Best Practices and Metrics for Assisted Support Delivery

Best Practices and Metrics for Assisted Support Delivery

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Best Practices and Metrics for Assisted Support Delivery

Making it easy for customers to get help depends upon the channels available to access support resources and request assistance. Many companies offer assistance by phone but there is a clear shift towards electronic channels.

Assisted Support

The time, effort, and costs required to provide assisted support make it imperative for companies to find ways to expedite issue resolution and bolster efforts to prevent issues.

Companies offer a variety of channels for customers to request assisted support. These include interactive channels like chat and phone, and passive methods such as e-mail, Support communities, and web case submission. Customers have embraced electronic channels and are relying less on assistance by phone.

Key Trends

  • 83.1% of companies offer both phone and electronic channels for support. Only 14.9% offer electronic-only support contact methods.
  • Support case submission by web-based form is the top channel used, followed by phone and e-mail.
  • Phone support use has declined by 8% as electronic channel use grows.
  • The use of chat has grown by 26% while use of e-mail has risen by 24%.
  • The reasons customers request support assistance are equally distributed across three primary categories of “How To,” “Bugs or Performance Issues,” and “Installation, Configuration, Setup.”
  • Most support interactions are reactive, although proactive engagement is on the rise.

Best Practices

From case open to closure, case management and resolution processes must be efficient and effective.

  • Apply structured data collection to assure that submitted cases are complete.
  • Encourage adoption of web-based case submission.
  • Apply intelligent automation to triage and routing of new cases.
  • Deflect as cases are created.
  • Collaborate.
  • Leverage case closure automation.
  • Completely document closed cases.
  • Trigger knowledge process upon case closure.

Key Metrics

It is important to track how your customers engage your Support organization as well as the types of issues they need help with. Consider using the following metrics and measures:

  • Cases by Channel
  • Assisted Issue by Types
  • Support Access Point

What more insights about assisted support best practices and metrics?

For insights about how support is changing and the opportunities and imperative for 2021 please review ServiceXRG’s latest study: Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics.  This report examines current trends in Support delivery and offers tangible guidance for Support, Success and Service professionals to meet growing expectations of both customers and company executives.

Download your copy now

Make a Plan to Optimize Assisted Support

ServiceXRG provides coaching and guidance to help companies optimize support performance and apply best practices.

Let’s make a plan to optimize support.

Contact ServiceXRG by chat or e-mail now or click on my calendar to set up an initial assessment of your Support planning needs.

Fresh, authoritative, actionable insights for Support leaders

Exclusive Research Report:

Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics

Download the ServiceXRG Support Transformation 2021 research report

The 2 Keys to Preventing Support Issues

The 2 Keys to Preventing Support Issues

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The 2 Keys to Preventing Support Issues

Our research has revealed that nearly a third (32%) of Support demand stems from questions related to either installation, configuration, or setup. This understanding gives companies an immense opportunity to reduce this demand—and we see two major keys to preventing Support issues on an ongoing basis.

Preventing Support issues starts with customer knowledge.

The more that your customers know, the more capable they are with your product, the less they will require Support. Therefore, we see the two keys to Support issue prevention as Onboarding and Training. It then follows that effective customer onboarding and training will require planning and action on the part of your organization.

The opportunity for greater Support issue prevention is very real: Currently, fewer than a third (28%) of companies have proactive engagement efforts in place to help prevent Support issues. What’s working for them?

Key #1: Onboarding

Proactive Support includes formal efforts to onboard customers with planning resources, as well as guidance and expert resources to assist with installation and configuration. Proactive Support is also triggered by remote monitoring, alerting, and product “call-home” features.

Formal onboarding allows companies to proactively engage customers before they need assisted support. Onboarding practices and resources may consist of digitally available “getting started” checklists, best practice guides, or self-paced training (“tech touch”). Onboarding may also include formalized planning, account management, and coaching with onboarding experts (“high touch”).

Key #2: Training

“How to” questions are another significant source of Support issues. Companies can head off such questions with formal efforts to help customers develop proficiency with their products. These efforts can include (but aren’t limited to) training, knowledge transfer, best practice guides, and coaching.

Be proactive, be early when it comes to preventing Support issues.

Companies that can help customers with formal onboarding and training programs in the early stages of new product adoption are best positioned to mitigate Support demand because:

  • They better equip customers to use the product(s) (and get maximum value) from the start.
  • They connect customers to the resources they need to resolve issues themselves.

Not only do proactive, early onboarding and training prevent more Support issues, they also contribute to Customer Success and increased customer lifetime value.

What more insights about onboarding and practice customer engagement practices? Download the research.

For insights about how support is changing—plus the most urgent opportunities and imperatives—download ServiceXRG’s latest study: Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics.  This report examines current trends in Support delivery and offers tangible guidance for Support, Success and Service professionals to meet growing expectations of both customers and company executives. Download your copy now.

Make a plan to get proactive

ServiceXRG provides coaching and guidance to help companies maximize customer value through better Support performance.

Contact us anytime to set up an initial assessment of your Support planning needs. Use the chat button at bottom right, send an e-mail, or click on my calendar to schedule a specific time.

 

Fresh, authoritative, actionable insights for Support leaders

Exclusive Research Report:

Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics

Download the ServiceXRG Support Transformation 2021 research report

Poor Support Case Management Practices = Missed Opportunities

Poor Support Case Management Practices = Missed Opportunities

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Poor Support Case Management Practices = Missed Opportunities

The time and effort to capture what is learned during the Support case management and resolution may seem untenable and an added cost that Support cannot afford. But the missed opportunities and long-term costs are far higher when insights from customer interactions are not fully documented and analyzed.

Support case management missed opportunity #1: incomplete case records

According to ServiceXRG’s new study on Support Practices and Metrics more than 90% of the time and effort spent on Support case management and resolution goes into issue determination and formulation of a response to the customer. As a result, this leaves little time for some of the most important actions necessary to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Support: advancing product quality and innovation and retaining and expanding customer relationships.

The study further finds that only two-thirds (67%) of companies formally document the circumstances of each case in their ticket management system. Even then, their compliance to completely fill in Support case record details is lower than 50%.

These incomplete Support case records diminish Support’s ability to identify root causes of support demand and plan mitigation efforts such as enhanced self-help, product improvements, and training.

Support case management missed opportunity #2: knowledge base neglect

Only 42%, of companies indicate that a knowledge base article is updated or created when a case is closed according to ServiceXRG’s research. The fact that a case was submitted by a customer indicates that there may be a need for information to possibly prevent future support cases from being submitted or help expedite resolution of a case by sharing knowledge among Support team members.

Turn around your missed opportunities with these Support case management best practices:

Apply structured data collection to assure that submitted cases are complete.

Leverage processes and tools to assure that new cases submitted include all information required to begin meaningful issue diagnosis and resolution. Use structured data collection tools such as web-based forms and conversational chatbots. Discourage use of unstructured case submission channels such as e-mail.

Encourage adoption of web-based case submission.

Electronic submission of new cases using structured web-based form is more conducive to automation. Create opportunities for customers to submit support cases through web forms and incent customer adoption of this channel by providing enhanced service levels or other incentives.

Completely document closed cases.

When cases are closed, assure that relevant data attributes and circumstances of the case have been captured.

What more insights about Support case management practice and metrics?

For insights about how support is changing—plus the most urgent opportunities and imperatives—download ServiceXRG’s latest study: Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics. It examines current trends in Support delivery and offers tangible guidance for Support, Success and Service professionals to meet growing expectations of both customers and company executives. Download your copy now.

Make your plan to optimize Support case management—we can help.

ServiceXRG provides coaching and guidance to help companies maximize customer value through better Support performance. Contact us anytime to set up an initial assessment of your Support planning needs. Use the chat button at bottom right, send an e-mail, or click on my calendar to schedule a specific time.

Fresh, authoritative, actionable insights for Support leaders

Exclusive Research Report:

Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics

Download the ServiceXRG Support Transformation 2021 research report

Optimizing Multi-Vendor Support Collaboration

Optimizing Multi-Vendor Support Collaboration

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Optimizing Multi-Vendor Support Collaboration

Today’s robust technology is made possible by the interoperability of many disparate technology products and components.  When something goes wrong it can be difficult to sort out which component is at fault and which vendor is needed to assist with the troubleshooting and resolution.

Customers expect vendors to cooperate to resolve issues. They grow frustrated when they are passed between vendors without a commitment to own, or a plan to address, their issues. This is why you need a strategy to optimize multi-vendor support collaboration.

What is Multi-Vendor Support?

Multi-vendor Support is a formal process involving two or more vendors that collaborate on the resolution of Support issues.  Multi-vendor Support collaboration may occur among original equipment manufacturer, software publishers, communications service providers, as-a-service providers, and others.

Survey Says, Multivendor Collaboration Pays Off

In a study conducted by ServiceXRG and TSANet of 78 technology service providers 7.2% of all support cases required multi-vendor collaboration to resolve an issue.  While this is a relatively small percent of cases overall, it adds up for companies that handle thousands of cases per month.  In the study we find:

Multi-vendor cases:

  • often require more time and effort resulting in higher costs to resolve.
  • are likely to contribute to higher levels of customer dissatisfaction.

Cases resolved through multi-vendor collaboration:

  • are resolved faster.
  • at a lower cost.
  • result in higher customer satisfaction.

Although not all cases will require cross-vendor collaboration, it is important to have a well-defined multi-vendor support strategy.

Challenges to Implementing Successful Multi-Vendor Support

The top challenges to implementing a successful multi-vendor Support capability include:

  • Informal collaboration obstructed by legal and data privacy requirements.
  • Most technology vendors have plenty of support cases to manage on their own without having to take on issues brought to them by other vendors.
  • Customers may not have cross-vendor support entitlements necessary for the level of assisted support required to resolve issues.
  • Limitations of systems and process to collaborate between vendors or track issue escalation and ownership.
  • Support staff may not be incented to seek multi-vendor collaboration – may be easier to refer the problem to another vendor and close the case.
  • The full extent of multi-vendor issues are not tracked, and positive/negative impacts are difficult to quantify.

Key Elements of a Multi-Vendor Support Strategy

To facilitate successful multi-vendor Support collaboration, companies should have:

  • An established legal framework to define the formal relationship between vendors to describe how work will be shared and how customer data will be managed and protected.
  • Formal collaboration paths and processes to describe the service levels for how multi-vendor issues will be identified, managed, and worked on.
  • Systems and tools to manage escalations and identify contributions to and ownership of multi-vendor cases.
  • Training to educate support staff on processes and procedures for handling multi-vendor issues to minimize customer frustration and set realistic customer experiences.
  • Defined metrics to indicate multi-vendor collaboration performance.

TSANet: A Multi-Vendor Technical Support Community

Establishing a formal, unified approach to multi-vendor Support is important for managing cross-vendor processes and assuring optimal customer outcomes. Companies may have partnership programs and cooperative technology agreements that include some provision for support collaboration. These agreements are seldom “owned” by Support and the terms and conditions for collaboration may be difficult to implement, enforce, or keep up to date.

Fortunately for the Support industry more than 750 companies have come together to form a multi-vendor technical support community​ through TSANet.

TSANet is a not-for-profit industry organization founded in 1993 to provide a common legal framework and technology platform to facilitate vendor collaboration.  TSANet is a member run community that offers the following capabilities to streamline multi-vendor support collaboration.

Standard Legal Framework

TSANet offers a standard legal framework to allow members to establish relationships. All TSANet members use this common standard Code of Conduct which contains the required legal language to engage in multi-vendor support collaboration including confidentiality. ​This removes the complexity of negotiation and maintaining separate legal agreements with all your support partners. The framework defines:

  • Support availability
  • Confidentiality
  • Service levels

TSANet Connect

TSANet Connect provides a standard user interface that provides a consistent method for collaborating with other members. The API-enabled architecture enables members to automate inbound ticket creation and to make new outbound requests for multi-vendor collaboration from within their existing ticking systems or from their collaboration platforms.

Multi-Vendor Best Practices and Continuous Improvement

TSANet is a community-led organization. Regional focus group in Europe, India, Australia, North America and Japan allow member organizations to share ideas and best practices and provide input to enhance the TSANet strategy.

Conclusions

Multi-vendor support collaboration is inevitable. Whether you have informal relationships with other vendors and partners or manage multiple one-to-one relationships, multi-vendor support collaboration is important yet can be difficult.

TSANet

If you do not have a multi-vendor strategy or are looking to streamline the way you cooperate with other companies, I encourage you to take a look at TSANet (www.tsanet.org).

Fresh, authoritative, actionable insights for Support leaders

Exclusive Research Report:

Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics

Download the ServiceXRG Support Transformation 2021 research report

Support Case Resolution: Are You Missing These 9 Best Practices?

Support Case Resolution: Are You Missing These 9 Best Practices?

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Support Case Resolution: Are You Missing These 9 Best Practices?

In a great many support organizations, case management remains labor-intensive and cost-heavy. Our research has shown that by and large, system and process deficiencies are to blame. Follow these 9 Support case resolution best practices to start bringing time- and cost-efficiency (plus increased customer value) to your operations.

Diagnosing issues in Support case management

Once the opportunity to prevent or deflect a case has passed, companies must respond with expert resources to diagnose and resolve customer issues. Yet case management is THE most costly and time-consuming Support process. Support leaders with P&L responsibility must therefore make all efforts to expedite all cases rapidly and effectively. It starts with a “look under the hood” to understand the challenge at a granular level:

Key trends in Support case management

Our most recent research into current Support challenges and practices revealed these telling trends:

  • More than half of companies continue to use in-house case management systems.
  • Nearly half (47%) of cases are submitted with insufficient information to begin meaningful diagnosis and resolution.
  • On average, each new case results in two additional interactions between Support and the customer.
  • Two-thirds of companies organize Support resources in tiers, with the remainder using a more collaborative, team-based approach.
  • 54% of cases on average are closed at first contact with the remainder requiring a “next step” to resolve cases.
  • More than a third (35%) of companies organize case resolution resources by team and will collaborate to resolve cases.
  • Companies report that collaboration has a positive impact on customer satisfaction and time to resolution.
  • Only two-thirds (67%) of companies formally document the circumstances of each case in their ticket management system.
  • Fewer than half of companies indicate that knowledge base articles are updated or created when a case is closed.

Clearly, these trends expose abundant opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and (of course) deliver customer satisfaction.

Consider these 9 Support case management best practices.

From case open to closure, case management and resolution processes must be efficient and effective. Our research suggests that applying these best practices can improve results in your Support organization.

  1. Apply structured data collection to assure that submitted cases are complete.
  2. Encourage adoption of web-based case submission.
  3. Apply intelligent automation to triage and routing of new cases.
  4. Deflect as cases are created.
  5. Collaborate.
  6. Leverage case closure automation.
  7. Completely document closed cases.
  8. Trigger knowledge process upon case closure.
  9. Apply these key metrics to track the impact of the above best practices.

I’ll say it again: Case management is the most costly and time-consuming Support process. And because you can’t improve what you don’t measure, It’s critical to monitor all aspects of case management to identify efficiencies and opportunities to reduce support demand. Consider using the following metrics and measures:

  • Case Submission Completeness
  • Customer Interactions Per Case
  • First Contact Resolution
  • Escalation Rate
  • Collaboration Rate
  • Time to Resolution
  • Total Effort to Resolve
  • Closed Case Record Completion Rate
  • New vs. Known Issues
  • Knowledge Action Rate

Want more insights about case management best practices and metrics? Download our research.

For insights about how support is changing—plus the most urgent opportunities and imperatives—download ServiceXRG’s latest study: Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics. It examines current trends in Support delivery and offers tangible guidance for Support, Success and Service professionals to meet growing expectations of both customers and company executives. Download your copy now.

Make your plan to optimize Support case management—we can help!

ServiceXRG provides coaching and guidance to help companies maximize customer value through better Support performance. Contact us anytime to set up an initial assessment of your Support planning needs. Use the chat button at bottom right, send an e-mail, or click on my calendar to schedule a specific time.

Our 2021 Support Demand Forecast

Our 2021 Support Demand Forecast

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Our 2021 Support Demand Forecast

How would you rate your visibility into future Support demand?  As you start the new year—AND as you navigate from Q1 through Q4 and into 2022, your understanding of how demand for Support will change is critical to planning, both short-term and long-term. Drawing from extensive research we recently conducted and published, here’s our 2021 Support demand forecast. Read on and see how it aligns with your perspective.

First, a quick look back at Support demand in 2020

Before we break down our 2021 Support demand forecast, we’d do well to take a quick look back (especially after a 2020 that no one could have forecast). From 2019 to 2020, overall Support demand grew by 10.6% across the technology services industry despite (or owing to) the global pandemic and disruption to normal business operational practices. Not every company experienced growth during this period: 11% of companies indicated a contraction in demand and 27% reported no change.

For companies that reported growing Support demand, the increase was attributed to adding more customers (60%), followed by higher user adoption of product features (50%) and more proactive outreach by Support (41%). This data tells us that companies that proactively engage customers and encourage product use and adoption will likely increase demand at a rate beyond what would normally be attributed only to adding more customers.

Change to Overall Support Demand 2019 to 2020

Higher Support Demand from More Proactive Engagement

2021 Support demand forecast (and looking beyond)

According to Gartner’s Worldwide IT Spending Forecast, the overall IT industry is forecast to grow by 4% in 2021, with some sectors of course projected to be stronger than others. From this statistic it’s a safe assertion that increases in Support demand will follow. However, we can also expect demand to vary at the individual company level based on:

  • The strength of new product sales
  • The intensity of proactive customer engagement and retention activities
  • Efforts to mitigate demand.

In other words, changes in support demand for individual companies will be influenced less by macro-IT spending trends and more by company-specific initiatives to drive new sales and retain existing customers.

Keeping all this in mind, the following chart suggests how support demand may change in 2021 and into 2022:

Support Demand Forecast

support demand

Factors that influence Support demand

The rise and fall of Support demand can reflect both positive and negative performance indicators for companies. Rising support demand from increased sales are likely to be considered positive while lower support demand resulting from high churn is a negative indicator. As you create your plan to address the dynamics of Support demand in your organization, we recommend that you consider the following factors:

High Support demand growth influencers

Factors that contribute to high growth in Support demand include:

  • Aggressive sales and marketing initiatives to bring on new customers
  • Changes to products that introduce more complex capabilities
  • Reduced product quality
  • Efforts to reduce churn and retain more customers
  • Initiatives to encourage customers to increase product adoption and use
  • Little to no effective efforts to prevent support demand or increase customer self-sufficiency

Sustained Support demand influencers

Factors that contribute to sustained Support demand include:

  • Moderate growth in customer base
  • Initiatives to reduce support demand through self-help, improved product quality, and enhanced customer training

Declining Support demand influencers

Factors that contribute to a reduction in Support demand include:

  • Loss of customers (churn)
  • Customer disengagement—they own the product but use it less.
  • Product performance and/or usability improvements
  • Efforts to build customer product proficiency
  • Effective self-help initiatives
  • Proactive and preventive care to reduce support issues

Conclusion and recommendations

While it is essential to understand how Support demand will change in the year ahead, leaders must always keep their fingers on the pulse of Support demand if they expect to remain prepared to respond to customer needs. Factors that influence support demand may be tied to specific Support initiatives or originate beyond the control of Support—that is, within Sales, Success, Marketing, or Product Development groups.

As you take on the necessary work of Support demand forecasting, consider the following recommendations:

  • Establish a realistic forecast for new Support demand based on Sales projections.
  • Examine your company’s product road map to identify any product changes that will increase customers’ need for Support.
  • Project the effect of Support and Customer Success initiatives that promote increased product use and adoption.
  • Forecast the effect of customer churn.
  • Forecast the effect of efforts to reduce or mitigate support demand through self-help and prevention initiatives.

Want to forecast Support demand more accurately? Download our research.

Are you ready for the challenges your Support organization will face in the year ahead?  Are you ready to capitalize on new opportunities?  How will you scale and transform Support?

For insights about how Support is changing and the opportunities and imperatives for 2021, download ServiceXRG’s latest study: Support Transformation: The Guide to Essential Practices and Metrics. It examines current trends in Support delivery and offers tangible guidance for Support, Success and Service professionals to meet growing expectations of both customers and company executives. Download your copy now.

Make your plan to meet the Support demand in your organization—we can help!

ServiceXRG provides coaching and guidance to help companies maximize customer value through better Support performance. Contact us anytime to set up an initial assessment of your Support planning needs. Use the chat button at bottom right, send an e-mail, or click on my calendar to schedule a specific time.

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