The FT Word – March 2011

By Technical Support

The FT Word

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Welcome to the March 2011 edition of the FT Word. Please forward it to your colleagues. (They can get their own subscription here.)

Topics for this month:

  • March’s number of the month – 44%
  • Integrating social media and CRM – what can be done, what is done today
  • Auto-closing cases – do’s and don’ts

The Number of the Month: 44%

In a survey of 400 self-service site conducted in October, 2010, ICMI, the International Customer Management Institute, found that 44% of respondents (well, 43.6%, to quote their number) don’t measure customer feedback on their centers’ self-service channels. But there’s a clear belief that self-service works since 80% specifically train agents to give detailed information about the self-service channels to customers.

Measuring customer feedback with self-service is not easy, especially if users are anonymous . My clients report that a minuscule proportion of their customers bother to rate knowledge base articles, for instance, so that cannot generate valid overall results. If you are lucky enough to

You can read more about the survey here:

If you want to measure the ROI of your social media initiative, I can help. There’s an upcoming workshop you may want to attend or contact me for a custom approach.

Trends for Social Media

This article is an experiment for the newsletter (and I suppose using social media for support is an experiment, too!). David Kay and I have been privileged to welcome wonderful speakers at the Third Tuesday Forum and I thought I would highlight particularly interesting and imitation-worthy themes that emerge during the discussions. Let me know whether to continue the experiment.

The January session featured Joe Hines of Apple speaking about the convergence of knowledge management and social media. Here are some excerpts of the discussion, together with comments from yours truly.

About accessing the support web site

  • More and more users are coming to the support site from a search engine, rather than by using the site search itself. Vendors, especially enterprise vendors, are often leery about opening their valuable knowledge base to all users, regardless of entitlements, but maybe it’s time to allow external indexing, if not full access?
  • Since users leverage an external search engine so often, why not populate your internal search engine with the same search terms? They provide instant feedback on what customers really use.
  • Suggesting search phrases to users makes for much more successful searches.

Best practices for community forums

  • Customers are very interested in meta-issues that are not focused on a specific product. In the Apple case, amateur photographers or K-6 teachers may use multiple Apple products and they really want to dialog about their technological challenges overall, not by product. I suspect that’s the case for many vendors. Seriously consider expanding those forums beyond the usual product-centric options.
  • Want to experiment with a smaller community to test ideas? Target one in another language than English. It’s easier to experiment on a small scale.
  • With an open community, there are lots of anonymous visitors, which creates a challenge when it comes to gathering metrics, and especially case deflection and ROI computations. Encourage users to authenticate by making authentication beneficial to them in some ways. For instance, recognize useful answers and have them count towards users’ reputations, or allow registered users to present a custom profile, or show them customized lists of cases or documents.
  • Two great ideas to boost the use of internal forums: get conversations out of email (I love it, goes with my “Kill email” theme for case logging!) and position the forum not as a collaboration tool but rather as a gated equivalent of Facebook. SomehowThe bar for entry is pretty low for internal forums. It’s an easier entry into KCS than the standard, formal knowledge creation approach. I think we are about to see a move from formal knowledge bases to tribal knowledge bases.

Auto-Closing Cases

Many thanks for Scott Sieper and Christina Luna for suggesting this topic – independently and on the very same day!

Many case-tracking tools allow to auto-close cases, either with a default timer or after the case owner sets the case to be closed automatically. The idea is to minimize the backlog of cases that are not experiencing activity. Tools are agnostic about how auto-closing is used, so it’s up to the business users to define appropriate guidelines for usage.

Is the whole idea of auto-closing counter to customer satisfaction principles?

I feel it’s always better to get a direct confirmation from the customer before closing a case. That being said, if a proper solution has been provided to the customer and the support engineer believes that the issue is resolved, auto-closing is a convenience that allows the customer a bit of breathing room to confirm that it’s actually working without requiring further manual intervention by the support engineer. On the other hand, allowing the tool to auto-close cases without any intervention from the case owner (by default, after so many days of inactivity) seems ill-advised,.

What are the right parameters for auto-close?

It all depends on your product and your customers so you should feel free to set guidelines that match your needs. In particular, I often get asked about auto-closing high-priority cases. Why not, as long as a solution has indeed been provided? Most vendors set an auto-close window of a few days to a week.

FT Works in the News

Third Tuesday Forum – March 15th

Are you based in the San Francisco area (or will you be there on Tuesday March 15th)? That morning, David Kay and I will be hosting The Third Tuesday Forum, a roundtable for support executives to discuss the topics we embrace and wrestle with every day. The presenter will be Cordelia Naumann of Cisco and she will speak about Knowledge-Centered Support at IronPort, where it started on a shoestring, all the way to the much larger environment of Cisco. You can register here, sign up for the mailing list. You will be the first to know about new events. You can also join the Third Tuesday Forum groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

TSW – May 2-4 in Santa Clara, CA

I will be presenting a day-long workshop on the first day of the TSW conference, Monday May 2nd, entitled A Gold Mine? Calculating the ROI of Community Projects. Six solid hours to build a meaningful ROI for your community. Bring your spreadsheet and join me for a sure to be animated and opinionated discussion. More information here.

I will also have the pleasure of facilitation a workout session with Rob Shapiro of Oracle entitled Start the (Metrics) Revolution, discussing metrics and best practices for support communities in an open discussion format. Please join us on Tuesday May 3rd at 2pm and add your voice to the debate.

To register for the workshop or for the conference, go here (and yes, you can attend the workshop without attending the entire conference!)

Social CRM Webinar – May 12th

CustomerThink is hosting a virtual summit on Thursday May 12th about Social CRM Best Practices and I am a featured speaker. I will speak about Integrating Social Media into Your Customer Service Strategy and specifically about ROI for communities. For information or to sign up, visit:

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

About FT Works

FT Works helps technology companies create and improve their support operations. Areas of expertise include designing support offerings, creating hiring plans to recruit the right people quickly, training support staff to deliver effective support, defining and implementing support processes, selecting support tools, designing effective metrics, and support center audits. See more details at

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