The FT Word – October 2001

By Technical Support

The FT Word – October 2001

The FT Word

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Welcome to the October 2001 edition of the FT Works Newsletter, a monthly review of trends in the support management arena. In this month’s issue:

· key metrics for support centers

· can you change your peers’ behaviors?

Only 10 days left to take advantage of the introductory price on The Complete Guide to Hiring Great Support Reps! See how at the end of this message.

Key Metrics for Support Centers

CRM systems boasts dozens if not hundreds of “canned” reports available, with the possibility of creating ever more to fit your exact needs. Unfortunately, most of the canned reports are poorly thought out, and quantity certainly does not help here: who has the time, not to mention the inclination, to study dozens of reports each day?

But enough moaning. What metrics do support centers really need? Here’s the list of the 5 must-haves: case productivity, knowledge base productivity, and issue analysis. Next month we’ll take a look at the nice-to-haves.

1) Case Productivity

Goal: track volumes and how quickly issues are traveling through the system. Run daily. Show, for each support rep and team:

  • cases taken

  • cases closed

  • cases reopened

  • current backlog

  • the number and percentage of cases taken that met your response time target

  • the number and percentage of cases closed that met your resolution target (even if you do not commit a particular resolution time to your customers, and I hope you do not because it’s dangerous, you should set a target for resolution)

  • the number and percentage of cases escalated to other groups, such as Engineering


  • It’s much better to show all the items in a single report, which you can read in a few seconds with practice.

  • Measure the percentage of cases hitting targets rather than average times, as averages can be distorted by outlying values, and also customer satisfaction is very much dependent on hitting targets (that is, responding to a case 5 minutes before the target response time is quite different from responding 5 minutes after).

2) Issue Distribution

Goal: track what type of issues are coming into the support center so you can staff properly and/or invest in preventive measures. A weekly or even monthly run is probably enough for this one.

Show: the number and percentage of issues in each broad category, based on your categories. Typically they would be defined when the case is created, and confirmed at closure time.

3) Case Aging

Goal: ensure that no case falls through the cracks. Run according to your target resolution time (daily if it’s a day, weekly if it’s a week or more)

Show: all cases older than a particular target defined according to your resolution target (so if your resolution target is a week you can look at cases older than a week, or older than 2 weeks).

Note: this “metric” is really a tool for the managers to follow up on old cases rather than a series of percentages.

4) Knowledge Base Productivity

Goal: track the progress of new documents through the knowledge base creation system Show, for each support rep and team:

  • the number of documents created

  • the number of documents reviewed

  • the number of documents published

  • the backlog of documents at each stage

5) Customer Satisfaction

Goal: track the level of customer satisfaction

Show, for each support rep and team, the average rating on each question, for surveys received in the period covered by the report.


  • This assumes that you have a transaction-based customer survey in place, which is sent when cases are closed, either for all cases or for a percentage of them. If you don’t have one, put one in place.

  • I prefer averages to percentage of achievement here. If you want to use percentages above targets instead, do not show percentage for reach rating level, as it makes for a long and pretty useless report. Just show the percentage of customers that are satisfied and very satisfied.

A few more thoughts about metrics:

  • Garbage in, garbage out: metric reports are useless unless the reps log all cases, carefully log response and resolution times, and place cases in the proper categories. A bit of education may be required to avoid junk data.

  • Have the metrics run automatically. If any effort is required to get them, even the more dedicated managers will forgo running them on busy days, which are the days you really need metrics!

  • Graphs are great. If your system supports them, you will find them faster and easier to read.

  • Along the same line, and although support managers can internalize past data and instantly interpret today’s reports in light of them, trending reports are great if you can implement them.

Can you change your peers’ behaviors?

No, you can’t.

Seriously, there is only one person who can change someone’s behavior, and that’s himself or herself. However, there are time-tested ways to influence others without resorting to unprofessional means. Try the following:

1) Start (or restart) the dialog in a relaxed environment. This is your chance to go out to lunch for a good cause!

2) Build a personal relationship using whatever common interests you have (kids, sports, gardening, travel, management fads?). If you have nothing in common, find out what s/he is passionate about and practice your listening skills (yes, building model rockets or growing orchids *is* interesting if you open your mind to it.)

3) Make an honest effort to understand your peers’ values, goals, and fears. You don’t have to agree with them, just appreciate the point of view. Try to convey yours in return, but that’s not as important.

4) If the peer continues to behave in a way that’s objectionable, calmly and privately (if possible) convey a behavior-changing request: “When you do X (yell at me during meetings), I feel Y (abused and humiliated publicly). It would be a big help if you could do Z (not yell, or talk to me privately about problems). What do you think?” Then, listen carefully to the answer. Remember that your request, however well-spoken, will not change the other person’s behavior, that can only be done from within.

5) Keep at it. If the behavior is entrenched or emotions are high, it will take a while.

6) Be realistic and protect yourself by cultivating your relationship with your manager. Peers can hurt you, but not if your manager is on your side.

FT Works News

Last call! You can get The Complete Guide to Hiring Great Support Reps at half-price ($100) through 10/31/01. Tips and 585 pre-tested questions to recruit and select fantastic team members. Go here to order.

SupportWeek published an article entitled O no, I hired a wimp! in which I presented 8 bad hire profiles for support managers and how to avoid them through astute interview questions.

Curious about something? Send me your suggestions for topics and your name will appear in future newsletters. I’m thinking of doing a compilation of “tips and tricks about support metrics” in the coming months so if you have favorites, horror stories, or questions about metrics, please don’t be shy.

Françoise Tourniaire
FT Works
650 559 9826

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