Archive for February 2013

TeamSupport Provides Collaborative Take on Customer Service

February 14, 2013

When was the last time you saw something really new and innovative in a customer service demo? If you see as many demos as I do, you know that true innovation is rare. New features in customer service apps come in waves. In 2005-2007, we saw a wave of business process-centric apps, attempting to streamline and solidify processes across disparate support groups. Then in 2006 social media exploded, and since then, we’ve seen each release of CRM and multi-channel platforms expanding into communities and social media channel support.

If you’ve attended any of my recent webcasts, you know that collaboration is a big theme for me this year. Across all TSIA members, 74% had budget for community and collaboration tools in 2012-2013. Most tech companies already have a customer community in place, and the spending now is focused on employee communities, and enabling real-time collaboration across the enterprise. My nirvana would be to see the customer community and the enterprise collaboration initiatives merging: you have a customer in a chat/screen sharing session, run into a new problem, and in real-time can pull in the developer who wrote the code and the product manager who designed it. Heck, why not bring in another customer who successfully is using that feature today? Call me crazy, but that’s ultimately where collaboration will take customer support.

I’m very pleased to highlight a new player on the market who is embracing process, social, AND collaboration in their customer service platform: TeamSupport. Whether you are shopping for a new tool or not, you should check out a demo to see the first of the next wave of customer service apps with a focus on collaboration. Not only does TeamSupport include what we now think of as ‘best of breed’ features: knowledgebase, multi-channel tools including chat, self-service, etc., as well as social tools (customer community, Facebook plugin), but it offers a few other features I find very compelling.

  • Water Cooler. TeamSupport’s Water Cooler feature is an internal collaboration tool, a la Twitter, allowing you to post questions or new ideas to a group for discussion or comment. The searchable stream of conversations allows real-time collaboration, even while working with a customer.
  • Wiki. Not only does TeamSupport offer a knowledgebase, it also includes a Wiki for document sharing, enabling both content management and knowledge management.
  • Tag clouds. TeamSupport allows custom fields to help categorize or track different kinds of incident, but they also support tagging. In the incident’s tag field, you can enter as many tags as you want, such as “installation, Product 123, Crash 234 Error.” You can easily find all incidents with a tag or tags to help research problems or determine problem frequency.
  • Screen capture. I’ve been talking for 2 years now about incorporating video into support, and TeamSupport is the first tool I’ve seen to include this as an “out of box” feature in their support platform. Employees/techs can record screen cams of a procedure to illustrate an error on an incident, or to add a video tutorial to a knowledge article, with an option to include voice narration. And, customers can record screen cams of an error or a problem process flow and imbed it in a support ticket opened via self-service. Imagine how much faster you can solve a problem when instead of a 1 line explanation in a case, you have an actual video of the problem?

TeamSupport offers integration to Salesforce, Zoho and others, as well as integrations to some support analytic platforms, like Zoho Reports. Fully hosted, pricing begins at $20 per user/per month; $35 for Enterprise Edition. Checkout the website for more info or to see a demo. There are also videos available on TeamSupport’s YouTube Channel.

I had a chance to meet TeamSupport President and CEO, Robert C. Johnson, last fall, and his energy and enthusiasm are infectious. Great to see a young CEO with new ideas and a lot of passion driving innovation and change in the industry. I wish Robert and team a lot of success! And thanks as always for reading!

Are you REALLY KCS Compliant? David Kay Documents Common Departures from the Standard

February 11, 2013

I consider myself an expert on knowledge management for support. But when I have questions, I go to someone with even more expertise than I have:  David Kay of DB Kay & Associates. I recently had a conversation with David about how everyone seems to think they are KCS (Knowledge Centered Support, the recognized standard for support knowledge capture, publishing and maintenance) compliant, but they clearly have practices that are not true to the spirit of KCS. David has created a list of questions to ask yourself to see if you have strayed from your KCS training. I was going to use this in a webcast a couple of weeks ago, but the webcast content took a turn in a different direction and I wasn’t able to use it. But I thought the list was important enough to include in a blog post.

Here is the list from David, with some comments from me:

Does your customer-facing staff:

  • Consistently search for knowledge while resolving cases? If techs don’t search for content every time, they rely on how they solved the same problem in the past. The problem here is that the knowledge article may changed, due to a product revision or new release, or maybe someone found an easier approach to solve the problem. Encourage even senior techs to search every time and be on the lookout for article updates, especially after a major product release.
  • Link cases to relevant content, new or reused? Linking support incidents to knowledge articles gives you accurate data on exactly how many times each known problem occurs, which not only allows you to put an ownership cost on each problem, but helps product management and development prioritize bug and enhancement requests by targeting issues impacting the most customers.
  • Universally contribute to the knowledgebase, if they have knowledge to share? I get so many questions on how to encourage everyone to contribute to the knowledgebase, and my answer is you have to leverage both the carrot (incentives, rewards) and the stick (performance reviews), making knowledge everyone’s responsibility, and reward those who participate and penalize those who don’t.
  • Capture knowledge in the workflow, while working cases, rather than later? It should not take a degree in creative writing to submit knowledge. With templates and process flows, techs should be able to easily submit new articles using incident notes while working on the problem. The key here is to capture and share the knowledge as quickly as possible. Especially after a new release, many customers may report a bug at the same time, and you don’t want multiple techs investigating the same problem. By submitting an article about the problem as soon as possible–even if the fix is pending–anyone else who encounters the problem won’t waste time reinventing the wheel on a solution.
  • Improve knowledge as they use it? How many times have you read a knowledgebase article and noticed a spelling error, a leap in logic, or a missing step? Support techs should be encouraged to submit suggestions to improve content, always with an eye toward making the article as easy to consume as possible by novice techs and customers attempting self-service.
  • Self-approve their content, if they have the right KCS license? The key is getting new content available as soon as possible, to avoid the reinventing the wheel problem mentioned earlier. Senior techs should be able to publish articles visible to all front line workers, even if an additional layer of review is required before publishing the content to other departments or customers.
  • Understand that knowledge is a big part of their job? Every single employee runs across new information in their jobs. The knowledgebase should be the braintrust of the entire support organization, not just senior techs or designated knowledge experts. As I said earlier with the carrot and the stick, use whatever means necessary to get EVERYONE to participate. This means coaching some reluctant contributors that if they will share their hard-earned secrets, it means they can spend less time solving the same problems over and over, and begin tackling some new and more interesting problems.

For more information, you can find the original list at dbkay.com/checklist, and David has a video discussing the list on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb8TQKUZwXU&feature=youtu.be

Thanks so much to David Kay for the great content, and thanks to all of you for reading!

SMB’s Are Ready for Field Service Automation

February 4, 2013

Last week I participated in a webcast with our partner Astea on field service automation for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), and in preparation for the webcast, I uncovered some data that really illustrates the need for automation. (Here’s the link to watch the OnDemand version of the webcast.) According to my annual member technology survey, only 60% of small firms (those under $100M in revenue) have any type of field service automation in place, compared to 88% of large enterprises (over $1B in revenue).

Automation impacts key operational metrics field service organizations use. With real-time scheduling, factoring in location, skills and parts availability, field techs can accomplish more appointments per shift, and reduce response time. With automated routing instructions, which includes real-time traffic conditions, drive time to appointments can be reduced. By providing mobile devices to streamline access to knowledge and enable team collaboration, techs can perform repairs faster and increase first time fix rates.

Out of curiosity, I sliced some of the field service metrics by company size, and the data shows that on average, smaller firms are falling behind the largest firms. Here are some examples:

Field Service Metrics by Company Size

Now, obviously automation is not the only factor here. Smaller firms are challenged to service widespread customers with a smaller team of field techs. Larger firms can hire outsourced field workers close to customer clusters. Larger companies may offer more SLA options, including tighter response and resolution times. However, lack of automation certainly contributes.

Luckily, I think these numbers will start to change. Planned spending by under $100M firms on field service tools is rising, with 60% of small companies having budget for field service technology in 2012-2013. And, there are more options for SMBs, with emerging cloud solutions designed specifically for SMBs. Being an SMB doesn’t mean you will miss out on “cool” technology either–today’s SMB focused solutions offer mobile device support, collaboration, dashboards, etc.

I will be kicking off my 2013 Member Technology Survey on March 1st, and I will reveal the findings at our Spring Technology Services World Conference in May in Santa Clara. Let’s hope the planned spending has begun to materialize, and adoption levels for field service automation will be higher. Stay tuned! And as always, thanks for reading!