Recognizing Innovation: IBM Cognitive Support

Service Innovation Profile: IBM Cognitive Support

Through the Service Innovation Series, ServiceXRG highlights examples of innovative approaches to achieve service excellence. In this Service Innovation profile, we feature IBM’s use of its own Watson technologies as a platform to deliver a new approach to service delivery – Cognitive Support.

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For decades service organizations have sought to find tools and methods to reduce the burden and subsequent costs associated with assisted support delivery. Service automation and self-help strategies have helped to offload some of the support burden from support staff. These approaches however have limits with industry average self-help success and deflection rates in the mid 20% range. There are clearly benefits to capture and share knowledge with customers, yet it is costly and time consuming to keep knowledge and self-help systems up-to-date with dynamic product lines and ever changing customer needs.

IBM’s approach to Cognitive Support is subtle and elegant. They have introduced an intelligence into the end-to-end support delivery process that can learn and evolve to “augment and scale human knowledge and expertise.” IBM staff do not need to retool the system every time a new product is released; the system does not rely on a formal knowledge management process to create customer-consumable content; and customers do not need to choose between self-help and assisted support. The Cognitive Support Platform is fully integrated into IBM’s existing support delivery process. It is designed to assist when it can and when it cannot it learns for future situations.

IBM has several advantages for adopting a cognitive approach. First, they own Watson, the foundation of their Cognitive Support Platform. Second, they have immense scale in support delivery and even small incremental gains can result in significant benefits. Early indications suggest that the Cognitive Support Platform will offer significant benefits to both IBM and customers. Customers get access to quality support with faster time to resolution. IBM gets more satisfied customers, significant cost efficiencies and the means to meet growing demand without breaking the bank.

Perhaps the most profound benefit for both customers and IBM is the ability to reallocate human subject matter experts to high value service delivery activities – beyond the realm of break-fix. The ability for IBM to focus more effort on helping customers apply and succeed with IBM technologies is a win for all. For all these reasons ServiceXRG finds that IBM’s cognitive support efforts are innovative and will lead to service delivery excellence.

Through the Service Innovation Series, ServiceXRG highlights examples of innovative approaches to achieve service excellence. Companies featured within the Service Innovation Series are selected by ServiceXRG and do not influence the observations and perspectives presented.

Is your company a service innovator or do you know of other companies that are? If you would like to be considered for a future Service Innovation Profile or know of a company that should be featured, please let us know. Send an e-mail to Innovation@servicexrg.com with a brief description of your ideas.

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How to Define and Measure Deflection

Deflection Defined

Deflection is the rate that automated and self-help resources satisfy service demand that would otherwise be handled by assisted service staff.  The average rate of case deflection within the technology industry is 23%. The attainable rate of deflection is highly dependent upon factors such as the maturity and complexity of a product, the skills of the users, and the quality of tools and content provided by the service provider.

It is easy to overstate the impact of self-help, community and service automation by equating its overall effectiveness with a direct impact on assisted support.  Many issues may be resolved through self-help and automated means yet not all are destined for or entitled to resolution through assisted support channels.  For a case to be deflected it must meet the following criteria:

 

  • The customer submitting the case must be entitled to assisted support.
  • An issue must be successfully resolved.
  • The customer submitting the case requires no further action from assisted support resources to validate or clarify the answer provided through self-help or automated means.

Measuring Deflection

ServiceXRG offers the following approach to measuring deflection.  Each of the inputs for the deflection calculation are described below.

How to Measure Deflection

Multiply the number of Self-Help Service Events by Entitled Customers for a specific period of time by the rate that these customers indicate success in finding an answer using self-help resources (Success Rate).  Multiply this by the percent of entitled customers that successfully found an answer and indicated an intent to request assisted support if required (Intent Rate).  Multiply this by the percent of entitled customers that successfully found an answer and indicated an intent to request assisted support if required and indicate that no further action is required to resolve this issue (No Further Action Rate).

Target Value
Deflection = Self-Help Service Events by Entitled Customers * Success Rate * Intent Rate * No Further Action Rate

Entitlement

For a case to be considered deflected it must be submitted by a customer entitled to receive assisted support.

A case cannot be deflected from assisted support if it is submitted by someone that is not entitled to receive support assistance. Including visitors that are not entitled to assisted support in your deflection calculation will overstate the impact of self-help on assisted support demand.

How to Measure Self-Help Service Events by Entitled Customers

Establish entitlement to assisted support.  To accomplish this, you will need to authenticate customers engage in a self-help event (e.g. support site and community visitors and those served through other automated means).  Only customers entitled to assisted support should be included in your deflection calculation.

Target Value
Self-Help Service Events by Entitled Customers = # of self-help and service automation events within a specific period of time for customers entitled to receive assisted support.

Success

For a case to be considered deflected it must be successfully resolved using self-help resources or through unassisted automated means. 

Visitors will come to a support community or portal for a variety of reasons.  They may come to view a discussion thread, read an article, browse documentation, view a video or download a file.  While the use of service resources is positive, these “service events” do not always equate to a successfully resolved customer issue. Customers indicate that on average they find useful information 70% of the time when visiting a support web site and 68% of the time when browsing support communities. Useful does not however translate in to complete and successful answers.

How to Measure Success Rate

Identify the rate that service events result in successfully resolved customer issues.  The best method for determining success is to ask customers directly.  Use on-site pop-up surveys, post transaction event surveys and questions embedded in service resources.  Unfortunately, customer response rates to these types of data collection methods can be low.  Nevertheless, customer feedback is essential to establishing the effectiveness of self-help resources and automated issue resolution tools.

Target Value
Success Rate = Rate that self-help and service automation events within a specific period of time are successfully resolved.

Intent

A deflection will occur when there is intent by a customer to seek assisted support to find an answer.

In situations where customers are “browsing” available support resources, but do not intend to seek support assistance, there is no opportunity to deflect from assisted support.  Including “browsers” (visitors with no intent to seek assisted support) in the deflection calculation will overstate the impact of deflection on assisted support.

How to Measure Intent Rate

Identify customer intent to request assisted support.  The best method for determining intent is to ask customers directly.  Use on-site pop-up surveys or post transaction event surveys to establish the reason for a community or support web site visit.  Determine if the customer intends to seek assisted support if the self-help event is unsuccessful.

Target Value
Intent Rate = Rate that entitled customers indicate that their reason for using self-help or service automation is a first step in problem resolution and intend to seek assisted support if necessary.

No Further Action

For a case to be deflected a customer must indicate that the answer found through self-help has completely resolved the issue and that no further action is required. 

Some customers may successfully receive the information they are looking for but may still request assisted support to verify the answer.  Customers that request assisted support to confirm the answer provided through self-help or automated means should not be included in the measure of deflection.

How to Measure No Further Action Rate

Determine if any further action is required to resolve a customer issue.  Use on-site pop-up surveys or post transaction event surveys to establish the if a customer sought assisted support to validate, clarify or confirm an answer received by an automated or self-help event.

Target Value
No Further Action Rate = Rate that self-help and service automation events within a specific period of time are successfully resolved and require no further action.

Implementing a Deflection Metric

Using an accurate measure of deflection is imperative for establishing the true impact self-help and service automation resources have on assisted support demand.  The inputs describe above are stringent, yet necessary.  If you require any assistance in defining and implementing a proper deflection metric please contact ServiceXRG for assistance.

Featured : Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management

As knowledge management initiatives take hold and mature, it is essential to conduct a formal cost – benefit analysis to determine the proper level of investment for knowledge management and define the expected return on this investment. Continued success will come from efforts to enhance content creation processes, employ enhanced technologies and deliver tangible business value by leveraging knowledge assets. This research report introduces an approach to measure the return from knowledge management initiatives.

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Where Customers Look for Support Information

Vendor web sites have become a secondary resource to general web searches when customers need help. Historically customers have rated the quality and effectiveness of information found on non-vendor web sites very low, but this trend has shifted with more customers indicting that the information they find through general web searches to be relevant to their needs and effective.

When customers find information on other – non-vendor sites, it diminishes a company’s ability to leverage the service interaction as a means to strengthen its relationship with customers. Without a concerted effort to expand and improve the quality, relevance and findability of the right services content through the support web site vendors risk losing the advantage they once had in retaining control of the on-line service experience.

Where Customers Go for Technical Support Information

Self-help Resources Most Frequently Used

Featured : Customer Perception and Expectations of Self-Help and Social-Support

Vendor web sites have become a secondary resource to general web searches when customers need help. Historically customers have rated the quality and effectiveness of information found on non-vendor web sites very low, but this trend has shifted with more customers indicting that the information they find through general web searches to be relevant to their needs and effective.

This study examines the expectations and perceptions of individuals that use self-help resources to resolve technical support issues.

 

 

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Please login to access this report. If you do not have an account, click on the button below to 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.

Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management

The single largest asset of a service organization is the collective experience and expertise of its staff.  It is the need to access this expertise that compels customers to initiate a service request. The successful response to a service request depends upon the efficiency by which the appropriate knowledge can be transferred to the customer.

Like the oil under the sands of the Middle East, knowledge assets wait to be extracted, refined, and leveraged.  Effective knowledge management – the processes to capture, enhance and reuse an organization’s experience and expertise – offers the means to optimize service efficiency and maximize customer success through effective knowledge transfer. Whether through live assistance or self-services, knowledge is the fuel that drives service efficiency, innovation, and customer success.

The Need for Cost-Benefit Validation

Knowledge management appears to make good business sense and has led to many formal and informal knowledge management initiatives.  Informal knowledge management initiatives have largely been possible due to the minimal investment required to get started and make meaningful progress.   Formal projects often require more investment and the accompanying business justification.

Informal knowledge management initiatives are effective at leveraging common knowledge to address frequently asked questions, yet they are not capable of maximizing the return on knowledge assets.  As awareness of the power of harnessing intellectual assets grows and demands on knowledge resources increase, there must be a concerted effort to invest in the tools, technologies and people to achieve sustainable knowledge management activities.

For knowledge management to yield maximum benefit the organization must properly fund and support the initiative.  The lack of support is the primary reason for the failure of knowledge management projects.   Under funding of knowledge management initiatives is due in part to the difficulty in quantifying the tangible business impact from the efforts to capture and reuse content.

As knowledge management initiatives take hold and mature, it is essential to conduct a formal cost – benefit analysis to determine the proper level of investment for knowledge management and define the expected return on this investment. Continued success will come from efforts to enhance content creation processes, employ enhanced technologies and deliver tangible business value by leveraging knowledge assets. This research report introduces an approach to measure the return from knowledge management initiatives.  This research report introduces an approach to measuring the return from knowledge management initiatives and examines the following topics:

  • Knowledge Management Success Defined
  • Establishing Goals and Objectives
  • Measuring the Impact of Knowledge Management
  • Establishing Key Metrics
  • Tangible Benefits
  • The Impact of Knowledge Management on Organizational Transformation
  • Identifying High Value Opportunities
  • Investing in The Future
  • Transitioning from Reactive to Proactive Support

For More Information

Check out the report titled: Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management

Shaping the Customer Experience (CX) with On-Line Support

The way we interact with customers directly affects the way they perceive us. When we are responsive, attentive, willing and able to provide the information or assistance they need, we increase the likelihood of providing a positive experience. When we are difficult to do business with, unable or unwilling to satisfy customers’ needs, indifferent, inept or rude, chances are the customer will have a bad experience. A satisfying customer experience is critical if we want to positively influence the way customers behave.

Positive Customer Experiences = Retention and Recurring Revenue

ServiceXRG finds that there is a direct correlation between a positive service experience and revenue – both direct and indirect.  Providing a satisfying customer experience is critical to positively influencing the way customers behave. Anything less — even if it’s just a neutral experience — is not sufficient to compel positive customer behavior.  Customers that have a positive experience are nearly four times more likely than customers with a neutral or negative experience to buy a product from the company that delivered the experience; five times more likely to recommend a company; and over five times more likely to renew an existing relationship (e.g., a service contract).

The Role of the Web

Web-based activities have become a significant factor in shaping customer experience and influencing the perceptions customers have about companies and their products.  The majority of on-line interactions are unassisted, where customers are encouraged to serve themselves.

As self-service transactions replace personal interactions, the ability to shape the customer experience depends on the on-line tools and content provided. Poor content or an unnavigable site quickly undermines a business’s ability to deliver a positive experience.

There is a profound difference between personal interactions and self-service transactions. The factors that influence the customer experience in personal interactions — an agent’s listening skills, empathy, knowledge, etc. — are replaced by an overriding factor: whether the customer is able to quickly find relevant information. In our effort to encourage customers to serve themselves, we have removed the human factor from the on-line experience. The burden for delivering a positive experience now lies with the tools and content we offer and their relevance in helping customers achieve their objectives.

High Stakes

On-line services provide a means for companies to continue to engage with their customers in a low-cost manner. However, self-service is not simply a means to save money: Each interaction is an opportunity to reinforce the relationship and sustain customer loyalty. Though there’s a significant temptation to undertake web-based services as a low-cost alternative to customer engagement through interactive channels, it must not come at the expense of delivering an experience that strengthens relationships with customers.

Companies have a lot at stake when they move interactions to the web.  Once on-line, their customers are just one Google search away from a variety of alternative sources of information and resources to help them satisfy their needs. Brand awareness and affinity can be undermined in an instant. Creating a positive customer experience has never been more important.  It’s also never been more challenging.

When customers actively seek assistance technology vendors are presented with an opportunity to satisfy the customer’s needs.  This in turn creates an opportunity to positively influence the customer’s perception of the technology vendor helping to create satisfied and loyal customers.  The alternative is that when a customer that needs help but does not get it, can be left with an issue that inhibits their ability to use the vendor’s product.  This lack of service can potentially diminish customers’ perception of that vendor.