HDI Report Shows Growing Need for Technical Support

Support ticket volume has increased in 63 percent of all support organizations, according to a report by HDI, an industry association. This is largely due to an increase in the number of new applications, systems, equipment, infrastructures, and devices that customers are using and a growth in the number of customers at many companies.

The 2015 HDI Support Center Practices & Salary Report also found that 74 percent of support center are not staffed 24 hours a day/seven days a week. Outside of normal business hours, 31 percent of organizations have no way of handling tickets at all. Forty-two percent of organizations do have support staff available on call, while only 6 percent outsource these cases to other service providers. At some organizations, operators, answering services, or other departments field support calls on nights and weekends.

"These reasons, taken together, seem to indicate increased growth and modernization in the various industries represented," says Roy Atkinson, a senior analyst and writer at HDI.

Additionally, the research found that 28 percent of support centers have plans to expand in the next 12 months, and 51 percent are filling open positions. This, Atkinson says, proves that "the market for skilled support analysts is healthy."

Conversely, the number of tickets decreased at only 10 percent of support organizations, thanks to an increased use of knowledge bases and other self-service options by customers.

Not surprisingly, phone and email are still the two most commonly used channels for customers to contact support. Phone came in at 93 percent, while email is used by 88 percent of organizations. A growing number of companies are also turning to online forms, which are used at 54 percent of organizations, up from 45 percent a year ago. Of all the tickets that support organizations receive, 48 percent come in by phone, 35 percent by email, 22 percent by Web form, and 23 percent are auto-logged.

The two most commonly used ticket resolution strategies are skills-based routing, used at 59 percent of support organizations, and intelligent swarming (defined as assigning people with various skills to swarm around issues as they occur), which is used at 23 percent of organizations.

Support employees at the tier-one level—where 56 percent of all cases are resolved—spend the majority of their  time (73 percent) handling tickets, followed by building the knowledge base, problem management, and asset management. At the tier-two level, personnel spend only 45 percent of their time handling tickets, with other time split between managing problems, building knowledge bases, and working on other projects. Support center managers have very little to do with tickets, which make up about 12 percent of their time. Most of their time is spent attending meetings, conducting training, or working on other projects.

According to Atkinson, the report also uncovered some very surprising technology buying trends at most companies. Each technical support ticket costs companies, with labor, infrastructure, and overhead included, an average of $16, the report noted

"Although many believe that technology purchases, such as service management tools, are decided at the highest level—the CIO, for example—we found that the executive level is more involved in approval than in selection," he explains.

For example, 62 percent of support centers say that only managers and directors are involved in technology selection, versus 26 percent where executives are involved.

"Even the purchasing decision falls to manager and directors in 57 percent of support organizations, versus 45 percent where it falls to the executives," Atkinson adds.

 The report compiled responses from more than  800 technical support professionals across all industries.

"It's not always easy keeping a support center running smoothly. Staying on top of the latest technologies and processes, keeping employees satisfied and motivated, and ensuring customers are happy are all things that take time, effort, and a lot of research," adds Craig Baxter, HDI's global brand director.