According to the HDI 2015 Support Center Practices & Salary Report, self-service is one of the top five technologies required to provide successful end-user support. Self-service gives users the ability to solve their own issues without seeking assisted support. Often this is done through a user-facing knowledge base.
To be clear, a knowledge base doesn’t have to consist only of written articles; it may contain how-to videos and links to diagnostic tools, for example. In any case, the information facing the user must be not only searchable, but findable—that is, it must be either tagged or key-worded such that a customer or end user can easily find what they are looking for using their own language. Contemporary customers highly value being able to help themselves, and support centers are wise to create ways for them to do that, quickly and easily.
The ability for the unassisted customer or user to solve their own problems (known as Tier 0 or Level 0 support) does have effects on the traditional measurements used in support centers, however. As Tier 0 usage goes up, management needs to understand what those effects will be.
Complex solutions and those requiring elevated permissions are not good candidates for unassisted support. Simpler, repeatable solutions are the best candidates. Password reset is a prime example. The particulars of setting up successful unassisted support are for another post, but let’s look at the consequences of having done it, from the standpoint of metrics.
First Consequence: Lower FCRR
One of the primary goals of unassisted support is to reduce the number and frequency of simple, repetitive contacts to the support center. Remember, though, that prime candidates for first contact or first call resolution are simple, repetitive contacts. This means that, if your Tier 0 is successful, your first call/contact resolution rate (FCRR) will drop significantly because your analysts are responding to more complex issues. If you’ve touted the value of your desk as having high FCRR, you will look bad if you haven’t adequately communicated the reasons for this change to those who receive your metrics reports.
Second Consequence: Longer Handle Time
If the simplest and best known solutions are out of your contact stream and into Tier 0, it’s obvious that the contacts you are getting will require more problem-solving and more research. Thus, your average handle time (AHT) is very likely to go up, right across all assisted channels. Your average handle time will likely reflect what your longest handle times have been in the past. Let’s take a quick look at what the effects of this might be.
According to the HDI 2015 Support Center Practices & Salary Report, the median of industry AHT is 8 to 10 minutes for phone. Let’s say you received 5,000 calls last month, with an AHT of 10 minutes. That’s 50,000 minutes of work for your analysts. Since each analyst can handle roughly 390 minutes of calls per day (8 hours total, minus breaks, lunch, meetings, etc.), or about 7,800 minutes per month, it would take 7 analysts to handle the volume:
50,000 ÷ 7,800 = 6.4
Now that your call volume has gone down because of your excellent Tier 0 setup, you only receive 3,000 calls in a month, a drop of 40 percent. The AHT, however, is now (let’s say) 18 minutes. You now have 54,000 minutes of work, requiring the same 7 analysts:
54,000 ÷ 7,800 = 6.9
The increased complexity of the average call will also mean that your analysts will need more training and documentation to raise their ability to resolve the customer issues. Be aware that, at least in the short term, your Tier 0 support will probably not save you money.
In the short term, your Tier 0 support will probably not save you money.
Remember, however, that the more easily findable content and ability you put into Tier 0, the fewer contacts you will be receiving. You will hit a break-even point rapidly if you continue to work at making it easier for the customer.
Third Consequence: Speed to Answer and Queue Time
This is easy to see: If your analysts are taking longer to resolve, chances are they are not getting back into a ready state for the next call or contact as quickly. Speed to answer is likely to lengthen, and as a result, more customers will be queued. This may also push your abandon rate upward. This situation will most likely will be temporary, but may be looked on as a performance dip if management and customers don’t expect it.
Set the Goals Carefully
With these metrics changes in mind, begin or continue your journey to better unassisted support with the primary goal of decreasing the time your customers or users have to spend getting solutions. The goal should not be making it easier or less expensive for you.
Remember to set realistic expectations for management. The metrics they review might not appear to change in your favor. You’ll need to educate them about the significance of any changes.
Monitor customer reactions to your Tier 0 support carefully. Look at the volume of contacts you receive (it should go down) and the number of times each article, video, or file is accessed in your Tier 0 system. Ask your customers how it’s working for them; don’t rely on survey feedback alone.
Roy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.