Resolution Management – Tech Support’s Silver Bullet?

The more I study the tech support business, the more I realize that there is no Silver Bullet for tech support.  There is not “just one thing” that you can do that makes all things right, makes customers loyal, and makes your people happy.  The closest thing that I can find is an intense focus on Resolution Management and all of the elements contained within.  It just makes sense that if we can fix issues faster both customers and your people will be happier.  A strong commitment to resolving issues, as a top priority will ensure that everyone involved in the process is aligned.  But, this is not a simple task!  In fact, resolution management can be an all-consuming nightmare if it is not approached in the correct way.  Just have a look at my blog post, “Fifteen Factors that Affect First Call Resolution (FCR) in Tech Support” https://supportsense.wordpress.com/

For example, there is definite difference in your resolution management strategy based on the customers that you serve.  Enterprise hardware customers have opportunities to deploy box-to-box monitoring and troubleshooting tools that consumer hardware companies only dream about.  On the software side, consumer software companies typically deal with less sophisticated customers that can extend resolution times while more and more calls are rolling in.  But, enterprise software customers put immense pressure on their service providers to get complex issues resolved faster.  In each of these situations your resolution management strategy will be dependent on the type of customers you are supporting.

Hang on it gets worse; each “customer type” also brings a certain level of technical expertise to the resolution process.  For example, we would expect that enterprise customers would have very high levels of technical expertise, but this is not always the case. And, if you were servicing consumers then it would be anticipated that they would be somewhat technically challenged.  There seems to be a direct correlation between the technical expertise of your customers and the time it takes to resolve their issues.  The more technical they are, the more likely we are to resolve issues faster.

At this point it is probably a good idea to clarify a few things.  First of all, I am not using the term “customer problem”; instead I classify everything as a “customer issue”.  Although this may seem like a minor word choice there is actually a very big difference between problems and issues.  Our TSIA research tells us that most companies receive over 80% of their support requests for non-defect related issues.  These requests include assistance with installation and configuration, “how to” requests, and non-technical requests.  As you can see, it is difficult to classify these requests as “problems”.  For most of our members there is a very small number of product defects, limitations, and bugs.  Today, most customers call for service to find better ways to use your products and not because the product does not work.  It just makes sense that our resolution management strategy is in alignment with the issues reported.  What changes can you make to your service delivery process that will assist customers in being more successful using your products?  How can services ensure that customers get the absolute most from what they have already purchased and continue to purchase more?

As you continue to think about your overall resolution management strategy there is one area that needs to be considered from the start; how will you measure true resolve time?               The decision is a simple one; do you measure the time it takes to resolve issues using elapsed time or do you use work time?  Elapsed time is typically considered calendar time and measures the amount of days that a case has been first opened until it is closed.  On the other hand, work time only counts the actual effort put forth on this case regardless of the amount of time the case has been open.  As you can see, your resolution time will have drastic differences by using one measurement over the other.  For example, elapsed time could indicate that a case has been opened for 30 days but work time indicates that only 2 days of effort have been recorded.  Which measurement do you use?  Elapsed time is the simplest method but it does not tell us how much actual work we have completed on this particular case.  Work time shows the total resources dedicated to resolving an issue but it does not mean much to our customers.  As part of our resolution management strategy we must include both elapsed time and work time as key indicators of our ability to resolve customer issues.

Another important phenomena that we are seeing at TSIA research is the steady increase in the overall “resolve time” within our industry and a sharp decrease in our ability to resolve issues the first time we talk to customers (First Contact Resolution (FCR)).  So, why is this happening?  Why is resolve time increasing and FCR decreasing?  Why is it taking us longer to resolve all customer issues?  What is stopping us from resolving issues on first contact?  There are several unproven theories out there but one thing we know for sure is that the data does not lie.  It really is taking us longer to resolve issues!  Is this a result of the enormous complexity built into our own products and the environments where they reside?  Does this have anything to do with the people we hire, how we train, and the tools we provide?  The answer to all of these questions is probably “yes”.  In fact, it takes us longer to resolve customer issues, in part, due to all of these reasons stated above.  Our challenge is to understand how much each element of the resolution process affects the final outcome and what we can do to improve.  We need a plan, we need a roadmap, and we need a resolution management strategy to guide our efforts.

Building your resolution management strategy is not rocket science, it is simply a “plan of attack” to get you focused on one specific part of your business.  Get started by pulling your management team together and find a white board where you can document everything that affects your ability to resolve customer issues.  Start with a simple question; “What do we need to do to resolve issues faster?”  The object here is to expose those areas that are holding you back and limiting your overall effectiveness.  Some of these areas could be customer training, support rep skill levels, lack of tools, or lack of proper reporting.  Get to the root cause of each area and identify improvements that can be made in your processes and deliverables.  You will be surprised to find that some very simple changes will deliver substantial rewards.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS FOR DEVELOPING A RESOLUTION MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

  1. Focus all of your attention on just one thing; resolve time
  2. Understand your customers and assess their overall technical expertise.
  3. Evaluate your current data collection methods to ensure that you are measuring everything possible in and around resolve time.
  4. Develop new reports and measurements that provide a clear picture of all efforts to resolve customer issues.
  5. Learn what other companies are doing in their efforts to resolve customer issues faster.

The TSIA has been instrumental in raising awareness about industry-wide topics that our members are challenged with everyday.  The topic of “Resolution Management” is one of those areas where there has been no clear focus, no common terminology, and no industry standards established.  The TSIA has created a community of interest (COI) and started the dialog for this important area.  Please join the discussions at www.techservicesforum.com .  Just look for the discussion titled “Resolve time & FCR”.-

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One Response to “Resolution Management – Tech Support’s Silver Bullet?”

  1. Eric Harrington Says:

    I think it is taking longer to resolve issues because internal teams and departments are not collaborating effectively. Mainly because the teams are using their own tool set.

    Team collaboration really makes a difference. When one team can pass/share information with other teams – and allow everyone to maintain visibility from Open to Close, it makes this process so much easier. Support, Product Mgt, Engineering, Development all need to be on the same page when it comes to providing exceptional support to your customers.

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