“Time is money.” —proverb
There’s a flaw in that proverb. Money and time have a crucial difference: You can earn more money. You cannot earn more time; once it is spent, it’s gone.
For years, internal support centers have been seeking to optimize their operations from the perspective of money spent by the organization on providing support. We sought to lower the costs by deflecting calls and contacts, providing self-help, and so on. These are worthy goals. The organization should be mindful of its expenditures, and good support costs a good deal of money.
But we were looking at only part of the story. When support saves money by providing self-service—even if it is an excellent self-service system—the customer winds up spending money because the end users are spending time seeking solutions when they could be contributing to the organization’s revenue in one way or another. We have not been doing away with work, we have merely been shifting it.
We can show how much money we saved by lowering our call volume. It’s very difficult to find out how much the broader organization spends when we use call deflection as a measure of success. In an article for SupportWorld a couple of years ago, Steve Hultquist reminded us that the easy metrics are often not the ones that show real value.
The support center doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is part of your company or institution. It is part of a system that should be optimized to efficiently deliver value to its customers. Whatever we choose to call this system—and value stream is currently a popular term—it is a whole, and concentrating our optimization efforts on one part of it may cause more problems than it solves. (If this topic interests you, I strongly recommend reading The Goal and the IT-oriented The Phoenix Project.)
The support center doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is part of your company or institution.
A few salient points about optimizing the system and really lowering costs:
- Use problem management to find and eliminate root causes, thus minimizing the triggers for support contacts
- Provide great knowledge tools to your analysts, making it easier and faster to find the correct solutions
- If you build self-help, it must be very good and easy for the customer to use
- Work with peers in other business units to see how best to provide efficient and effective support
You are a part of the whole, and a very important one. Keep the time your customers spend seeking to remediate issues to a minimum.
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.