questions, and perceptions customers have about their products.  If you don’t have a Social Media strategy for Support, it’s time. It’s better to start small than not start at all.  This perspective describes the reasons why business, and particularly service and Support organizations, must embrace a social media strategy.

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*Membership level determines your access to ServiceXRG research and other member services. Paid memberships include access to research and playbooks. Free memberships include access to some reports and discounts to others. Please visit our membership page for a list of available membership programs.

Related Articles

Top 11 Social Metrics for Support

Social media strategies introduce non-conventional opportunities to deliver Support. Instead of providing direct assisted services or self-help content, Support creates an environment for others within the community to provide the expertise to help other customers. As Support develops social channels it must consider how to measure the impact of these strategies relative to their pursuit of technical support excellence.

read more

Top 10 Social Practices for Support

Social media’s ability to empower consumers by giving them the voice to discuss their problems and perceptions publicly has dramatically shifted the business/customer relationship. Companies need a strategy to engage socially with customers. Service and support organizations should view social media as a platform to gain insights about the issues, questions, and perceptions customers have about their products. If you don’t have a Social Media strategy for Support, it’s time. It’s better to start small than not start at all.

read more

Where Customers Look for Support Information

More than two-thirds of customers indicate that they attempt to help themselves when they need technical assistance. A general web search (e.g. Google or Bing) is the most likely first action customers take when attempting to resolve technical support issues on their own. In general customers find good information and are reasonably satisfied with their results.  This ServiceXRG study examines the expectations and perceptions of 588 individuals that use self-help resources to resolve technical support issues.

read more

Top 10 Social Practices for Support

Social media’s ability to empower consumers by giving them the voice to discuss their problems and perceptions publicly has dramatically shifted the business/customer relationship. Companies need a strategy to engage socially with customers. Service and support organizations should view social media as a platform to gain insights about the issues, questions, and perceptions customers have about their products. If you don’t have a Social Media strategy for Support, it’s time. It’s better to start small than not start at all.

Top 10 Social Practices for Support

Here are ten social practices for Support

1

Identify the communities – not hosted by you – where customers are talking about and seeking help with your products.

2

Establish communities and forums so that your customers can engage with like-minded users of your products.

3

Monitor the topics of conversation to determine what your customers need help with and are interested in.

4

Actively promote the existence of communities to customers and incent participation.

5

Measure the impact communities have on expanding customer engagement.

6

Develop and incent community “champions” to sustain activity through new thread creation, moderation and responses to inactive threads.

7

Evaluate the topics discussed and determine the extent to which these topics are new or familiar and documented within the support knowledge base.

8

Measure the rate that cases are resolved within the communities that may otherwise have been directed to assisted support channels (e.g. Deflection).

9

Provide the means for entitled customers to escalate issues from forums with service levels comparable to established assisted channels.

10

Establish the impact that active community engagement has on customer satisfaction, retention, and revenue generation.

 

Featured: Social Media - Implications and Opportunities for Service and Support

Social media’s ability to empower consumers by giving them the voice to discuss their problems and perceptions publicly has dramatically shifted the business/customer relationship. Companies need a strategy to engage socially with customers. Service and support organizations should view social media as a platform to gain insights about the issues, questions, and perceptions customers have about their products.  If you don’t have a Social Media strategy for Support, it’s time. It’s better to start small than not start at all.  This perspective describes the reasons why business, and particularly service and Support organizations, must embrace a social media strategy.

This report is FREE – Log-in to get your copy.

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If you don’t have an account, create a free* membership.

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*Membership level determines your access to ServiceXRG research and other member services. Paid memberships include access to research and playbooks. Free memberships include access to some reports and discounts to others. Please visit our membership page for a list of available membership programs.

Related Articles

Top 11 Social Metrics for Support

Social media strategies introduce non-conventional opportunities to deliver Support. Instead of providing direct assisted services or self-help content, Support creates an environment for others within the community to provide the expertise to help other customers. As Support develops social channels it must consider how to measure the impact of these strategies relative to their pursuit of technical support excellence.

read more

Top 10 Social Practices for Support

Social media’s ability to empower consumers by giving them the voice to discuss their problems and perceptions publicly has dramatically shifted the business/customer relationship. Companies need a strategy to engage socially with customers. Service and support organizations should view social media as a platform to gain insights about the issues, questions, and perceptions customers have about their products. If you don’t have a Social Media strategy for Support, it’s time. It’s better to start small than not start at all.

read more

Where Customers Look for Support Information

More than two-thirds of customers indicate that they attempt to help themselves when they need technical assistance. A general web search (e.g. Google or Bing) is the most likely first action customers take when attempting to resolve technical support issues on their own. In general customers find good information and are reasonably satisfied with their results.  This ServiceXRG study examines the expectations and perceptions of 588 individuals that use self-help resources to resolve technical support issues.

read more

Understanding the Differences Between Technical Support and Customer Success

As we look to embrace Customer Success it is imperative that we have a shared understanding about what Customer Success is and is not. All too often we find examples of Customer Success initiatives that involve little more than changing the name of the Support department or adding a few new roles to focus on success-related activities.

Every step towards a Customer Success-oriented approach is positive, but if we truly want to pursue Customer Success, we need to understand what it is and why it is different from traditional Technical Support models.

The Journey to Customer Success

The term Customer Success seems to permeate the technology industry with nearly every company engaged in some type of success initiative.  The focus and awareness of Customer Success is timely and refreshing.  I don’t mean to imply that technology companies have not been focused on making customers successful in the past, but this emphasis on Customer Success creates a new level of awareness and commitment to truly impacting customers’ ability to derive benefits from technology.  Customer Success has profound implications for the ways that companies engage, serve, and retain customers.

Customer Success – Functions vs. Philosophy

It is important to distinguish between customer success-focused activities (functions) and Customer Success as operating model (philosophy).  Support and many customer-facing departments have been engaged in success-focused practices long before we started labeling them as Customer Success.  Today, perhaps we label too many things as Customer Success.

By instituting Customer Success functions (onboarding, driving adoption, customer health indexing, success management, etc.)  within Support, we do not necessarily achieve a customer success-focused way of conducting business. True Customer Success requires transformation and cooperation across many departments and introduces new ways to define and measure business performance.

The Customer Success – Spectrum

We need to recognize that there are variations of Customer Success. Customer Success has specific functions, roles, and ways of conducting business.  If you embrace one or even a few customer-success focused activities, or have roles with Customer Success in the title, it does not mean that you have fully embraced Customer Success. I have defined three distinct stages in the “success – spectrum.”  See the descriptions and comparisons below to determine where you are in your journey to Customer Success.

Technical Support

Traditional Technical Support functions focused on issue resolution and answering how-to questions primarily in response to customer questions.

Success Enable Support

Introduction of success-focused roles such as Customer Success Managers and adoption of success practices such as onboarding, health assessments, journey mapping and success planning. Introduction of proactive customer engagement.

Customer Success

Cross-functional cooperation or organizational alignment primarily focused on customer engagement and proactive service delivery. Primary business objective is to retain and grow relationship value.

Technical Support – A Cornerstone of the Customer Relationship

Technical Support is a practice that seems to be as old as the technology industry itself.  For many companies the Support department is the primary interface with customers after the initial sale.  The mission of Support is to be there for the customer when they needed help, but not necessarily to engage customers proactively to assure that they can use and apply their applications.  Once again, this is not to suggest that companies or Support organizations are not committed to helping customers succeed – some of the most committed and customer-centric people in the technology industry can be found within Support.  The fact is that traditional Support organizations typically do not have a mandate nor the resources to fully drive Customer Success outcomes.

Success Enabled Support – A Hybrid Approach

Somewhere between a traditional Technical Support organization and a full-fledge Customer Success initiative is a hybrid model that introduces success-focused practices and resources into Support. Success Enabled Support include success-focused roles such as customer success managers, onboarding and adoption specialists, and retention, renewal and upsell experts. Practices include formal onboarding, efforts to drive adoption and plans to define and drive successful outcomes (success plans and journey maps).

These success-focused resources and activities are a quantum leap towards Customer Success. Yet, they are often contained within siloed organizational structures or lack full organizational commitment and governance to truly drive an enterprise-wide coordination to maximize retention and relationship growth.

Customer Success – A Business Model

Customer Success is a strategy to maximize customer retention and create opportunities for revenue expansion within the customer base. It is not simply an organizational structure, function, process, team, or job description – Customer Success is a customer engagement and retention philosophy. It should be seen as a way of doing business that transcends all aspects of a company from the way it develops products to the way it sustains and expands customer relationships.

Customer Success is predicated on the understanding that a significant portion of revenue and growth comes from existing customer relationships and that for technology vendors to grow relationship value their customers must be able to apply and succeed with the products they have purchased.

Customer Success is a critical methodology for companies that depend on recurring revenues from license, maintenance, and other service subscriptions.  Customer Success is not however just for companies that sell products as-a-Service.  Companies that sell perpetual software licenses, equipment and devices can benefit from Customer Success to drive product adoption and to assure maintenance contract renewals.

Technical Support vs. Customer Success – Key Differences

The following table highlights some of the key distinctions between traditional Technical Support, Success Enabled Support, and all-in Customer Success business models.

 

Technical Support

Success Enabled Support

Customer Success

Primary Objective

Resolve product-related issues, answer “how-to” questions.

Help customers adopt and succeed with products.

Cross-functional approach to engaging, retaining, and expanding customer relationship value by helping customers to use and succeed with products.

Target Audience

Customers that are entitled to and request Support through warranty or service contract.

Targeted segments of the customer base (e.g. top tier accounts or customers that purchase a specific product or service type).

Customers that purchase renewable products and services, and/or buy specific success plans.

Entitlement Program

Support portfolio.

Success plan or add-on.

Success plan, add-on, or included with product purchase.

Monetization

Support fees.

Add-on fees for customer success programs.

Success program fees and subsidies from product revenue, retention, and growth.

Organizational Model

Stand-alone Technical Support organization.

Distinct team of customer success-focused resources within Support department. Some coordination and cooperation with other customer facing teams.

Cooperation across functional roles (Sales, Professional Services, Education, Support) organized by matrix or reporting structure.

Primary Functions

Cases resolution.

Onboarding, drive adoption, success planning, customer health monitoring, retention.

Onboarding, drive adoption, success planning, customer health monitoring, retention, revenue expansion.

Success Metrics

Time to Resolve (TTR), First Contact Resolution (FCR), Cost per case, Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer satisfaction.

Process execution: Rate of adoption, success plan execution, retention, renewal rates.

Customer retention, revenue growth rate (Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) / Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), renewal, growth)

Service Levels

Service levels and terms defined by support contract.

Defined by success plan terms or triggering events (e.g. customer health).

Ongoing touch points throughout the relationship or triggering events (e.g. customer health).

Service Delivery

Reactive, customer initiated.

Proactive, often triggered by customer milestones or events.

Proactive, often triggered by customer milestones or events.

Retention

Emphasis on contract renewal, typically the responsibility of another group.

Emphasis on recurring revenue renewal, guided by CSM team, booking often responsibility of another group.

Emphasis on recurring revenue renewal, coordinated by cross-functional success team equally accountable for retention/renewal/growth.

Growth

Possible add-on upsell, typically the responsibility of other group.

Opportunity identification because of customer engagement. Booking often responsibility of another group.

Opportunity identification because of customer engagement. Cross-functional success team equally accountable for retention and growth.

The Journey to Customer Success

The journey to Customer Success may not require the full transformation to an entirely new way of conducting business, organizing resources, or measuring business performance.  Adopting some success-focus activities and creating success roles may be adequate for your business.  For companies that depend upon recurring revenues, customer retention and relationship growth are paramount, and a true Customer Success operating mode is an effective strategy.  Be honest about where you are in your journey and what approach to Customer Success is appropriate to your business.  Be careful not to overstate where you are in your journey if you have farther to go.

Featured: The Journey to Customer Success

The journey from Technical Support to Customer Success requires more than a name change or the addition of a team of Customer Success Managers. To fully embrace Customer Success, Support must rethink its role and adopt new ways to engage, retain and grow customer relationships. This Playbook provides a guided journey across four key milestones to help you define essential Customer Success capabilities.

This Playbook is FREE – Register or Log-in to download your copy.

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Three Organizational Models to Describe How Sales and Support Can Cooperate

Sales and support staff often work with the same customer accounts, but not always in coordinated and cooperative ways.

How Sales and Support Cooperate

ServiceXRG has identified three organizational models to describe how sales and support can cooperate.

Sales and Support Independent Operation

Technical resources exist within both Sales and Service organizations. Technical resources operate independently from one another with objectives that are not typically coordinated and may conflict (e.g. Sales provides services otherwise entitled through a service contract).

Sales and Support Cooperation

Technical resources from Sales and Service are organized within a single customer facing organization or are aligned by similar or common engagement polices and performance metrics.  Coordinated customer engagement for larger accounts is common.

Sales and Support Coordination

Customer facing technical resources exist within a single department with coordinated responsibilities for both pre-sales and post sales technical engagement. Skills specialization may exist, but account engagement is coordinated, and all touchpoints are aligned to meet common performance objectives.

Recommendations

  • Select an organizational structure that can deliver an efficient and effective customer experience across the entire product ownership lifecycle.
  • Create a bench of technical resources that can be deployed to both pre and post-sales activities. This may include a “team” of Sales Engineers and Support Experts.
  • Coordinate account management across Support and Sales functions.
  • Established shared goals and objectives that transcend Support and Sales teams.
  • Make certain that everyone is incented to retain and expand customer relationship value.
  • Create training and career advancement opportunities that span Sales and Service functions.

Featured: The Transformation of the Service Organization

ServiceXRG examines the current state of service organizations and the forces at work that are driving organizational transformation. This study reveals how the isolated service silos of the past need to evolve into unified entities to drive Customer Success.

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The Demand for Your Support is Larger than you Expect

The demand for support by your customers may be far greater than current transaction levels suggest. ServiceXRG illustrates the potential unmet support demand by customers and suggests why responding to this demand is important but will likely increase assisted support demand.

Unmet Support Demand

There is a significant unmet need for support.  This is a potentially daunting scenario.  Imagine that customer demand for support would grow by over 100%.  Perhaps the more important consideration is the impact that lack of support will have on customers’ likelihood to remain customers.   

An unmet service need can result in a customer defecting to another product or situations where they stop using your product.  Both scenarios will impact the potential for retention, churn and recurring revenue.

This chart signifies an opportunity for technology vendors to provide more value to more customers through self-help and automated service interaction.  It is cost prohibitive to provide these extended services though assisted means, thus the web and mobile channels offer the best way to interact with more customers and positively influence their perceptions and encourage positive behaviors such as writing positive reviews, new purchases and continuation of existing relationships.

Support Demand vs. Support Need

Recommendations

Ask yourself, are all of your customers getting the help they need?  Are they getting this help from you, through Google searches, or not at all?  Consider the following:

How many customers use your self-help resources but do not seek live assistance?

  • Compare self-help service demand to assisted support.
  • Determine if customers get the answers they need through self-help.
  • Conduct a survey after self-help transactions to establish how effective self-help resources are.
  • Read Where Customers Look for Support Information (hint: it may not be from you).

What are you customers “talking about” on social platforms and communities – yours and other public forums? 

  • Ask customers if they are getting the rights answers.
  • Make certain customers know how to get support directly from you.

Do you conduct relationship surveys with customers (e.g. not post transaction surveys)? 

  • Establish how many customers need help with your products.
  • Determine how many customers seek assistance directly from your services group.
  • Does the expressed customer need match current demand?

How many active customers do you have (e.g. how many products have you sold in the past year, 2 years, 3 years, etc.)? 

  • Establish the size of your installed base.
  • Determine the percent of customer covered by a service contract.
  • Establish what percent of the total installed base you hear from.

Do you have a high churn rate? 

  • Conduct win-loss analysis to establish why you lose customers.
  • Determine if top churn issues are related to product usability.
  • Identify if/how support could lower churn rates by providing needed assistance.

Bottom Line

You have customers that need help but are not asking you directly.  When customers are in distress with your product but not getting the help they need you risk of losing them.

Yes, you have a full plate handling the customers that do seek assistance.  However, you need to engage the customers that need help, but do not ask for it.  If you don’t you will lose them. Customer onboarding, adoption, retention and other customer success related activities will likely increase support demand but lower churn – be prepared.

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Bad Attach?  Is There Such a Thing?

Bad Attach? Is There Such a Thing?

If you only care about the first-year revenue from support and maintenance contracts, then any attach is a good attach. If you want to maximize revenue from the Support, then contract attach followed by a successful renewal is essential.

The Relationship Between the Initial Attach and Successful Renewals

Attach Rate measures the effectiveness of new support contract sales activities (direct or through partners) by reporting the extent to which a support contract, beyond what is included with the product, has been sold as part of a new product sale.  When you sell a new product, you expect to attach a support or extended warranty contract.  It seems intuitive to assume that it is a good thing when you sell support with a new product.

It is likely that mixed in with those newly attached support contracts are several that are at risk from the start.  What puts these support contracts at risk is the way that they were attached.  When customers unknowingly buy support with a product, or reluctantly buy support to gain greater terms on the initial product purchase (e.g. a discount or promotion) they are immediately at risk of not renewing.

The good news is that you get the first year of maintenance revenue, the bad news is that you may not get the benefit of the annuity from year after year renewals.  In most cases bad attach can be avoided.  The first step to minimizing bad attach is to recognize if you have Support sales practices that lead to it.

Signs of Bad Attach

Customers are incented with steep product discounts if they buy support.

  • Sales promotions offer attractive deals on products but require automatic attach of support.
  • It is a common practice to include support without any effort to explain the benefits to customers.
  • Support is compulsory.
  • First year renewal price is adjusted upwards to make up for initial discounts due to pricing tied to product net price.

All these scenarios share something in common – the benefits of support were not sold and justified to the customer at the time of initial attach.  When customers do not understand the benefits of support, or worse, don’t know that they have support, they are likely to question its value when the renewal notice arrives.

How to Avoid Bad Attach

  • Make sure that customers understand that they are purchasing support – don’t try to hide it, they will figure it out upon renewal.
  • Always convey the benefits of support at time of sale.
  • Avoid discounts to support, especially if the discount is for the first year only.
  • Be aware of sales promotions that will attach support even when customers do not want it – you will get the attach but not the renewal.

If you only care about the first-year revenue from support and maintenance contracts, then any attach is a good attach.  If you want to maximize revenue from the Support, then contract attach followed by a successful renewal is essential.

Featured: Selling Service Value

Selling services demands that you establish a credible and compelling value proposition. To be compelling, the benefits must exceed the cost. This playbook describes the essential steps to develop a compelling value proposition to maximize support sales and renewal activities. Log-in to get your copy.

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*Membership level determines your access to ServiceXRG research and other member services. Paid memberships include access to research and playbooks. Free memberships include access to some reports and discounts to others. Please visit our membership page for a list of available membership programs.

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