Is it hard to get help?

Thanks to long-time reader John Lowry for inspiring this post. (John co-authored a wonderful post on the related topic of supportability, which I encourage you to read.)
Many support organizations want to make it “easy” for customers to get help, and some formally measure customer effort with a CES or Customer Effort Score survey (traditionally, a rating on a 7-point question of the type, “The company made it easy to solve my issue.”)
We know that customer surveys are problematic since too few customers bother with them, the ones that do are disproportionally very happy or very unhappy, and ratings may not provide enough details to be able to understand why a particular rating was chosen, let alone how to improve the situation. Also, CES surveys may tell us about the effort customers put into the resolution, but what about the effort put forth internally, by the support engineer and others?
We need a better way. How can we capture how hard it is for everyone involved to resolve customer issues? We could look at:
  • the categories of issues logged by users
  • time to resolution
  • usage of documentation, knowledge base, and other existing information (and how hard it was to get to them)
  • the number of back and forth exchanges during troubleshooting
  • how many people it took to resolve issues. Did the customer find a knowledge document (1 person), or were 3 support engineers, 1 manager, and 2 development engineers  (6 people) required? For a nightmare scenario, see the $10,000 escalation.

To be sure, some of the elements above may reflect factors other than supportability. For instance, a lackadaisical support engineer may neglect cases, eschew consulting the knowledge base, ignore troubleshooting checklists, and needlessly escalate, inflating the apparent complexity and effort of cases. But that’s just the point: we need both good processes (backlog management, knowledge use, troubleshooting discipline, escalations) and good adherence to the processes to deliver the low-effort experience we all want.

Have you tried to create a resolution index for cases? How did it go? Please share in the comments.

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