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Consortium for Service Innovation

Demand Based View of Support

Traditionally we have looked at support activity from the perspective of the volume of requests (cases, incidents, trouble tickets) entering the support center. The major challenge in traditional support has been managing the cost of providing timely, accurate answers to these issues being reported by the customer.  This is a reactive view of the customer experience, and captures only a small fraction of the actual customer demand. 


As we have moved to providing information about known issues to customers via web based self-help, there is a growing awareness of additional customer demand for support that is being satisfied through the web. These are issues for which customers would not request assistance from the support center.  A good website will serve pent-up customer demand and in many instances provide customers with proactive or preemptive support. In addition, many companies are seeing considerable activity in user communities – users asking and answering questions of and for each other. If we approximate the support demand being satisfied on the web and in communities, we find that the support center sees a extremely small percentage of the total customer demand.

Assessments by Consortium member companies indicate that total demand for support far exceeds the demand seen in the support center: less than 5% of total demand is seen in the support center while 95% occurs on the web or in user communities.

The indirect support model?

As web based self-help and online communities become more effective, the majority of the customer support experience is no longer an interaction with our support people. Instead, the customer's support experience is increasingly defined by their interactions in the online user communities or forums, web based self-help and help features integrated into the products. 

Assertions about the landscape

  • Customer loyalty is the differentiator
  • The customers’ service and support experience is a primary driver of customer loyalty and sustainable customer relationships 
  • Service excellence is the ability to respond to unanticipated needs in ways that contribute to customer success
  • Two support models are at play; direct and indirect.
  • Direct is person to person or the assisted model (support center or on-site).
  • Indirect is self help that is web-based or integrated into the product as well as online forums/communities
  • The vast majority (90% or more) of the customer’s support experience is through the indirect model – we see very little of the customer demand in the support center!
  • As the indirect model handles an ever increasing number of the known problems the direct model has to get better at handling new problems.
  • Intelligent swarming replaces the linear, tiered support structure and process and the organization looks and functions more like a network than a hierarchy.
  • New problems being handled by the support center combined with the patterns and trends of the customer activity in the indirect model provide a more complete and accurate view of the customer experience

Leadership challenges:

  • How do we understand and improve the customer experience in the indirect support model?
    • Old Model
      • Command and control (living an illusion)
      • Push, tell, wait and hope
    • New Model
      • Engage and nurture
      • Pull, listen, learn and respond
  • What are the structures and processes that we need to rapidly create or deploy capability to handle new, complex problems?
    • Achieving predefined service levels is interesting (commodity)
    • Effectively responding to unanticipated needs is compelling (service excellence – a differentiator)
  • What are the economic implications of these dynamics?
  • What are the measurements and indicators of health and value of the support organization:
  • For an indirect support model?
  • For the organization as a network?


A Question of Beliefs


If we want different results, we have to change our beliefs.

  • Behavior and actions produces results.
  • When the results are consistent with our beliefs, they reinforce the belief.
  • When the results are inconsistent with our beliefs ,we typically discount the results so as not to create dissonance or run contrary to our beliefs.
  • It takes influence from the “fringe”—an intervention from a different point of view, or a traumatic experience to change the beliefs.
  • Different beliefs will create different results


Old beliefs and assumption vs new beliefs and assumptions regarding how we think about the business of business:

Old Beliefs/Assumptions

New Beliefs/Assumptions

Scarcity model – We can only win if you lose, we must kill/eliminate the competition (art of war), if we share we will have less, zero sum game

Abundance – Our prosperity is not dependent on your failure, co-opetition can create a bigger market, the more we share the more we have, non zero-sum game

We (vendors) create and control the brand and market image for our company and our products


Our customers create and control the brand and market image for our company and our products – we only have opportunities to influence it

Control is important and achievable

Control is an illusion. Influence is sustainable.

We know what is best for our customers and what they need

Our customers must be integral to the design, development, and delivery of services

People must be told what to do – they are not capable of making good decisions

People are capable of making good decisions if provided with the right information

Rules are more important than relationships - well defined Processes ensures consistent service – people should always follow the process

Relationship is more important than rules Process is helpful but people should do what makes sense for the situation first.  

Distribution of performance ratings should fit a bell curve

Distribution of performance ratings will always be a power curve - use of the bell curve is pay for mediocrity

Well-defined job descriptions and segmentation of responsibility are important for accountability and efficiency

People's roles and responsibilities should be tailored to their strengths and interests

Rank has its privileges – executives are a different class of people

Rank has its responsibilities and is not a license to be disrespectful or dismissive of others

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