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The Three Laws of Customer Support

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Someone asked me why I don't hire cheaper help for our support staff. You see, we only hire experienced Lotus Notes administrators or excellent Lotus Notes developers in our customer support. So I did a little bit of math on the subject of Customer Support. Having majored in Chemistry, I like equations and formulas. These equations are beautiful, in that they are simple and precise. Today, I attempt to translate some business principles related to customer support into mathematical equations to explain the three laws of customer support.

First Law of Customer Support

 (Time to Completion) =
  (Problem Difficulty)  
(Skill Level)

Explanation: We know that (Time to Completion) is proportional to (Problem Difficulty) and inversely proportional to (Skill Level) of the problem solver.

So, the greater the skill level, the faster the problem will be resolved. The denominator, as it increases, reduces the Time to Completion element. Which brings me back to cost. Our top notch support people cost a lot more per person but they perform most jobs in a fraction of the time, so they actually cost less than mediocre talent.


Here is an area everyone likes to discuss, customer satisfaction.

Second Law of Customer Support

(Customer Satisfaction) =
       ( Skill Level )        
(Time to Completion)

Explanation: We know that (Customer Satisfaction ) is proportional to (Skill Level) and inversely proportional to (Time to Completion).  If the time to completion approaches infinity, the (Customer Satisfaction) approaches 0. As (Time to Completion) approaches 0, then (Customer Satisfaction) approaches , meaning the customer is infinitely happy.

The greater the skill level, the greater the customer satisfaction. Otherwise stated:
Faster service (done well) = Happier Customers



Now for some advanced mathematics, with substitutions. We already saw in Law #2 that:

(Customer Satisfaction) =
       ( Skill Level )        
(Time to Completion)


and we know from Law #1 that

(Time to Completion) =
  (Problem Difficulty)  
(Skill Level)


So, substituting #1 into #2 gives us:

(Customer Satisfaction) =
       ( Skill Level )        
 (Problem Difficulty)  
(Skill Level)



Simplifying terms gives us our third law:

Third Law of Customer Support

(Customer Satisfaction) =
      ( Skill Level )  2
 (Problem Difficulty)  



So, Customer Satisfaction is improved with the square of the Skill Level! This means that a person who is twice as good will deliver 4 times the Customer Satisfaction!

This Third Law amplifies the importance of (Skill Level) as the single most critical factor in (Customer Satisfaction).

These Three Laws are quite simple and are the reason why all of the people who handle customer support are experienced Lotus Notes administrators or excellent Lotus Notes developers.


I know these items cannot be measured in units like weight or volume, but the Three Laws are still true, and they help explain results that many of us know empirically, and helps me justify paying a lot more for talented people to talk to our customers, who, by the way, ultimately pay all of the bills!

Comments

Gravatar Image5 - Fantastic post. Very, very interesting and why offshoring tech support is totally shooting yourself in the foot.

It's nice to hear someone nailing how to provide good customer support with formulae that provide a concrete rationale.

Thanks for an amazing post!

Gravatar Image4 - Curt @3 This approach significantly reduces escalation. We do have to escalate some questions to development, but we are able to give that information immediately on the phone, instead of an "I'll get back to you".

Also, some support people do have detailed experience with a certain issue, so we use IM chats to get that info in real time (or to get a link to a technote) to enable us to provide an immediate answer.

Gravatar Image3 - @Denny, that is the reason that Sherpa is so well respected and successful, a commitment to Customer Support.

Gravatar Image2 - This is an interesting stance on support. So there is no escalation process? The person who answers the phone/email is the one who will solve the problem?

Gravatar Image1 - Amen to that. Same philosophy at Sherpa. You will never get someone reading out of a manual and frustrating the customer. We each have highly involved experienced with Domino and our products.

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