Archive for August 2010

Conversation with Bill Moore and Dennis Gershowitz: Building a Customer Experience Management (CEM) Strategy

August 30, 2010

Not too long ago I published a blog post entitled, “Let’s Take Back “Customer Experience” from the Marketing Team!” My point was that the term “customer experience” seems to have been hijacked at some point by marketers who use it as a code term for upsell/cross-sell on company websites and online stores. Similarly, I’ve seen “customer experience management,” or CEM, used by vendors selling everything from satisfaction surveys to call recording to multi-channel management. But what is missing is usually the end-to-end view of the customer experience, what elements of the experience drive loyalty, and how to identify those elements so they can be repeated with all similar customers.

To delve into this topic, I was able to schedule time to interview experts on CEM, Bill Moore, the director of CEM training and Dennis Gershowitz, President and Founder of DG Associates, a longtime AFSMI and TSIA partner. Bill is the director of the CRMI, the Customer Relationship Management Institute, where his duties include designing and delivering employee customer relationship training and recognition/reward programs. Bill has a successful background as a service professional with over 30 years of experience working with Honeywell, Data General, Wang Laboratories, EMC, and Kronos Incorporated.

Dennis is a thought leader in service delivery excellence and has led several world-class service delivery organizations, with more than 30 years of service and support experience. As the executive vice president of worldwide support at Alfa Wassermann he led the company to their first globally certified NorthFace ScoreBoard Award for Outstanding Customer Service Excellence. Dennis has a successful background as a service executive with over 30+ years of experience with Coulter Electronics, Alfa Wasermann, Olympus America Endoscopy and Medical Laboratory Automation. Bill and Dennis will be leading a professional development workshop at our upcoming TSW Conference in Las Vegas on Monday, October 18, “Best Practices for Building a Customer Experience Management (CEM) Strategy to Strengthen and Grow Your Customer Base.”

John Ragsdale: Bill, it is a pleasure to speak with you! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me!

Bill Moore and Dennis Gershowitz: Thank you for the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our workshop to your membership.

John: Let’s start with the term CEM: customer experience management. Could you talk about what CEM means to you, and what a CEM strategy entails for a technology support organization?

Dennis: Great starting point, and this comes with various definitions. CEM is a business strategy for acquiring – retaining – upgrading and winning back customers. All technology support organizations must commit to a CEM Playbook Strategy, just as they commit to a marketing – sales – manufacturing strategy. This strategy must be based on the principle that CEM is not a project, but, a lifetime journey whose objective is to continuously exceed the customer expectations to achieve the ultimate goal-LOYALTY. By accepting this principle, an organization begins the metamorphosis to what we espouse as the “CEMDNA playbook Strategy”. That is, all processes must be viewed as to improving the customer’s experiences with your product and your services.

As a certified CEMDNA Playbook Strategy Partner, we teach a proprietary 12 step process to achieving this goal. We measure the success by acquisition – retention – growth – win-back ROI analysis. This strategy must be reviewed at least annually and supported with senior management engagement, funding and employee engagement at all levels. Employee engagement, recognition and reward are mandatory components and must include added compensation for achieving customer satisfaction levels. Establishing KPI’s for at least each customer facing group (sales – marketing – service) is crucial to the success of increasing customer loyalty. We measure customer loyalty by repeat purchasing – upgrades – referrals – extensions and several other key factors. Bob Hayes’ popular and informative book “Beyond the Ultimate Question” confirms the 12 step process within his five (5) major Customer Feedback Program (CFP) components. Hayes also presents a solid argument for the ever increasing NPS skepticism regarding only one (1) question surveys are needed to determine customers loyalty all other type surveys are simply a waste of time and money. Those that choose to become disciples of this NEO-theory and dismiss the decades of well tested and proven survey methodologies that traditionally measure to identify key KPI’s of product issues from service issues, risk high customer churn statistics. This approach is like purchasing a boiler with no gauges to indicate degrees of temperature and pressure-fatally dangerous.

John: In the abstract for your workshop, I’m intrigued when you say, “Discover how measuring loyalty enables the company to focus attention on the “right” customers.” One of the downsides I see to companies jumping on the social media bandwagon is that so much attention is being given to the “loud” customers on Twitter and Facebook. But I suspect these are rarely the most valuable customers. How do you identify the “right” customers for an organization to focus on?

Dennis: Great question often asked by our clients. (more…)


Bringing TSIA’s Social Media Message to Asia Pacific

August 25, 2010

Next week I am doing a webcast for Asia/Pacific on leveraging social media for support. The event is sponsored by TSIA Partner Citrix Online and, a research, consulting, analyst and online publishing company dedicated to the Australian and Asia Pacific contact center and outsourcing industries. I hope all of my readers and our TSIA corporate and community members in Asia/Pac take this opportunity to tune in to a webcast in your timezone–Thursday, 2 September at 2:00 PM Australian EST (9pm PST on Wednesday September 1).

This webcast will cover the results our TSIA Social Media Survey, and much of the information has not been previously published. This is a fascinating, and as far as I can tell, completely unique data set, so definitely worth your time to attend. During the webcast I will cover survey data as well as the top FAQ’s for social media, including:

  • Adoption growth of discussion forums 2007-2010
  • Which department owns social media efforts within companies?
  • What social support channels are most companies using, across discussion forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • How do you select the social media channels to support?
  • What staffing is required for social support?
  • Social media interaction volumes
  • Basic support processes for handling social media channels

The moderator for the event is a leading voice in support practices in the Asia Pacific region, Dr Catriona Wallace, Managing Director of Pty Ltd and ACA Research. Dr Wallace is an expert in Customer Engagement and Employee Engagement and advises companies on service and employee strategies, with particular emphasis on contact center service channels. Dr Wallace has a PhD in Organisational Behaviour, which gives her great insight into consumer behavior and the impact of social media on the workplace. She is also funny as hell, so it should be an educational and entertaining webcast.

To register for the webcast, click here.

Hope to see you all online next week!

A Conversation with Karen Travis: Talent Management for Service Professionals

August 24, 2010

In last week’s webcast featuring Phil Verghis, we talked about how most support managers are made: the best support techs get promoted to manager, though the skill sets of the two roles couldn’t be more different. That’s how I made it into support management, and if anyone I managed that first couple of years is reading, I apologize. I thought my job was to micromanage every incident and make their lives crazy…which worked great as a team lead, but not so much as a manager. Luckily, I worked for JCPenney, a company famous for outstanding management training programs, and ultimately I do think I became a good manager. But it wasn’t easy.

Newly minted support managers usually have the technical chops—we know how to interview and train for that. But effective employee communications and relations can be as much art as science, and not all companies have the education programs JCPenney offered. So how do you become an overnight expert on recruiting, coaching and leading a team? Here’s one way: take advantage of our professional development workshop, “Talent Management for Service Professionals,” offered on Monday, October 18th, at our TSW Conference in Las Vegas. We are lucky to have as the course instructor Karen Travis, president and CEO of Sigma Performance Solutions, Inc. Sigma, a TSIA partner, provides training facilitation, instructional design, and consulting services. Karen has spent more than 20 years working with organizations on communications, performance management, conflict management, and employee relations and retention. I sat down with Karen this week to talk about why training for managers and supervisors is more important today than ever.

John Ragsdale: Karen, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me about your upcoming professional development course, “Talent Management for Service Professionals.”

Karen Travis: My pleasure, John.  I appreciate the opportunity.

John: It seems to me that it is even harder today to be an effective manager. I keep hearing that many long held practices are less effective with Gen-Y workers, dealing with a global and more remote workforce adds lots of new wrinkles, and there is so much focus on metrics and quality within support that people can get lost in the equation. What are you seeing out there?

Karen: John, you’ve described it pretty well!  Managing effectively has become much more complicated.  It’s stressful on the workforce and managers!  Add in the recent economic tension with all of the above and it’s a recipe for disaster.  Very few organizations are coping well.  Right now, talent management is frequently at the bottom of the heap, and that’s unfortunate.   Not enough time and attention is being placed on managing the workforce.  As the economy starts to recover, employees are going to be less fearful of moving (i.e. turnover will increase), and the competition for the skilled workforce will heat up!  Companies that want to recruit and retain the best and brightest need to work on their talent management efforts now, not later.

John: One of the things I liked in your workshop description is when you say that customer service skills can work on employees and peers too. Could you talk about that?

Karen: Sure.  Years ago, we focused purely on the relationship between the service pro and the customer, and that was a great step forward.  But, in today’s world, it’s hard for one person to be “the solution” or to have all the answers when organizations are dealing with software from Vendor X and hardware from Vendor Y, networking equipment from yet another source, and who knows what else!  (more…)

Announcing Categories for Fall 2010 TSIA Recognized Innovator Awards: Would You Like to be a Judge?

August 19, 2010

The TSIA Recognized Innovator Awards recognize innovation in services technology, and are presented to partners of TSIA at our Technology Service World conferences. Partners submit applications for consideration, and case studies documenting business results are required. The categories for the Fall 2010 TSIA Recognized Innovator Awards are:

Innovation in Service Economics. The Associations’ Services 50 Study documents the rise of services revenue for large high tech companies, which now represents as high as 70% of revenue from software firms and a third of the revenues for hardware firms. While this trend means that service and support enjoys more visibility and influence with company executives and Wall Street analysts, it also means that service executives are eager to identify new sources of revenue. The Recognized Innovator in this category will provide real-world examples of how companies are leveraging their technology or services to generate incremental services revenue. Examples could include:

  • Technical Support. Technology or services that enable or streamline offerings such as a Technical Account Manager, remote monitoring, proactive support, or maintenance renewals. For consumer companies this could be technology for which consumers pay a premium, such as remote control or a self-healing option.
  • Professional Services. Technology or services that enable PS to deliver faster and more profitable projects, such as tools to build libraries of repeatable services, automation tools to better capture project work performed and streamline the billing process, lowering DSO.
  • Field Service. Technology that cuts operating expenses for field operations; tools for upsell/cross-sell in the field such as offer management and OnDemand print devices; real-time recording of work performed onsite and time/expenses to speed billing and receivables.

Innovation in Customer Satisfaction. One of the few metrics tracked across professional services, technical support and field service operations is customer satisfaction (CSAT). In fact, even Wall Street is now caring about CAST: according to the TSIA benchmark, 62% of service executives have compensation tied to satisfaction and loyalty scores.  Not only does poor satisfaction impact the lifetime value of a customer, with the myriad of social networking  avenues available to give customers a global voice, upset customers can easily do damage to a company and its brand. The Recognized Innovator in this category will provide real-world examples of how their technology or services have been used to increase customer satisfaction scores, or insight into reasons for satisfaction or dissatisfaction, for one or more areas of service and support. Examples could include:

  • Technical Support. Multiple technologies, including knowledge management, remote support, and customer communities, have all been linked to satisfaction increases, either for post interaction satisfaction surveys, or for periodic relationship surveys. Analytic tools, including sentiment analysis, can look at customer conversations and identify common denominators creating dissatisfaction..
  • Professional Services. Technology or services that enable PS to deliver projects that meet or exceed customer expectations, including time and cost estimates, or delivering fast time-to-value. Also, tools to monitor CSAT during project execution so problems can be identified and resolved quickly.
  • Field Service. Technology or services that allow FS teams to deliver exceptional customer experiences with fast and on time appointments, field techs with the right skills and tools for the job, and even preventative maintenance services that increase product consumption and reduce downtown for the customer.

Innovation in Mobility. Mobile technology and devices have the highest planned spend for any technology area covered by the 2010 TSIA Member Technology Survey, with 34% of field service members having budget for mobile technology. With smart phones putting web browsers at our fingertips, employees and customers are demanding faster and more consumable content, and innovative mobile devices allow a greater array of services to be delivered in the field, boosting productivity and revenue. The Recognized Innovator in this category will provide real-world examples of how their mobile technology or services have been used to extend the reach of a service organization, streamlining activities and lowering operational costs. Examples could include:

  • Technical Support. Mobile enabled knowledge and customer management tools allow support techs and supervisors to easily access information or update records from anywhere at any time; giving customers mobile access to self-service content can boost assisted support deflection as well as raise satisfaction for mobile savvy customers.
  • Professional Services. The ability to log work performed, file expense reports or even deliver customer projects via mobile device can easily streamline services operations, with mobile knowledge tools making each consultant an expert on any product.
  • Field Service. Technology or services that allow FS teams to receive routing and appointment information, report time onsite, log work performed, search knowledgebases remotely, and even file T&E reports in real-time can improve productivity and accuracy; innovative devices for printing and signature capture can enable field upsell/cross-sell and reduce DSO for billable work.

Winners are chosen by a panel of judges including technology-savvy association members and industry experts. Judges are responsible for only one category, approximately 5-10 applications.  I will provide a scoring sheet; judging will take less than an hour. If you would like to be a judge, please shoot me an email ( and I will send you more information and a timeline for the awards.

Judging is great way to see the latest and greatest technology and services in the industry. I hope you will consider volunteering! And as always, thanks for reading!

Making Knowledge Work for You: Interview with David Kay, KM Guru

August 12, 2010

When I analyzed all of my member inquiries for 2009, 31%–nearly a third–related to knowledge management, search, and web self-service. You’ve all heard me complain about how shockingly low self-service success rates are, with the industry average dipping down to 40% at the beginning of 2010. Clearly this is an area that companies haven’t figured out, even though spending on knowledge technology has been strong for the last decade and a half.

Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a day with someone who has all the answers? Here’s your chance. At our Fall TSW conference in Las Vegas, David Kay will present a full day workshop, “Making Knowledge Work for You: Best Practices in Support KM,” Monday, October 18 from 8am-2pm. David is founder of DB Kay & Assoc, and co author of Collective Wisdom: Transforming Support with Knowledge, a must read for all support knowledge workers. David is my go-to guy for all things knowledge, and I wanted to take this opportunity to interview him about his workshop, and why KM is such a challenge for today’s support organizations.

John Ragsdale: What a pleasure to speak with you David! I’m excited about your upcoming KM Workshop, “Making Knowledge Work for You: Best Practices in Support KM.” You have spent time with many SSPA and TSIA members over the years, helping them create new knowledge processes and implement new tools. What would you say are the 3 most common problems you find regarding KM initiatives within tech support?

David Kay: I’m excited about the workshop at the Las Vegas TSW conference!  We always have great conversations. The three problems I see the most have changed over the past several years.  It used to be that KM efforts lacked executive sponsorship, but–as your numbers suggest–most support executives understand the benefits of knowledge, so that’s less of a problem.  What we’re seeing instead is resistance among operational managers, measurement challenges, and a paralyzing fear of being wrong.

I feel for the operational managers I work with.  Every day, some executive stops by and says, “hey, do this one other new thing,” and then walks away before the poor manager can ask, “what do I get to STOP doing?”  With rising pressure to serve more customers, with more complex issues, with constrained resources, it’s not surprising to me that they see knowledge management as just one more thing they don’t have time to do.

The reality, of course, is that knowledge management will really streamline the job of support.  Done right. it makes the job not only more efficient, but more fun:  who wants to answer the same question over and over again?  But line managers will need some convincing, and expecting that line managers will support KM just because they’re told to is a mistake.

Knowledge measures are different from other support measures.  Typical measures are straightforward:  all things being equal, we should close more cases per person, resolve cases more quickly, and get higher CSAT scores.  But when it comes to knowledge, numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Is authoring more content good?  Yes…but only if it’s needed, and if it’s findable, usable, accurate, and timely–otherwise more content is actually bad.  Knowledge measures require a mindset shift.

Finally, there’s something about writing something down in a knowledgebase that makes people just a little…crazy.  Say someone to a customer, OK…write it in an email…fine…but write it in the knowledgebase?  EMERGENCY!  EMERGENCY!  Someone’s going to take their entire network down!  Let’s get 13 subject experts to review it first, with a side trip to Marketing and Legal.  Never mind that, by the time the content goes through its review process, we’re going to be shipping the next major product release.

I don’t mean to be cavalier about quality, and much of the work that Jennifer and I do with clients involves building quality and continuous improvement into the KM process.  But even if your knowledgebase is 100% perfect today, customers will still misinterpret it, and it’ll be obsolete tomorrow morning.  Perfection isn’t an option, any more than it is in product development or in case resolution.  The goal is the most value for customers, and efficiency for ourselves.  And I find this requires taking a deep cleansing breath and giving up the illusion that perfection is an option, while figuring out how to get things as right as possible, as quickly as possible.

Social Platforms Mature: OutStart Seamlessly Blends Internal/External Communities

August 3, 2010

I had a call today with the folks at OutStart, a vendor of social business software as well as learning and mobile solutions, to get an update on their Participate platform, which includes full community capabilities along with knowledge and expertise management tools. I’m happy to see that social media (or social service or Social CRM, depending who you are) is definitely maturing, with products and customer examples reflecting more integration, more inclusive definitions of community, and a broader range of content management capabilities.

There were three things that struck me about the OutStart demo I found impressive, not just that the product includes the features but that the market is demanding them:

  • Blending internal and external communities. I have written about this before, and I’m thrilled to see new vendors like OutStart who sell internal, external and blended communities. Some of the leading community platforms only sell to customer communities, not internal, because they make their money by the number of page views so only care about huge customer communities with big page view traffic.  Employee communities will never be as big or as profitable for them. But I think it is incredibly short-sighted not to realize how useful communities can be for employees, as well as understanding that employees play a critical role in customer communities, and we should be encouraging as much employee participation as possible.
  • Content control. Only 17% of TSIA members have integrated social media channels into the corporate website, but it appears that this is changing–at last. I made a comment to OutStart during the briefing that their platform now includes a lot of features normally found in content management systems (CMS), and it is great to see so much flexibility built into a customer service platform. The Participate customer portal treats discussion forum content as one library of content, with sections and links to knowledge articles, other corporate content, and even external content from 3rd party forums, expert blogs or news outlets. Additionally, OutStart offers very granular controls for who can see what content, allowing separate internal and external discussions and content to happily co-exist on a single platform with no problems. This also means that content can be developed and published to different groups along the way, embracing Knowledge Centered Support processes.
  • Integration. Only 8% of TSIA members have integrated social media channels, including forums, into their CRM/incident management system. It didn’t help that early community vendors formed strategic relationships with specific CRM/incident management vendors, with few packaged integrations available. Then the new breed of vendors came along offering combined CRM and communities, and while they do solve the integration problem, they require you to replace your existing tools. I was happy to see that OutStart has a tight integration to (used by 19% of TSIA member companies), with an open integration framework available that customers can use to connect to their CRM system of choice.

Shawn Santos, our director of social media, is working on the 2010 TSIA Social Media survey, so it will be interesting to see if these integration issues are being resolved by member companies, and how the formerly separate worlds of web self-service knowledgebases and discussion forums are merging. Stay tuned for those survey results later this year. If you have any comments or questions, please add a comment or drop me an email, and as always, thanks for reading!