Industry surveys ask. Colleagues ask. IT asks. Executives ask, incessantly.
“What’s your contact deflection rate?”
Let’s leave aside for the moment that contact deflection isn’t the primary reason to expose your knowledgebase to your customers. Let’s also leave aside the fact that it’s both practically and philosophically difficult to count things that didn’t happen. (Do I get credit for all the times I wasn’t snippy to my family and colleagues? No? But I counted 39 instances of snip-avoidance last week! I mean, if I hadn’t been so nice, I would have been a real jerk.)
So, like it or not, we have to come up with an answer for how many contacts we’ve avoided. As an aside, I don’t recommend that you characterize this as a rate—that is, a proportion of something else. People ask for this, but in my experience most don’t really know how to think about it that way, and there also isn’t universal agreement about what to divide it by. Saying “We had 10,000 self-service sessions this week that deflected approximately 500 cases” is clear enough; saying “we had 68% contact deflection” seems less obvious.
I’ve written elsewhere about techniques for estimating contact deflection; if you’re interested, please look at this newsletter article, and I won’t wave mathematical formulas at everyone else reading this blog.
What I do want to say is, it’s not straightforward. And I cringe when I hear that there’s some magical “X Factor” that you can multiply by page views or web sessions to calculate deflection.
For one thing, contact deflection is lower than many people expect, because the majority of customers using self-service, even entitled enterprise customers, wouldn’t have opened a case. As charming as we all are, customers would usually rather not talk with Support if they can avoid it.
But whatever your customer’s propensity to open a case after an unsuccessful self-service interaction (or page view, or Google search, or in-product link, or…what were we multiplying again?), you have to acknowledge that it’s going to vary from customer segment to customer segment, and product to product, and perhaps by geography, even within your own company. Certainly, your customer behavior around opening cases after self-service will be different from that of other companies, even in your industry.
So the idea that there’s a single multiplicand that can give you self-service contact deflection is, unfortunately, just another myth. If you must have an answer, calculate escalation rates and success rates as best you can, and let everyone know you’re estimating. Please don’t say that you’ve multiplied your web traffic by an “industry best practice” constant.