Why should customers log their service requests?
How can you prepare an economic analysis of the benefits?
There are many myths about letting customers into your problem management system. I often hear support
managers say that their customers won't take the time. "Our customers would rather call us than enter their
own calls." I also hear them say that their customers are not capable of entering the correct information and
support would just have to call the customer anyway." It is my experience from working with many companies,
that the perceptions do not fit reality. What I will try to do in this paper is to present the advantages to customer logging and tips to make it successful.
What is Customer Logging?
Only a few service event management systems available today have a customer interface into the system.
Usually these take the form of a web application. Whether client or web-based, the customer interface is
usually a much simpler version than the full-blown application. In all cases, the customer documents what their
problem or request is and submits their request receiving a confirmation and service event tracking number.
Some applications also allow the customer to enter their own severity level, pick the Nature of Request
category, attach an asset, and/or attached a document.
24x7 Coverage for Customers
Most support organizations have limited coverage. A typical day may be 10 hours a day five days a week.
Who covers after hours and on the weekend? Often there is a duty person that has a pager for emergencies.
Without anyone manning the phones, your customers working late, or on weekends or from home cannot make
non-emergency requests. When you allow your customers to log their own requests, it is like having a 24x7
support desk without the expense.
Support Cost Savings
Support Front Line Logging Overhead
When I work with various companies, one measurement that I always ask for is the length of time that it takes
for the support front line to log the basic information into the problem management system. Most managers do
not know how long this takes so I take my stop watch and observe a number of entries. I find that on average it
takes about three minutes and nineteen seconds. This is only the basic information. This does not include any
diagnosis or resolution.
I timed phone call logging, voice mail logging, email logging, Fax and Web. Voice mail is by far the most
inefficient because the support agent usually has to replay the message several times to make sure that it is
recorded correctly. Emails usually can simply be cut and pasted. There have been a few support organizations
that take Fax requests. These are all manual and take the longest.
For the various submit methods I have also tried to measure how many times and the length of time customers
are called back because the information they provided is not sufficient. I have not been able to accurately
document this aspect, but the amount of time and effort is very significant once the game of phone tag begins.
Web-based Customer Logging Overhead
When the customer submits their own service request, there is still some overhead required by the support
center. They have to (1) verify customer name and location information, (2) read and understand the service
request documentation, (3) reclassify the Nature of Request, (4) verify the severity level, and (5) assign it to the
correct service group. My observation is that this overhead time takes less than thirty seconds and that includes
calling the customer to verify information or to just say thanks.