77: Forecasting in Support with Mike Redbord

77: Forecasting in Support with Mike Redbord

Mike Redbord believes forecasting for future load can be powered by a good spreadsheet, and can in turn empower your conversations with other parts of the business.


I’d love your thoughts on this episode! Comment below, and like/love/share/support if you found this inspiring, thought-provoking, or useful!

Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello and welcome to Episode 77 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward.

The theme for this week is forecasting. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. Today I’d like to welcome back Mike Redbord. So Mike, the topic for this week is forecasting. We are very numbers driven. And we know that there’s a huge amount of data in a support team.

Mike Redbord 0:44
So this is a topic that oddly is sort of close to my heart because I think one of the most valuable functions that the ultimate leader of support and serve is to both benefit their team and their customers by like kind of solving quote unquote solving the math problem. That is forecasting. When you don’t solve it, bad things happen, you run really long queue times and your customers are upset and your team’s upset, and your boss is upset. So when you maybe solve it in the opposite direction, you have people sitting around on their hands, and there’s not enough work to go around. And that’s also bad, right? So kind of finding that really fine grain of balance in the forecast in the budget and then resourcing and aligning, it was actually really, really important to Team health. And to customer. The way to think about this at its core is it’s sort of an economics problem. It’s just supply and demand, your customers have a certain amount of demand for health, and you have a certain amount of supply of help you can get. I think one of the keys for support leaders in here to get this right and serve their team to serve their customers is to understand that supply and demand equation in a really, really quantified way. And this is going to involve a spreadsheet. This is going to involve a little bit of math, and you’re going to have to do it in order to serve everybody better.

Charlotte Ward 1:50
So in terms of that spreadsheet, then it’s something that I see come up quite often is people go looking for a spreadsheet that they can lift from another support organisation and and us how specific to the business do you think that spreadsheet needs to be?

Mike Redbord 2:05
I think the first version of this like baby’s first you know, forecasting, budgeting and resourcing spreadsheet is one of one on one is like not that specific in a given month or quarter or week, you’ve got, you know, number of customers that you’re going to have. And that should come from your finance team, or your sales team, it’s a good opportunity to have a conversation with those guys about their forecast. This month, we’re gonna have X number of customers, and then you can look at your own numbers and say, on average, how often do our customers need help? How often do they contact us? And then for each case that you get, how long does that take, on average, look at your team and say, all right, how many cases actually get done in a day, kind of back it out from the reality just kind of look at the behaviours that are happening on the team and ease your way into it. So it takes us 35 minutes to do a case whatever the number is, is what it is. That’s a reality. Okay, got 500 customers, each contact you you know, 2.5 times a month and each case is going to take a certain amount of time. Great, now you have a supply number on one side of this equation that is measured in, you know, minutes. That’s how much your customers actually want from your job is to give your customers what they need, right and think about how many actual working hours you have that your team can really push towards your customers.

Charlotte Ward 3:16
I think I think it’s really interesting that that the way you calculate the demand is based on reality, right? And that’s important.

Mike Redbord 3:24
Yeah. And I think a number of how long you know how many minutes it takes us to do a case? That’s a number that a lot of people care about, because it has a huge influence on this whole math problem, right? If you take 5% less time to do a case then need 5% less people. I agree, consider 5% more customers like it’s a lot of leverage in there. And I think when support leaders look at that number, they tend to get embarrassed emotion is oh my gosh, like I could do a ticket faster or something like that. And they feel they feel an element of shame or who I should performance manage my team better. So when finance people look at that number, they Get excited. They say, oh, if we can make it less, wouldn’t that be useful? And so there’s, there’s a really interesting handshake here between support and finance, where the support folks and say, Okay, if we had this tool or if we improved our knowledge base, we could actually drive that number down and enables a support person to make a deal with the finance person. And that deal can involve new tools, new technology, sometimes even new hires. It’s a really cool dynamic.

Charlotte Ward 4:25
You just bought back so so much past embarrassments over how long tickets actually take to solve. We both have a long tenure in support. We both know that no two tickets are equal. I’ve worked in organisations on the frontline as an agent myself, I’ve had 20 plus tickets a day and then I’ve done one ticket day in a different organisation. So no two tickets are created equal night and particularly in one company I was with where there was a lot of acquisitions and a lot of different products were brought together. It’s a very, very difficult conversation. And I remember where tickets were taking more than a day and you know, another arm of the support team. We’re solving 10 plus a day or whatever. And is, there is that cringe that you feel that embarrassment that you feel, particularly in bigger organisations say actually, it does take us this long. Yeah, that trade off you have to make between being realistic about the numbers and be and being honest, but actually standing your ground as well and saying, it genuinely takes this long.

Mike Redbord 5:22
I remember that first conversation I had about that number with my CEO. It was a revelation for him. It was like, wait a minute, it takes like 40 minutes to do one of these things. He’s like, when I call our support team, it gets done in like, five minutes. I’m like, your CEO, you know, like, and you also, you know, you don’t maybe have the most complicated issues. Sometimes. I do think something you said is really critical then for support leaders to stand their ground on it, and not let the knowledge that it could be better sabotage their own success in terms of standing up for their team and their customers. They know this is reality, and we’ve studied it empirically, and we’re going to make it better but just this is where we are. I think that’s really, really important. All the way up to the CEO. And actually the more than CEO knows how long it takes to do a ticket, the more the CEO be like, we got to have fewer tickets. What are these probably people do all day, right? And then the last point that I’ll add is you put that model together, what you need to do is you need to now get on the treadmill of running this thing. And every week or every month, you need to take a look, how accurate was it? Right? And the answer will probably be not very accurate at the beginning because something changed, and then you start to edit the model. And over time, it becomes a tool that, you know, you start to know really well and it gets really, really accurate after a couple of years. But the thing is, it takes time and you need to start that process early as possible.

Charlotte Ward 6:41
That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/77 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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