Thursday, April 28, 2011

Study: Call-Center Workers More Patient Than Callers

Recent surveys report that customer complaints about call centers number in the hundreds of millions yearly and are on the rise. But new research focusing on center employees suggests that they are subject to a lot more mistreatment than they dish out.

A study in the current issue of The Academy of Management Journal, based on data collected daily at a call center, suggests that about 20 to 25% of the calls workers field subject them to some form of customer mistreatment. Yet, instances of worker retaliatory sabotage for mistreatment (for example by misleading or hanging up on a customer) occur a lot more rarely -- probably in under one percent of calls.

Sabotage appears to occur in response to cumulative mistreatment from customers, as suggested by the study's finding that workers with lesser emotional self-control retaliated no more than those with greater self control in response to moderate levels of customer provocation. Only when mistreatment reached high levels was a sharp divergence seen between the two groups.

18 variations of mistreatment by callers were listed -- for example, "thought they were more important than others" (the most frequently chosen item), "did not understand that you had to comply with certain rules" (second most frequently chosen), "made exorbitant demands," "refused to listen to you," and "doubted your ability." Five sabotage items were listed -- "hung up on a customer," "intentionally put a customer on hold for a long period of time," "purposely transferred a customer to the wrong department," "purposely disconnected a call," and "told a customer that you fixed something but didn't fix it." Sabotage behaviors were usually carried out without the customer's full awareness or to terminate interaction with the customer.

Workers fielded a mean of about 75 calls a day. On average, their daily experience of each of the 18 forms of customer mistreatment fell about halfway between "not at all" and "a few times." They acknowledged sabotaging customers an average of about four times over the course of 10 days, which, the researchers estimate, translates into a less than one percent likelihood of sabotage per call.

Asking what firms can do to reduce customer-directed sabotage, the study notes that "an organization can still help those employees who have shorter job tenure, lower-level self-efficacy for emotional regulation, and higher-level negative affectivity through training, mentoring, counseling...and improving employee understanding, acceptance, and internalization of service rules... Organizations [should] openly discuss, set, and communicate their customer service rules with employees, to try to incorporate terms and protocols that aim to protect employees from customer mistreatment in their policies, and to implement enforceable incentive policies to reward commitment to and punish deviation from service rules."

More information on call center workers can be found at

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Survey Finds Knowledge Workers at Small & Mid-Size Firms Spend Half of Workday On Essential, But Unproductive Tasks

Fonality, a business communications company, released the findings of the “2011 Report on UC and Cloud-based Services for SMBs” conducted by Webtorials. The study examined the productivity and communications challenges of small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). Findings revealed that Knowledge Workers at SMBs spend 50 percent of their work day on necessary, yet unproductive tasks, including routine communications and filtering incoming information and correspondence.

The comprehensive report offered other points of interest including:

-- Knowledge Workers are among the largest staff component in a typical SMB

-- SMB Knowledge Workers spend an estimated 36 percent of their time trying to:
- Contact customers, partners or colleagues
- Find information
- Schedule a meeting

-- Approximately 14 percent of SMB Knowledge Workers’ time is spent:
- Duplicating information (e.g. forwarding e-mails or phone calls to confirm if fax/e-mail/text message was received)
- Managing unwanted communications (e.g. spam e-mails or unsolicited time-wasting phone calls)

The study concludes that Unified Communications, especially cloud-based with its lower total cost of ownership, could eliminate much of this productivity shortfall. For example, efficiencies created by Unified Communications on a typical firm with 50 Knowledge Workers with salaries ranging from $40,000 to $110,000 can recover two-hours a day in productivity. The corresponding dollar amount of this time savings is valued at approximately $950,000 annually.

More information on knowledge workers can be found at

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Secrets to Evaluating SaaS Solutions Based on your Business Requirements

Software-as-a-Service has moved from a new idea to the next big strategy for optimizing how IT aligns better to the business. Much of the discussions you read in blogs, RSS feeds and websites about SaaS exclusively talks about it as a technology, and gives little discussion on the implementation aspect.

The reality is it’s imperative that an enterprise develop a well-defined evaluation process before jumping into any SaaS solution. Each model — premise, SaaS, and now SaaS2 (Solutions-as-a-Service, or “SaaS Squared”) have particular strengths and weaknesses, making it all the more important that a company carefully consider its specific needs and requirements when evaluating the various options.

For Blog readers who are interested, FrontRange Solutions is holding a joint webinar with Gartner Wednesday (May 11th) at 1:00PM EDT to discuss the importance of carefully evaluating SaaS solutions based on both your business requirements and the overall value it delivers to your IT organization.
If you are interested, you can register here:

Event Details
Date: Wednesday 5/11/2011
Time: 10:00AM PST/1:00PM EDT
Location: Online

Ratio of IT Support Staff to Employees Falls Short of Ideal, Survey Shows

Employees looking for help with a frozen computer screen or a mobile application glitch may be in for a long wait. Chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed in a recent survey said their companies' technical support teams are, on average, 42 percent smaller than they would ideally be. The results are similar to a 2007 survey in which CIOs said their support teams were an average of 40 percent smaller than their ideal.

The surveys were developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology (IT) professionals on a project and full-time basis. They were conducted by an independent research firm and are based on interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 employees or more.

CIOs were asked, "What is the ratio of internal end-users to technical support employees at your company?" The mean response was 112:1.

CIOs also were asked, "What would be the ideal ratio of internal end-users to technical support employees at your company?" The mean response was 65:1.

Small firms (100-249 employees) were farthest from their ideal technical support ratio, the results show, while midsized companies (250-499 employees) were closest. 

More information on IT staffing can be found at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Survey: Companies Shifting From Recovery to Growth, but Domestic Hiring Will Likely Continue to Lag

Chief financial officers are markedly shifting their focus from cost cutting to revenue growth, but they remain wary of increased hiring at home, according to the results of the Deloitte CFO Signals quarterly survey for the first quarter of 2011. Specifically, the CFOs surveyed said nearly half of their companies’ strategic focus is on revenue growth -- substantially ahead of their 30 percent focus on cost reduction.

Overall, optimism among CFOs rebounded during the quarter with 62 percent of respondents indicating a more positive outlook regarding their companies' projects, up from 53 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. Furthermore, CFOs are upbeat about performance, projecting average year-over-year gains of 8.2 percent for sales (compared to 6.5 percent last quarter), 12.6 percent for earnings (compared to 12 percent in the fourth quarter 2010), and 11.8 percent for capital spending (compared to 8.7 percent last quarter). The projections for both revenues and earnings, however, are substantially lower than estimates from the second and third quarters of 2010 -- possibly indicating that many of the strongest recovery gains have already been achieved.

The obstacles to growth that CFOs cite are mainly external. Survey results revealed that 52 percent of respondents view regulation as their industry's top concern.

The Deloitte CFO Signals quarterly survey also revealed the following results (estimates are adjusted averages to reduce the effect of outliers):

-- Only 16 percent of CFOs are less optimistic than they were the previous quarter

-- the lowest level recorded in the four quarters of the Deloitte survey.

-- CFOs expect significant changes in their sources of growth over the next year as compared to the period prior to the financial crisis and recession. Almost three quarters (73 percent) of CFOs expect increased revenue from new products and services, and 68 percent expect foreign markets to generate more revenue.

-- More than half of CFOs (56 percent) expect their companies’ prices to increase over the next year than prior to the recession, driven in part by expectations of rising commodity prices. More than 80 percent of CFOs expect commodity price increases over the next year.

-- Revenue growth from existing markets is the most prevalent company challenge, cited by more than half of CFOs (55 percent) as a top three concern. One-third of CFOs cite revenue growth from new markets as a top challenge, and another third cite framing and/or adapting strategy.

-- CFOs are very concerned about government’s impact on their growth plans, particularly tax policies (especially around the tax code and the repatriation of earnings) and health care reform, which they view as unnecessarily burdensome.

More information on service and support can be found at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

HDI Releases First Annual HDI Desktop Support Practices & Salary Report

HDI, a global association for IT service and technical support professionals, announced it's first annual Desktop Support Practices & Salary Report, a research study that offers insights into current processes, technologies, metrics, staffing and salaries within desktop support.

Key findings of the study include:

-- Forty-six percent of desktop support organizations use remote support for more than half of the support they provide;

-- While 91 percent of desktop support organizations use incident management systems, 24 percent plan to replace or upgrade their systems this year;

-- Seventy-two percent of organizations send the majority of escalated tickets to a desktop support team from the support center;

-- Over a quarter of organizations allow desktop support technicians to work from home, and of those, just over half dispatch to the physical location of the device;

-- Seventy percent of organizations have dedicated desktop support technicians, while the other 30 percent have a blended model with the support center; and

-- Senior-level desktop support technicians are, on average, earning $13,000 USD more than their junior-level counterparts.

More information on service and support can be found at

Monday, April 11, 2011

CEO Confidence Increases Again

The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence, which had bounced back in the final quarter of 2010, improved further in the first quarter of 2011. The Measure now reads 67, up from 62 last quarter (a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses).

CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions was much more upbeat, with 85 percent saying conditions are better compared to six months ago, up from 56 percent last quarter. In assessing their own industries, business leaders were also more positive. Now, nearly 61 percent say conditions have improved, compared with 55 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

CEOs’ optimism about the short-term outlook continues to grow. Currently, 66 percent expect an improvement in economic conditions over the next six months, up from 56 percent last quarter. Expectations for their own industries, however, are slightly less optimistic, with 49 percent of CEOs expecting conditions to improve in the months ahead, down from 51 percent last quarter.

Half of all CEOs anticipate an increase in employment levels in their industry, up significantly from 30 percent a year ago. The proportion of CEOs who anticipate a decrease in hiring declined to 16 percent from 22 percent a year ago.

On a separate question, CEOs say regulation and litigation are major obstacles to hiring new workers, followed by health care costs and wage and salary costs. Other fringe benefits are of lesser concern when hiring new workers.

More information on IT hiring can be found at

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Global Survey Reveals Companies Still Fail to Communicate Strategy, Nurture Top Performers, or Accurately Align Pay-for-Performance

Companies today are not effectively executing against strategy and the business leaders know it, with 80 percent recognizing that they are not doing their best to communicate strategy through the organization, let alone execute against it, according to new research commissioned by SuccessFactors, Inc. and Accenture. With global power shifting from West to East, the emergence of new competitors, an ageing workforce, a growing skills gap, and social-media connectivity, business strategies are being developed and executed in some of the most uncertain times in several generations. Business leaders who recognize potential organizational shortcomings and bridge this strategy and execution gap will emerge as the winners in the next economy.

Key Research Findings:

-- Enterprise organizations are failing to monitor, motivate and retain employees. Only 17 percent of organizations know all of its top performing employees and are looking to develop them for future roles.

-- Two-thirds of organizations have a pay-for-performance policy, but of those, only one in five always ensures that rewards are accurately aligned to contribution.

-- Only 12 percent of respondents who monitor staff goals and their execution have an IT system that delivers the information needed for goal management and execution. Nearly 40 percent of organizations are trying to measure the time to real performance, but lack the necessary data and systems to support this.

-- Over the last five years, productivity has increased, with 79 percent of organizations using computerized systems to manage goal execution and productivity, compared to only 47 percent of those using a paper, email and spreadsheet based system.

-- Organizations agree there is a business critical need to execute strategy, yet only 20 percent of companies claim to communicate strategy very well internally. Only 18 percent say they are very good at converting corporate strategy into priorities and goals. Just 15 percent are very good at aligning employee activities to corporate strategy. 

More information can be found at

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gartner Says Media Tablets Help Drive Worldwide IT Spending Up 5.6 Percent in 2011

Worldwide IT spending is forecast to total $3.6 trillion in 2011, a 5.6 percent increase from $3.4 trillion in 2010, according to the latest outlook by Gartner, Inc. Gartner has slightly raised its outlook for 2011 from its previous forecast of 5.1 percent growth.

Gartner has added media tablets, such as the iPad, to its computing hardware spending estimates beginning this quarter. Including media tablets has increased Gartner’s computing hardware growth outlook from 7.5 percent to 9.5 percent for 2011. Worldwide media tablet spending is projected to reach $29.4 billion in 2011, up from $9.6 billion in 2010. Global spending on media tablets is forecast to increase at an annual average rate of 52 percent through 2015.

The addition of media tablets, reinforced by an expected additional decline in the value of the dollar, accounts for the increase in top-line growth,” said Richard Gordon, research vice president at Gartner. “Absent the addition of media tablets, the forecast would have slightly declined in constant-dollar terms; however, with their addition, there's virtually no change in underlying forecast growth at the level of overall IT.”

Gartner analysts said this stable forecast outlook comes despite political unrest in the Middle East, while the impact on IT markets of the recent natural disasters in Japan is yet to be fully understood.

More information can be found at