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Ratio of support to customers

Anyone have any good links for the typical ratio of support personnel to users for commercial shrink wrap products?

Gerald
Monday, January 13, 2003

Depends how good the project is :)

Stephen Jones
Monday, January 13, 2003

Assume it is excellent :)

Gerald
Monday, January 13, 2003

At a very popular travel website (which will remain unamed) we had around 40 to 60 support travel agents to assist with ticket changes, etc. and around 5 to 8 technical support agents for browser, operating system issues, etc. 

According to the stats, only 1.5% - 2% of the website users who made purchases ever called or e-mailed support.  The other 98% didn't need any help at all with booking a ticket.

HeyMacarana
Monday, January 13, 2003

oops -- "unamed" should be "unnamed" in the above post.

HeyMacarana
Monday, January 13, 2003

Darn, I hope some one chimes in with some good numbers.

Note that the approach taken to support will vary wildly form setup to setup.

I am know of some clients that have more support costs for 6 computers then some with 25 computers.

The last ratio I heard was about 1 support person per 25 computers. But again it depends on how well run the out fit is.

The #1 secrets to reducing costs is consistency. If every single computer has the same disk image, then one support call to fix a problem on one computer will generally fix the problem for the other 24 computers. Thus, any money paid on support costs is instantly usable across the whole company. If every single computer has a different setup/build , then a support incident for one computer will not necessary apply to other computers. The same fix will NOT appliy. Each new problem is like starting from scratch on each pc.

Also, stringent policies like no staff install of software, and ensuring that every computer is running the EXACAT SAME service release of office etc will save an average company thousands and thousands in support.

Following a few of the above rules is why some companies with 25 computers are paying less in support costs for some companies for 5 computers.

Also, good software is usually zero maintenance. When is the last time you phoned Microsoft for a support on using Excel?

Good software is and should be zero maintenance. That is my goal when I write software.

In my last software re-write, I reduced the yearly maintenance from about 15-10 hours to zero hours.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Monday, January 13, 2003

"When is the last time you phoned Microsoft for a support on using Excel?"

I never call MS if I can help it.  Support costs at least US$100 a phone call (it's been a while so I don't remember precisely) unless you have some kind of (expensive) support package, and support is discouraged - you have to wade through all kinds of online/FAQs first.

So that example is a non-starter.

Bah humbug
Monday, January 13, 2003

>>When is the last time you phoned Microsoft for a support on using Excel?"

>I never call MS if I can help it

Well, I hope most people don’t!! (and you have a fair point!).

I mean the same Knowledge Base that the support people search while you are on sitting on the phone is the same one you can use for free anyway!

If fact, I consider the KB the most valuable and useful resource that MS has. I use it at least 3 times a week. I will tell ya, if MS ever wanted to make some money, they could start charging for the KB. It is by far and away the most valuable thing I use, and it is free.

My real point here is how much support does a company need to run Excel? How often does a company need to call MS support due to a bug, or mal-function in Excel? How about Power Point? That really a rare thing. Those products really are maintenance free.

A company certainly needs some support and “training” on building and running spreadsheets, but on the actual function (or better put miss-function) of Excel? The problem is that many people call MS with a problem in Excel, and it really is something else like a incorrectly formatted cell function. That is a poor reason to call MS, and yet some do this very thing. If people are so lazy as to not purchase Excel for Dummies, then they do deserve to pay $100 for what can be easily searched at the KB.

The only difference between me and the other guy paying $100 is I know to go to my FIRST BOOKMARK OF:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx:

I would bet the #1 call for Excel problems is some printing problem, and that again is not usually the fault of Excel.

I mean the sr1 update for Office did fix a ton of bugs for Excel. So, I can’t say that people never need Excel support, but it is so rare.

I suppose this brings up a good question:

        The difference in support between users using Word/Excel, and actually problems due to the products them selves?

At the end of the day, if a user has a probem..the user DOES HAVE a problem! It is silly of me to sit heere and aruge that the problem may not be due to Excel. Even if the problem is due to miss-use, then the user still does need help!

Hence, I accept that user needs some help.  However, to call Goodyear when you have a flat tire really does not make sense!

Excel is near maintanance free. However, stuff like Email tends to really generate a lot of support calls...


Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Monday, January 13, 2003

Just to be clear, I'm asking about supporting a specific product, not supporting a network. Anyone seen any good articles on how many support people vs users companies like Microsoft, AOL, etc use?

Gerald
Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Forgot to put down that we had around 40,000 registered users on the travel site.  So that's a ratio of about 40,000 to 70, or 571 to 1.  But they were supporting a service and not a product as you're inquiring, however I don't think that makes too much of a difference.

Anyhow, I don't think there's a hard and fast ratio that's average for the major companies.  It'll probably mostly depend upon the complexity of the service/product.  If it's something easy to use like booking a ticket or a word processor then the ratio will probably be high (~ 500 : 1) as in the company I used to work for in the stats I quoted.

However, if you have a complex product such as if you were selling a database like Oracle, then I'm sure you'd need a lot of highly trained support personel to answer all of the questions.  And as such, the ratio will be much lower.

I don't recall any articles on the subject off hand; if you want harder and more concrete stats then I'd suggest you drop by one of the call center management forums and ask someone there.

HeyMacarana
Tuesday, January 14, 2003

This site may be worth some digging:

http://www.asponline.com/articles.html

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, January 14, 2003

What does the product do? What problems will your support desk be dealing with (installation problems, or use problems or only bugs)? What environments will it be rolled out to? How are you providiing support (phone, email, website with FAQ's, sponserred usergroups)? How long does free support run for?

What you're basically asking is "I'm going to be selling something; how many problems am I going to have; rough statiistics please?"

Nobody can answer that question, except maybe to say that if you've used this kind of thinking in the product development, probably rather a lot :)

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 14, 2003

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