Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Service and Support Metrics Survey: The 2010 Report Card

Budgets are stagnating. Support volume is increasing. The complexity of support transactions is up. And, curiously, customers are happier. Does something have to give in this equation? Yes – support is taking longer than it used to, compared with last year's survey. The centerpiece of the 2010 Service and Support Metrics Survey, our review of support metrics, shows a clear trend that productivity metrics are beginning to slow down under the weight of cost and resource burdens. Here is what the data are telling us:

Average speed to answer for phone-based support: 43% answer within 30 seconds or less, but 22.5% take a minute or more. By comparison, only 3.2% required a minute or greater in 2009.

Average hold time: Exactly half of the survey respondents can boast hold times of a minute or less, with 20.5% having no hold time at all. In 2009, however, nearly three-quarters of respondents required less than a minute on hold.

Average abandonment rate: 60.7% of respondents had an abandonment rate of less than 5%, with 22.5% experiencing a rate of less than 1%. At the other end of the spectrum, approximately 9% of respondents had abandonment rates of over 10%, including a couple of outliers over 15%. This statistic was not measured in 2009.

Average number of e-mails exchanged to resolve a support request: 59.8% of respondents handle e-mail support requests within 1 to 3 e-mails, while most of the remainder (21.5%) resolve an average request within 4 to 6 e-mails. These numbers are comparable with 2009 statistics.

Escalation: Nearly one-third of people (30.3%) escalate less than 10% of their transactions to level 2, while at the other end of the spectrum, 7.8% escalate more than half of their issues. Remaining responses were fairly well distributed between these two extremes.

Cost of support transactions: Phone support remains the most expensive option, with e-mail and chat/instant message support following in order. Slightly more than half of respondents reported costs ranging up to $24 for phone transactions, with 30.3% holding costs to under $10 a transaction. For e-mail, 45% reported costs under $10 per transaction, while for chat/IM 45% reported costs under $5 per transaction. At the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of respondents reporting average costs above $24/transaction were 25.4%, 17.6%, and 4.8% for phone, e-mail, and chat/IM respectively. Factoring in non-responders, these results were very similar to those of 2009.

Holding these numbers up against customer satisfaction levels, which are generally increasing, the trend seems to be that customers feel good support is worth waiting for – as long as it isn't a long wait. So while the difference between, say, waiting on hold for one minute versus one minute and 20 seconds may not be significant, trends towards the ends of the spectrum are likely to need attention or intervention to keep customers happy.

Find out more at the one hour event discussing the results of the 2010 Service and Support Metrics survey.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gartner Estimates Global 'IT Debt' to Be $500 Billion This Year, with Potential to Grow to $1 Trillion by 2015

Global IT debt will total approximately $500 billion in 2010, with the potential to rise to $1 trillion by 2015, according to Gartner, Inc. After a decade of tight budgets, the scale of the maintenance backlog has created a systemic risk, particularly for large organizations. Gartner defines IT debt as the cost of clearing the backlog of maintenance that would be required to bring the corporate applications portfolio to a fully supported current release state.

Gartner analysts said one way to characterize this backlog of deferred liability is to see it as a debt incurred in previous years that will need to be paid off at some time. This "IT debt" is a hidden risk for many organizations, and given continued tight economic conditions, this IT debt is growing, and the associated business risk is growing.

As businesses continue to invest in business value-added projects that add more functionality and complexity into the existing and aging portfolio, the size of the IT debt grows as well, because the additional functionality and complexity will need to be maintained and upgraded to a more-reliable state at some point in the future.

Gartner analysts said IT leaders should produce an annual report on the status of the application portfolio. The report should detail the status of the application portfolio in terms that the rest of the business can readily absorb, detailing the number of applications in use, the number acquired, the number decommissioned, and the current and projected costs of both operating and sustaining or improving the integrity of the application assets.

More information on IT can be found at

Thursday, September 23, 2010

79% of Consumers Have Experienced Poor Voice Quality with Call Centers Costing Organizations Billions Globally

According to a recent survey undertaken by the Customer Experience Foundation on behalf of Empirix Inc., seventy-nine percent of consumers have experienced poor voice quality. The study asked 3,925 consumers about their experiences in dealing with contact centers and identified technology related trends and common problems that are affecting customer service and costing organizations around the world billions of dollars.

The high percentage of global consumers that highlighted poor voice quality as a common problem points to a real issue in the industry. The study also revealed that poor voice quality drives down sales volumes, increases call lengths and the number of calls that are forced to be redialed. And as a result, churn rates can increase for both customers and staff. The magnitude of the problem is indicative of how much businesses are struggling to come to terms with this issue, while consumers are quickly losing patience.

Other key survey findings include:

-- Consumers say that forty two percent of all call center calls are impacted by poor voice quality.

-- Thirty percent of consumers who experienced poor voice quality said that it happened in more than half of their calls, with 68 percent of those saying that they would usually hang up as a result, and if they were calling about a new product or service would call a competing company instead.

-- Twenty-six percent of consumers say they need to redial to complete a transaction.

-- Only 1 in 6 companies said they used specialist tools to manage voice quality, so it is no surprise that 72 percent of the businesses polled said they had frequent voice quality issues for which they could not identify the root causes.

-- "Stress" is the most commonly used word when consumers were asked to explain how they felt after a poor voice quality call was completed.

-- Case studies show that consumers are often forced to repeat themselves on calls as a result of poor voice quality.

More info can be found at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Business Productivity and Cost Reduction Remains Top Concern for IT Executives

CIOs, CTOs and senior IT executives from 172 U.S. companies cite business productivity and cost reduction as their top business concern according to the 2010 IT Industry Trend Survey, commissioned by the Society for Information Management (SIM).

This is the second consecutive year that business productivity and cost reduction has received such a wide margin of emphasis in the survey conducted annually by SIM, the premier network for IT leaders.

Many of the top 10 concerns remain on the list from previous years but shifted positions, including business agility and speed to market, which jumped from the No. 3 position to No. 2 in 2010. Globalization, a new priority this year, was ranked as the No. 10 concern on the survey, which annually provides important benchmark data in areas including spending, salaries, job scope of IT professionals and technical/business trends. The top four areas, including IT and business alignment – a perennial concern of IT leaders – received extremely high ratings.

The full top 10 list of concerns in SIM’s annual survey is:

1. Business productivity and cost reduction
2. Business agility and speed to market
3. IT and business alignment
4. IT reliability and efficiency
5. Business process re-engineering
6. IT strategic planning
7. Revenue generating IT innovations
8. IT cost reduction
9. Security and privacy
10. Globalization

More information about IT can be found at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When Companies Want to Reduce Costs and Improve the Customer Experience, "Delight" Doesn't Pay

The Corporate Executive Board has challenged conventional customer-service wisdom by revealing that it doesn't pay to delight a customer. After years of focus on the "above and beyond" service mentality, research from the Customer Contact Council, a division of CEB, indicates that most customers only seek a satisfactory solution to an issue, and that companies themselves are actually artificially raising expectations in their efforts to over-satisfy them. The research also suggests, and CEB advises, that reducing the level of effort a customer exerts in the service channel is a more effective and lucrative path to customer loyalty.

In fact, 96 percent of customers who put forth high effort to resolve their issues are more disloyal--an eye-opening number when companies consider that 59 percent of customers report moderate-to-high perceived additional effort in a service interaction. CEB's research found that, in aggregate, customer service interactions are nearly four times more likely to lead to disloyalty than loyalty. For companies seeking to mitigate disloyalty, reducing customer effort--not delighting the customer-is the greatest lever the contact center can pull. 

More information on customer loyalty can be found at

Monday, September 13, 2010

CIOs Reveal Hiring Projections for Fourth Quarter: Survey Shows Increased Business Confidence Among IT Executives; Networking Remains Hottest Specialty Area

Chief information officers (CIOs) expect a modest increase in hiring in the fourth quarter, according to the latest Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report. Nine percent of chief information officers (CIOs) plan to add information technology (IT) staff and 6 percent foresee cutbacks before the end of the year.

The net 3 percent increase in hiring activity is down three points from the prior quarter's forecast, but up three points from this time last year.
The survey also found that 84 percent of CIOs are at least somewhat confident in their companies' growth prospects in the fourth quarter, up three points from the third quarter.

The IT Hiring Index and Skills Report is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis.

Key Findings

-- The net 3 percent increase in projected hiring activity is down three points from the prior quarter but up three points from this time last year.

-- The South Atlantic(1) and East South Central(2) regions anticipate the most active IT hiring.

-- Eighty-four percent of CIOs are at least somewhat confident in their companies' growth prospects in the fourth quarter; 37 percent are very confident.

-- Network administration skills remain the most in demand among employers.

Confidence in Business Growth and IT Investments

When asked to rate how confident they are in their organizations' growth prospects in the fourth quarter, 84 percent of technology executives said they are very or somewhat confident, up three points from the third quarter. Forty-five percent of CIOs said they are optimistic about their firms' likelihood of investing in IT projects in the coming months.

Skills in Demand

The functional area reported as most challenging to find skilled professionals was networking, cited by 21 percent of executives, followed by information security and help desk/technical support, each with 13 percent of the response.

For a majority of CIOs (60 percent), the technical skill set most in demand within their IT departments is network administration. Database management ranked second, with 54 percent of the response, followed by Windows administration (Server 2000/2003/2008) and desktop support, each with 51 percent of the response. (Note: CIOs were allowed multiple responses.)

Regional Outlook

The South Atlantic states are expected to lead the country in hiring activity in the fourth quarter. Thirteen percent of CIOs in the South Atlantic region plan to add IT staff and 4 percent forecast personnel reductions, for a net 9 percent increase in hiring activity. In addition to network administration, technology executives in the region report strong demand for IT professionals with desktop support skills. Eighty-seven percent of CIOs in the South Atlantic region are somewhat or very confident in their companies' growth prospects for the fourth quarter.

CIOs in the East South Central region also forecast hiring activity above the national average. Eight percent of CIOs expect to expand their IT departments and 3 percent foresee staff cutbacks, for a net 5 percent increase.

Industries Hiring

CIOs in the transportation sector forecast a net 8 percent increase in hiring. Nine percent of executives in this sector plan to expand their IT departments and 1 percent foresee staff cutbacks. Companies in the transportation industry are actively recruiting professionals with desktop support, database management and website development skills.

Business services is another sector with hiring expectations above the national average. Fourteen percent of CIOs expect to add staff and 8 percent anticipate personnel reductions, for a net 6 percent increase.

More information can be found at

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ventana Research Finds Demand for Timely Contact Center Analytics

New benchmark research released by Ventana Research indicates that organizations are aware of the potential for extending the application of analytics to customer satisfaction and other business-related measures, but have a ways to go in developing relevant metrics and KPIs and providing them when both front-line agents and decision-makers need them.

Ventana Research undertook this benchmark research to acquire real-world information about maturity, trends and best practices in how contact centers use analytics. It explores how they do this now, how their people feel about the current processes and tools, plans they have to change or improve them, and benefits they hope to gain by doing so.

The research found that the traditional emphasis on efficiency persists, with average call-handling time and the number of interactions handled still the most important process metrics. However, first-contact resolution, which is a measure of effectiveness as well as efficiency, ranked third in the new research. It also showed that awareness of customer satisfaction is an increasingly central concern, but currently only slightly more than half of organizations regularly use analytics for customer experience management. We conclude that customer-related analytics are on the radar of decision-makers, but in practice not many companies have implemented them.

For metrics to be fully useful, contact center practitioners need to receive them immediately. However, fewer than one in 12 companies receive their metrics as soon as they are generated and fewer than one-fifth receive them on the same day. And while the research analysis indicates that most organizations view developing agent-specific effectiveness metrics as very important, organizations lag in providing advanced metrics and tools to help agents improve their performance, though they are looking in that direction.

Analysis of the research using the Ventana Research Maturity Index determined that most organizations are not very mature in their use of analytics in the contact center. More than half rank at the two lowest maturity levels, while fewer than one in five are at the highest Innovative level. Among the four categories in which we assess maturity, organizations are slightly more mature in the Information and Technology categories and less mature in People and Process.

More information on the contact center industry can be found at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Corporate Performance at Risk as Today's Rising Talent Prepares to Jump Ship

The Corporate Executive Board announced that the business world's rising stars are increasingly disengaged and actively seeking new employment opportunities. The findings are the result of a recent employee engagement study revealing that 25 percent of employer-identified, high-potential employees plan to leave their current companies within the year, as compared to only 10 percent in 2006. The study, also revealed that 21 percent of employees today identify themselves as "highly disengaged." This group has increased nearly three-fold since 2007. CEB's Corporate Leadership Council identified six tips companies can use to identify, re-engage, and more effectively manage high potential employees:
  • Stimulate. Emerging leaders need stimulating work, recognition, and the chance to grow. If not, they can quickly become disengaged.

  • Test. Explicitly test candidates for ability, engagement, and aspiration to make sure they're able to handle the tougher roles as their careers progress.

  • Manage. Having line managers oversee high-potential employees only limits their access to opportunities and encourages hoarding of talent. Instead, manage these high-potential employees at the corporate level.

  • Challenge. High-potential employees need to be in positions where new capabilities can - or must - be acquired.

  • Recognize. High-potential employees will be more engaged if they are recognized through pay, so offer them differentiated compensation and recognition.

  • Engage. Incorporate high-potential employees into strategic planning. Share future strategies with them and emphasize their role in making them come to fruition.
  • Monday, September 6, 2010

    Gartner's 2010 IT Market Compensation Study Shows A Slow, But Steady Road To Recovery

    In today's economy, many CIOs and human resources (HR) leaders continue to be required to do more with less, and will not be able to restore budgets and head count to pre-recession levels, according to a recent survey by Gartner, Inc. The survey showed that the recovery in jobs or an increase in head count during the past 12 months was in short-term, temporary contractor positions more than in permanent staff positions.

    According to a survey of 358 U.S.-based organizations effective March 1, 2010, the median rate of increase in IT head count was 6.3 percent across all respondents. About 28 percent of those surveyed reported no change in IT head count for the period of March 1, 2009 to February 28, 2010.

    The level of difficulty in filling job vacancies is a good indicator of the strength of the employment market. The survey showed a weaker job market than a year ago, as reflected in fewer organizations reporting significant difficulty in filling vacancies during the last 12-month period. The overall average number of months to fill selected jobs also dropped, from 3.3 months in the 2009 study to 2.8 months this year.

    The impact of the downturn on the job market continues to linger well after the initial round of layoffs. Reflecting employees' fear of market uncertainties, the median IT voluntary turnover rate (with retirements) during the last 12-month period dropped to a record low of 3.0 percent.

    More information on the service and support market can be found at

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Optimism among private company CEOs dips slightly in the face of regulatory, political, and economic uncertainty

    This past quarter, only 45 percent of the nation's leading private company executives surveyed for PricewaterhouseCoopers' Private Company Trendsetter Barometer voiced optimism about U.S. economic growth over the next twelve months -- six points below the previous quarter’s 51 percent, though 11 points higher than a year ago. Private companies with international operations remained slightly more optimistic about U.S. economic growth than their domestic-only counterparts, 46 percent and 44 percent, respectively. As for optimism about the global economy, international marketers' confidence dropped to 37 percent, down ten points from last quarter's 47 percent but above last year’s 30 percent.

    Despite an increased sense of uncertainty, more than three quarters (76 percent) of leading private companies expect positive revenue growth for their businesses over the next 12 months, with 38 percent anticipating double-digit growth and 38 percent expecting single-digit growth. Only 12 percent forecast negative revenue growth, while just 14 percent forecast zero growth. Trendsetter CEOs are now forecasting an average 9.1 percent growth for their own companies’ revenue over the next 12 months, down a point from last quarter’s 10 percent forecast.

    In keeping with increased uncertainty in the market, concern about lack of demand continues to be the main potential barrier to growth -- cited by 78 percent of respondents (up four points from the previous quarter).

    Concerns over increased taxation (52 percent, up seven points from the previous quarter) and legislative/regulatory pressures (50 percent, up two points from the previous quarter) were cited by more Trendsetter CEOs this quarter, in line with increased uncertainty about global and U.S. economic performance and governmental policies.

    Looking ahead, 54 percent of survey panelists plan to add employees to their workforce over the next 12 months. This is similar to the previous quarter’s 53 percent and well above last year’s 34 percent. Only 2 percent plan to reduce their workforce, and 44 percent will keep their hiring levels relatively the same. An overall increase of 1.8 percent is planned for the panel’s composite workforce, up slightly from 1.5 percent last quarter and up from 1.4 percent a year ago. Most of the increase in prospective hiring is among small private businesses, which added 5.8 percent to their composite workforce versus 1.5 percent for large private businesses.

    The number of private companies planning major capital investments over the next 12 months fell to 29 percent in the second quarter of 2010, down from last quarter's 32 percent. However, marketers doing business abroad -- especially the 30 percent that are selling in China, India, and Brazil -- remain ahead of their domestic-only peers in prospective spending over the next 12 months (50 percent). Overall, 31 percent of international marketers and 26 percent of domestic-only companies plan to increase capital spending. Operational spending plans for the next 12 months remain high at 58 percent, led by new product or service introductions (25 percent) and information technology (26 percent).

    More information can be found at