Is there a way to predict how many service calls you will receive over the lifespan of a given client relationship? Is it possible to proactively plan your on-call schedule and staffing levels in anticipation of an increased number of service calls? What about knowing in advance roughly how many of these service calls will be solvable remotely?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes” — if you know what to look for within your service data. Analysis of such key service call metrics as call cadence, service demand spikes, and remote solve rates can enable dealers to become more efficient and ultimately to provide their clients with an premium service experience.
But unlocking these operational improvements is a challenge for most integrators, who lack the time or the technological infrastructure to collect and analyze their service data. As the saying goes, you can’t fix what you don’t measure.
OneVision Resources, Boston-based developers of a white-label remote support and RMR-generation platform, is able to track and analyze service call data from its entire partner network.
By call volume, OneVision is the largest service team in the CEDIA industry. The company recently examined the valuable metrics it gathers to reveal actionable insights that integrators can leverage to enhance their service operations.
Examining Call Cadence Helps Determine Service Fees
A key metric in understanding the nature of your client service relationships, call cadence is defined as the length of time (typically measured in months) between service events for an average client.
Call cadence is critical as it can help you forecast support costs for any given client and understand how much of your client base is active. Perhaps less obvious, but just as important, is that call cadence serves as highly-accurate trailing indicator of how much your clients rely on you.
This information is important for informing RMR pricing strategies as the value proposition and price of your offerings should be aimed at your active clients as opposed to the entirety of your client database, large portions of which may be dormant. For this discussion, an “active client” is one who has been active in the past two years, including recently-completed projects.
“You should weigh your RMR pricing against the value you currently deliver to your active clients,” says OneVision founder Joseph Kolchinsky. “Dormant clients will be tougher to convert, but will eventually come back around to use you more as you improve your service offerings and market to them.”
According to OneVision’s analysis, typical call cadence can range anywhere from clients calling twice per month to once per year. It may seem on the surface like a low number, or fewer service calls, is desirable. But more frequent calls actually represent a healthier client relationship, Kolchinsky explains.
“We believe that no matter how well technology is installed, and regardless of the quality of components used, tech issues will always arise, invariably resulting in frustration for the client. The only question is whether your clients see you as part of the problem, or part of the solution,” he says. “Clients who have an excellent service relationship with their integrator won’t hesitate to pick up the phone and ask for help, while clients whose service experience has always been poor to mediocre are more likely to simply let their frustration stew.”
From this perspective, it’s actually the clients with a very infrequent call cadence that you need to worry about.
“At best, those clients are not dependent on your services. At worst, there’s a good chance they’ve grown exasperated, possibly even taking their business and potential referrals to one of your competitors,” says Kolchinsky.
Not only does a consistent call cadence represent a “stickier” relationship, but these clients are much more likely to purchase premium service plans.
“The simple idea here is that the more reliant clients are on your service, the more likely they are to stay with you for life and to opt-in to premium RMR offerings,” says Kolchinsky.
Project Size, Complexity Affects Call Frequency
So what explains the wide variance in call cadence across different integrators? And what can you do to ensure your clients are fully leveraging your services? Factors such as project size and complexity play an organic role in call frequency, meaning that these numbers have to be looked at through a relative lens.
“If your average project is a $10,000 house audio and media room package, your call cadence will naturally be lower than if your average project is a $250,000 fully-integrated home with a dedicated theater,” notes Kolchinsky.
However, there are other factors at play that drive your call cadence. “Quick and consistent response times are the single most important factor here,” says Kolchinsky. “If your clients’ service experience is slow or unpredictable, clients will simply stop calling unless they have a major emergency, or they will attempt to troubleshoot themselves, often making a bad situation worse.”
Providing a dedicated service line for support, with extended hours such as 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and promoting its use is the best place to start.
“Many clients who experience a system failure after business hours will be hesitant to call about it in the moment, leaving them feeling a little helpless. Others won’t hesitate to start calling you or your employees on your personal phones,” says Kolchinsky.
Providing a dedicated support line helps avoid both of these issues, as well as allows you to begin tracking call cadence more accurately and ensure the workload can be spread evenly across your company through a rotating on-call schedule, adds Kolchinsky.
The dealer data shows that when presented with 24/7 availability and guaranteed 30-minute response times, clients will gradually begin to utilize the integrator’s service at a more frequent rate. This creates a notable increase in the perception of value surrounding your service and raises the likelihood that clients will opt-in to those service plans when presented with the choice.
Analyzing Time-of-Day Service Demand Spikes
Another vital piece of data that OneVision tracks is the time of day at which demand for service spikes, which has revealed that calls come in on a predictable schedule based on how people live their lives.
“When you look at the data about when service events occur, you’ll naturally see spikes around common life events,” says Kolchinsky. “For instance, as the family is coming home from work and school or as they are sitting down for movie night.”
Integrators can leverage this data about service events to help offset a common concern about offering, and delivering on, service plans. “One of the main concerns will be how to provide this elevated service without burning out your team,” says Kolchinsky. However, it’s not necessarily a volume increase you have to plan carefully for, but rather the elevated level of expectations.
“The expectations for consistent response times increase dramatically when clients are paying some sort of monthly fee. The ramifications of not following through with these clients are unquestionably more severe than with non-paying clients,” says Kolchinsky. “Forethought and careful planning are required to effectively keep up with client expectations as your service offering matures.”
Leveraging data about when these demands will spike to make decisions about scheduling and on-call rotations can allow you to meet this demand in a sustainable manner. For instance, during the holiday party season you could create a rotating schedule, having one employee start later in the day to be available for evenings, or even later in the week to be available for weekends.
Specifically, the data finds that holiday weekends see on average a 2x spike in service demand than normal weekends; a marketing campaign aimed at signing clients up for preventative maintenance visits leading up to these times of year is a great idea … plus these visits can prevent many issues that would have otherwise had you and your service team working instead of enjoying your own holiday.
“[Our] data illustrates that underlying every tech support event is a life event that is being interrupted by a technology failure. Keeping this fact in mind allows you to address the underlying emotional issues surrounding tech support, which is absolutely vital to providing an exceptional client service experience,” Kolchinsky says.
Remote Solve and De-escalation Rates
A third metric you can track to improve your client service experience is remote solve rates. The use of remote troubleshooting tools like rebootable outlets (like BlueBolt) or full-fledged remote service management platforms (like Ihiji, SnapAV’s OvrC, Domotz, etc.) can greatly improve your ability to get your clients’ lives back on track when things go awry. But fully leveraging these tools and platforms requires practice.
“Using RSM platforms and other remote troubleshooting tools doesn’t guarantee that you’ll solve every issue without rolling a truck,” says Kolchinsky. “But if you approach remote support as a measured skill, then over time you should be able to solve a higher percentage of your service events remotely.”
Looking closely at data, it shows the percentage of remote solves correlates closely to deployment best practices.
“It doesn’t matter how good your team is at remotely troubleshooting if your deployments aren’t done consistently,” says Kolchinsky. “Documenting your system in an RSM platform and adhering to best practices like site and device naming schemes is key to getting your remote solve rate up.”
Remote solve rates do not tell the whole story, though, and a related key metric you should track is your urgent escalation rate. This is important because even if a given service event cannot be resolved remotely, preventing it from turning into a fire drill through creative workarounds can reduce such scenarios, which are expensive and taxing on your team.
Preventing these urgent escalations requires thinking outside of the traditional troubleshooting box. For example, you might guide your client to an alternative streaming method if an Apple TV failure is ruining movie night. By de-escalating support issues, you can prevent emergency truck rolls and get your clients back to enjoying their lives, even if the root issue can’t be solved immediately.
“Providing remote support in the moment is largely about dealing with the underlying emotional frustration,” says Kolchinsky. “Even if you can’t provide a permanent fix right away, a friendly voice and a temporary solution can do wonders for your client’s overall service experience.”
Using Data to Drive Change
Using key metrics can be a highly effective means of improving your client service experience. But there are many challenges associated with using data to drive meaningful change within your organization. To help address these challenges for their partners, OneVision recently created a new Partner Development Group.
A key strategy for getting started with this data-driven approach is to consolidate your service communications. Tracking metrics like call cadence and service demand spikes is virtually impossible if your clients are using various means of requesting support. The process of re-training your clients to use the new contact methods, instead of calling or emailing you or your employees direct, will take time, but it’s the only way to accurately track service demand and sustainably grow your business.
Another vital strategy is to implement a ticketing system and use it to track all of your service incidents, even and especially remote support events. A common misconception is that ticketing systems are meant to track onsite support events, but taking this approach will give you zero visibility into your remote solve and de-escalation rates, which are critical to providing an exceptional service experience.
Tracking and analyzing all of this data, then crafting and implementing new strategies based around it, are significant undertakings but there’s never been a more important time to raise the bar in your client service operations. If you think about it strictly from a technological perspective, implementing a smart home has gotten easier over that past decade. This has created significantly lower barriers to entry in our industry, driving an increasing amount of competition into the market.
The client service experience is rapidly becoming one of the last true areas of differentiation for integrators, and if you ask OneVision how to go about driving this change, the response is simple: data is king.
Leveraging Remote Systems Management (RSM) is one of the most effective ways for integrators to enhance their client service experience and improve their operational efficiency. That’s why OneVision recently published “The Insider’s Guide to Remote Systems Management.”
With the increasing number of RSM choices on the market, many are struggling to select and properly implement this vital technology in their businesses. So OneVision worked directly with all four of the major RSM providers (Control4’s BakPak, Domotz, Ihiji, and SnapAV’s OvrC) to put together this manufacturer-approved guide. It is a free, comprehensive resource which explores all the features that define a modern RSM platform and provides readers with tools they need to perform their own objective comparison.
The guide can be downloaded for free at onevisionresources.com/rsm.
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