Archive for the ‘customer experience’ category

3 Ways Search Is Saving Customer Support: View the OnDemand Webinar

March 5, 2015

Yesterday I had the pleasure of co-presenting a webinar with one of my very favorite speakers, Diane Berry, Senior VP of Market Strategy for Coveo. Diane was a past winner of our TechFutures event and is always a dynamic speaker with great content. We had big attendance for yesterday’s webinar, and the OnDemand version is now available for viewing. I thought I would give you a quick look at what we talked about, and you can view the OnDemand event at your leisure.

Enterprise search is increasingly a cornerstone of a company’s knowledge management strategy. During the webinar, I talked about what I call “the three realities of enterprise search:”

  • A single knowledgebase for all information is unrealistic. Valuable content is stored across the enterprise—and in people’s heads. Yes, a knowledgebase for capturing tacit knowledge is critical, but that is only one source of information. Online documentation, product manuals, release notes, forum conversations, etc., are all critical to support technicians and customers. Companies need search technology to search everyplace at once, not just a single repository.
  • Knowing the right place to look for information is impossible—especially for newer employees. Surveys tell us that TSIA members have a dozen or more applications and content sources that they routinely access to support customers, and knowing where to look to find what you need can take years to learn. Unified search pulls from every content source, every time; the actual location of the content is irrelevant.
  • Filtering search results to find exactly what you need is a necessity. We know that 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results. Not only do you need relevancy analysis (which we discuss in the webinar), but you also need filtering options to allow knowledge workers, and customers performing self-service, to find exactly what they need without rephrasing their search over and over again.

Diane and I then went through the list of “The Three Ways Search is Saving Customer Support,” and based on my inquiry conversations, that is no exaggeration. How is enterprise search saving support? Here are the three points we discussed:

#1. Search turns your community or customer portal into a self-service, case deflection engine.

I’ve heard companies afraid to use the word “deflection,” thinking it implies they don’t want to talk to customers. This is simply not the case. My 2015 Social Support Survey shows that 46% of customers PREFER self-service, and only 11% prefer phone. Giving customers a dynamic and sucessful self-service experience is exactly what they want. And it is a win-win, since fully burdened support calls for B2B companies can be $700 or more, and self-service sessions typically cost less than $10.

#2. Search gives employees insight from across  your entire enterprise ecosystem.

One of the hot trends I’m seeing is imbedded, dynamic, contextual search. Imbedded because it sits within your CRM or other system of record, so no additional searches or windows are required. Dynamic because search results constantly update in real time, depending on what you type. And contextual, because the results are filtered based on the case title and notes you type in, as well as the value of any custom fields such as product or failing component. In this way, employees can see a list of related content from across the enterprise: related cases, knowledge articles, documentation, forum conversations, as well as lists of experts on the topic in case you need to escalate.

#3. Search analytics identify trends, knowledge gaps, and optimize relevance.

A couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to spend an hour with Diane and her analytics team focusing on how analytics can improve the success of a knowledge management program. I was so impressed with the conversation that now I’m writing a new research report, “Leveraging Analytics to Boost KM Success: Proactive Analytics Automate the Knowledge Maintenance Process,” to be published later this month. In particular, analytics can help proactively identify content gaps, improve relevance scores, and recognize content consumption trends. In the webinar, Diane provides examples and screen shots to illustrate these.

Here is the link to view the OnDemand version of the webinar: http://www.tsia.com/webinars/Trend_Alert_3_Ways_Search_Is_Saving_Customer_Support/

The webinar is only 30 minutes, and we did receive some interesting questions during the Q&A period at the end. Be sure to follow the link and watch the webinar when you have time.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Five Service Technology Things I’m Thankful for This Year

November 24, 2014

Here we are at the holiday season once again. When I was a kid, it seemed that Thanksgiving and Christmas were always a million miles away, but as I get older, time accelerates, and it feels like I just put the tree and decorations away a few weeks ago. This week we all take some time to think about what we are thankful for, and I truly give thanks for my personal and professional existence. But I thought it would be fun to write a post about what I’m thankful for this year as a service technology analyst. Here goes!

  • I’m thankful for new KM insights. This was the first year that I conducted TSIA’s knowledge management survey, and instead of focusing just on metrics like days to publish, I dug into KM potential, culture issues, adoption of emerging technologies, and the “rip and replace” problem. The data was very impactful, and has really informed my research and conversations. Though I cover a lot of technology topics as an analyst, I’m the most passionate about knowledge management tools and processes. It is great to have data-backed talking points about where companies struggle and pacesetter practices for success.
  • I’m thankful for rising PSA adoption and interest. The first few years I was the technology analyst for TSIA’s new professional services practice, it was the easiest job in the world–no one asked me about anything. Boy, has that changed. Today Professional Services Automation (PSA) is my #2 or #3 topic by inquiry volume. I’m seeing PS organizations become more sophisticated in their use of technology, including automated scheduling, analytic-powered dashboards, and automated billing, and core PS metrics like utilization rates and billable utilization are rising as a result.
  • I’m thankful for managed services. In my industry it seems almost politically incorrect to say anything negative about the cloud. But I hear from large enterprises every week who jumped on the cloud bandwagon, usually to save money on a CRM deployment, and are finding the tools are not as sophisticated or feature rich as their legacy solution, and often with abysmal usability. Managed services is rescuing this, offering the sophistication of onpremise technology with none of the ownership headaches or cost. According to George Humphrey, TSIA’s Senior Director of Managed Service Research, “It’s becoming less important to the customer where the product resides. It is becoming crucial to the customer that, whoever sells them the solution, that it is managed. It doesn’t matter if the technology provider is an SI, SP, VAR or the manufacturer selling direct. The expectation from the customer is that it is a fully managed OpEx solutions. The MSPs that are offering this type of solution are seeing explosive revenue growth in MS (many seeing triple digit growth).” For 2015, I expect to see some unhappy cloud customers moving to a managed service platform that better fits their needs.
  • I’m thankful mobility has moved beyond trend into serious business impact. Back in my CRM days, I was the product manager for a WAP CRM product, which I don’t think anyone ever used. The WAP interfaces were so klunky they really didn’t offer huge value for field employees. Early in my Forrester career I wrote a research report about mobile CRM, calling it, “The Next Big Thing That Hasn’t Happened Yet,” because all the vendors were releasing WAP products but no one seemed to be adopting them. The latest round of mobile solutions are a huge improvement, and as a result, we are seeing wide adoption and real business benefits. Here’s a chart with some data from our Field Service benchmark survey, which asks field service organizations what sort of business impacts they have seen from mobile initiatives. The value is clear and documentable, and I’m thrilled to see this “next big thing” is finally having the impact we all envisioned over a decade ago.

FS Mobility

  • I’m thankful NPS is losing some luster. I’ve gotten in trouble over the years because I have never been a fan of net promoter scores. I totally understand the importance of repeat business and referrals, but too many companies asked the “would you recommend us” question once a year, of one person at the account, which in my opinion is a totally useless way to gather real information on customer satisfaction and loyalty. Let’s be honest–many NPS programs are only designed to allow executive bonuses to pay out–not to really measure customer sentiment. Over the last 6 months I’ve heard many companies talk about how shallow their NPS program was, in retrospect. The new focus on customer consumption, customer experience, and now customer effort scores seem to be measuring much more actionable information than a single NPS score.

Wishing each of you a wonderful holiday season. And as always, thanks for reading!

2014 Mid Year Trends: KM, Social and PSA

June 16, 2014

Just over a month ago we had our Spring Technology Services World Conference in Santa Clara, and any time I wasn’t presenting, I was in 1:1 meetings with TSIA members and partners. I’ve been thinking about what I heard, as well as follow-on inquiry conversations after the event, and I wanted to report back with what I’m hearing as the 3 top trends in service technology so far in 2014:

  • The concept of knowledge management has expanded. It used to be so easy. Buy a knowledgebase tool, train all your support techs on KCS basics, and start receiving value. But lots of things have changed to complicate this. Don’t get me wrong, the knowledgebase continues to be a critical element for success, but today’s service organizations are now seeing the knowledgebase as step one of a more complex knowledge infrastructure. Communities are now rated as more useful in solving customer problems than the knowledgebase, according to the TSIA Support Services benchmark. Unified search tools are becoming a ‘must-have’ technology to index and search all your corporate content, including online documentation, release notes, customer configuration files, and incident history. Expertise management is growing in popularity, to analyze your corporate content and identify experts on any topic or feature, so you know who to reach out to when you hit a knowledge or content gap. Though every company seems to come at this complex mix of technologies from a different direction, just about everyone I talk to today is interested in leveraging corporate content, and expertise, and definitely looking beyond the traditional knowledgebase.
  • Social media listening as early warning system. According to Cisco’s Doug Pluta, customers frequently talk about product or service issues via social media channels before the issue is reported via traditional assisted support channels. My inquiries on social media have completely changed. The last few years the questions were transactional: what social channels should we support, how to automate incident management, how quickly should we respond to social issues, etc. Today, the incident traffic regarding social media is focused primarily on monitoring social for voice of the customer analysis. What are customers saying, what sort of sentiment is being expressed, are there thoughts or suggestions floating around we haven’t heard from traditional surveys, etc. It is good to see more support organizations getting active in social listening, and not leaving it to marketing to monitor. Marketing cares about the perception of the brand more than individual products and features, and there is a lot of value to be gleaned from actively listening to these social conversations.
  • ERP integration boosts PSA value. A lot of members tend to start their search for a professional services automation (PSA) tool by looking at who integrates with their CRM platform. But based on inquiry conversations, as well as audience discussion in the breakout session I did at Santa Clara on selecting a PSA system, tightly integrating PSA to ERP delivers more value, faster, than plugging into CRM. Since tightening up billing cycles and reducing DSO on PS bills is a hot button for most companies, it makes sense to plug your PSA system into your billing and accounting system. Project details, milestones, signature approvals and travel and expenses are all passed automatically, with enough audit trail detail to satisfy even the toughest customer. One member told me that they have received 100% compliance in submitting expense reports and project updates by COB on Friday by tying a percent of the consultant’s bonus to getting those reports in on time. I plan to put more focus on existing ERP systems when speaking with companies shopping for PSA from here on out.

Many other topics are brewing as well. A rising trend in inquiries is asking how to reduce the cost of a CRM deployment, with many companies complaining that their cloud CRM vendor is “nickel and diming them to death,” charging extra for every new feature. Mobility continues to be a hot topic as well, with more field service organizations investigating devices and mobile capabilities. Collaboration is another big subject in 2014, especially with more at-home workers making it impossible to ask questions across the cubicle wall.

2014 is seeing a lot of companies shopping for new and interesting technology to take them to the next stage of productivity, as well as new levels of insight/visibility into operations.  I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on other big trends in service technology. Feel free to add a comment! And as always, thanks for reading.

Announcing the TSIA TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Finalists: Bomgar, Coveo, and DB Kay & Associates

May 5, 2014

Each year TSIA conducts the Global Technology Survey, tracking adoption, satisfaction, and planned spending across 24 categories of technology and services. The satisfaction section of the survey has delivered interesting results, with the majority of categories averaging a satisfaction score well below industry averages. There are, however, some clear outliers from these averages, with some technology or service providers well regarded by TSIA members and highly rated for member satisfaction.

According to the TSIA Support Services Benchmark, customer satisfaction with enterprise software averages 4.3 on a five-point scale (with 1 representing very unsatisfied and 5 representing very satisfied). It is troubling, then, that the satisfaction scores for the 24 categories covered in the TSIA Global Technology Survey range from a low of 3.2 to a high of 3.9—all are well under the industry average of 4.3. However, if you look at individual satisfaction scores by vendor, multiple bright spots emerge. In fact, multiple partners received scores above 4.0, with one partner scoring an average of 4.71. The three partners with the highest satisfaction scores are named finalists in the TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Award. The three finalists are:

  • Bomgar. Bomgar is a leader in enterprise remote support solutions for easily and securely supporting computing systems and mobile devices. The company’s products help organizations improve tech support efficiency and performance by enabling them to securely support nearly any device or system, anywhere in the world—including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and more. More than 8,000 organizations across 65 countries have deployed Bomgar to rapidly improve customer satisfaction while dramatically reducing costs. Bomgar has offices in Jackson, Atlanta, Washington DC, Paris, London, and Singapore. For more information, see www.bomgar.com.
  • Coveo. Coveo helps companies provide more effective customer service by harnessing knowledge and experts from their enterprise knowledge ecosystems. Leveraging powerful unified search and relevance technology, Coveo surfaces relevant enterprise knowledge directly to agents and community members. With Coveo for Salesforce, Service Cloud Edition, related cases, articles, emails, experts, and more are searchable and surfaced in a single view on the Service Cloud console so agents can solve cases efficiently. Coveo for Salesforce, Communities Edition helps improve call deflection and customer satisfaction by automatically displaying content and experts related to topics members are discussing. Coveo is a salesforce.com strategic partner, with customers including Rally Software, Logitech, Deltek, EXFO, Tokyo Electron America, and SunGard. Learn more at www.coveo.com.
  • DB Kay & Associates. DB Kay & Associates, Inc. helps support organizations create customer success and better customer experiences through sustainable knowledge programs. The firm consults and trains to drive best practic-es (such as KCS) and secure executive support, reducing risk and accelerating success. DB Kay leads customer experience mapping exercises to identify and fix customer experience issues. They offer everything from short strategy sessions to hands-on program management. Whatever the engagement, they know they’ve been successful when they’ve transferred knowledge effectively enough that their customers no longer need them! DB Kay customers include Ultimate, Sage, IBM, Carestream, Riverbed, Microsoft, and NetApp. For more information, go to www.dbkay.com.

Today at Technology Services World, I will interviewing the three finalists in the TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Showcase at 12:45pm, immediately following TechFUTURES. Please join us to hear more about these companies, and what they do to ensure satisfaction customers. Thanks for reading, and hope to see you there!

Where to find John at TSW Best Practices

April 30, 2014

Our big spring event, Technology Services World Best Practices, kicks off next week at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The conference begins for me on Sunday with partner advisory board and internal meetings, then we officially open the doors on Monday. I’ve been getting emails asking what I’ll be doing at the conference and where to find me, so wanted to give everyone a look at what I’ll be up to at TSW. Here’s a link to the full conference schedule.

  • Monday 11am-12:30pm. TechFUTURES: The Future of Service Technology. This is the opening event at the conference, and I’m really looking forward to it. I will take the audience 5 years in the future for a look at the impacts of Extreme Efficiency and Extreme Automation, focusing on 3 areas: Analytics, Collaboration, and Service Channels. We will have 3 presenters, from Changepoint, Jive Software and Support.com, each painting their view of 2019. Then the audience votes for who gives the most provocative view of the future. Don’t miss this fun event!
  • Monday 12:45-1:45pm. TechBEST Showcase. My annual global technology survey covers 24 categories of tools and services, with dozens of vendors/providers in each category. One of the things I survey about is satisfaction, and in general, the numbers aren’t that great. However, there are some bright spots with companies receiving extremely high scores. The 3 TSIA partners with the highest satisfaction scores are finalists for the 2014 TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Award. In this showcase, I will unveil the finalists and interview them about how they are able to have such satisfied customers.
  • Monday 3-4pm, Power Hour: The 2014 TSIA Technology Heatmap. In this session, I will reveal the results of my 2014 Global Technology Survey, including adoption, satisfaction and planned spending across 24 categories of tools and services, including analytics, CRM, online communities, web collaboration, PSA, and more. I will also touch on the top technology and social trends I’m seeing.
  • Monday 4:15-5:15, Pacesetter Practices: Social Media for Support. In this session I will talk about the results of my recent Social Media in Support survey, then turn things over to two experts on social support: Doug Pluta, Project Manager, Cisco; and Tim Lopez, Social Media Manager, Symantec. We will talk about the importance of social media both for customer interactions, but also monitoring social conversations as part of a larger voice of the customer strategy.
  • Tuesday 9:45-10:45am. Workout Panel: Key Criteria for Selecting a PSA Solution. Professional Services Automation (PSA) is now one of my top inquiry areas, with PS teams shopping for automation around resource management, project management, and project accounting. I will be moderating a panel of experts on the topic: Al Gray – Vice President, Bentley Systems; Keith Drab – Solutions Architect, Changepoint; and Jeff Gebhart – Senior Solutions Consultant, Planview. A prize will be given for the best audience question, so be sure to attend and participate!
  • Wednesday 11am-12:30pm, Service Revolutions. This is our annual “American Idol” contest for cool technology, with presentations from startups, established tech firms, and some TSIA members, on innovative technologies for streamlining and automating service delivery. I will be doing my best Paul Abdul on the panel of experts, providing pithy comments after each presentation. Live audience voting determines the winners.

I still have a few slots left for 1:1 meetings on Tuesday, so see Susie at the registration desk to book a time to discuss your service technology challenges, or to find out the best Mexican place close to the conference center. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

Interview with PAB Member Duncan Heal, Managing Director and CEO, MARKETii

April 24, 2014

Over the years I have published interviews with new members of TSIA’s Partner Advisory Board. I had some time this week to chat with one of our newer PAB members, Duncan Heal, Managing Director and CEO for MARKETii, about industry trends around voice of the customer programs. With Duncan’s permission, I’m sharing our conversation with my blog readers. Enjoy!

John Ragsdale: Duncan, thank you so much for agreeing to participate in TSIA’s partner advisory board, and thanks for making time to talk to me today!

Duncan Heal: My pleasure and thank you and TSIA for asking me to be part of the board.

John: Market Intelligence International, or MARKETii, covers a lot of territory related to Voice of the Customer programs. Can you give us a quick overview of your services and programs?

Duncan: Simply put, Marketii and Marketii Medical work with service executives and help them increase customer retention and loyalty so they can grow service revenues and profits. Our customized Voice of the Customer programs help our clients grow faster, sustain business success and improve both top and bottom line revenues by gathering actionable customer insights so they can make the best business decisions. We cover telephone and web surveys as well as mystery calling into help/support desks. We have an enviable position of working in over 25 native languages that helps clients better understand the differences that come from providing service across the globe. It’s then a case of turning all of that feedback into reporting and action items allowing the clients to learn from best practice and the best resource allocation

John: In addition to all these customer facing programs, you also offer a program on employee satisfaction. I’ve seen a lot of survey data that the first step in having happy customers, is making sure you have happy employees. How do you work with your customers on measuring employee satisfaction, and what do you see them do with the data you provide?

Duncan: Great question, John. Our research shows that there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and performance and customer loyalty. Often times companies have to build their VoC efforts “from the inside out” meaning gathering and assessing employee satisfaction data, looking at strengths and weaknesses and then building a VoC initiative for their “outside customers”. Many of our programs include individualized agent performance data that helps service executives look at specific areas of strength and weakness of each agent, whether they be field service, technical support, customer service, professional service, etc…

John: I’ve gotten in trouble a few times for comments I’ve made about Net Promoter. My issue is that companies that only ask one survey question a year, of one account holder at the customer account, are not getting a full view of that customer and their experience. I know you do a lot of Net Promoter work with your customers. Can you comment on how you recommend Net Promoter should fit into the overall satisfaction, loyalty, or VOC program? Or do you think one question a year of one person at the account is enough?

Duncan: No conversation on VoC is complete unless you talk about NPS. Our feeling is that NPS is a great way to begin to assess the loyalty of your customer base but it is not the only way. The nice thing about NPS is that it is easy to understand and provides executives with a standard metric centered on customer loyalty. But as a stand-alone, it is not sufficient. Any holistic VoC program must contain satisfaction questions, must contain Customer Effort/Ease questions, must contain both qualitative and quantitative questions, must contain questions that measure importance vs satisfaction, must contain questions that center on root causes and key drivers of loyalty. Asking one account holder, one NPS question a year, is not enough. A key area to our research here at Market ii is also the understanding of differences in cultural feedback on areas such as NPS as different customers will give different ratings for the same services. We help understand and quantify this through our culture indices reporting

John: MARKETii was a finalist last year for our TechBEST Best in Satisfaction award, for having one of the 3 highest satisfaction scores in my annual technology survey. First of all congratulations for that—with 24 categories of tools and services, and dozens of vendors in each category, being one of the top 3 is a major achievement! How does MARKETii go about making sure your customers are satisfied and receiving value?

Duncan: Thanks John. First of all we ensure we have a great team of Account and Project Managers supporting every client. We then mix in a strong element of pro-activeness that comes from our experiences in running these type of programs and projects. And I think the key element of this and something that we teach to our clients is that the relationship is key to building an understanding of needs, wants, and how the actual client operates so that we can supply the right research at the right time to the right people. We treat them how them in the same way that they should be treating their customers.

John: With TSIA’s focus on B4B and the shift to outcome based services, we are seeing more interest in monitoring customer success. Our definition of customer success includes some sort of consumption monitoring to understand how customers are adopting and using your tools and services, and how much value they are receiving from the tools and services. My recent 2014 Technology Survey found that only 14% of our members are currently using any sort of technology for consumption monitoring and analytics. Are you seeing any interest in this topic from your customers? Does MARKETii see consumption monitoring as part of a strategy to improve satisfaction and loyalty?

Duncan: To answer your first question, yes, we are seeing this come up. We have developed some tools that allow clients to understand the customer importance and usage of some of their services balanced against the cost/time/risk and effort from the clients perspective in providing these services. When you take into account the successful, or unsuccessful customer interaction then our Strategic Priority Analysis helps the client fully understand where they need to concentrate their efforts and to understand what is successful.

This does lead well into the 2nd question you asked John in that by companies better understanding the way they deliver the services and the impact it has on customer satisfaction and loyalty then these companies are in a better position to adapt their services quicker and have more consumption based services. A good example is the way that companies are looking to Marketii for more subscription based and adaptable services for monitoring their customer satisfaction purely because they are adapting, improving and changing their own offerings.

John: I’ve started receiving more inquiries just recently about monitoring social media channels to help identify key influencers of your brand, and to better measure customer sentiment and identify areas for improvement. How important is social media monitoring to your customers, and is this a growing area of interest?

Duncan: John, it certainly is becoming more important . I think the users and customers in B2B or should I say B4B markets and organisations are a bit different to the B2C customers in their use of social media in terms of influencers of a brand. What I mean is that a consumer buyer being much more likely to tweet about their experiences of, say, a restaurant or some new clothes, than that of a consumer of IT systems or CRM tools. That is not to say it isn’t growing, but it is done in different ways.

Market ii and Market ii Medical carry out research into the “tipping points” or “tolerance levels” of customers at which they will go onto social media and write about the brand or issue. This is done to gain a much better understanding of the combination of when that is, and what is the caused. Companies are then able to prevent the issues from occurring and understand the customer issues better before they start to move to social media to potentially damage the brand.

Thinking about what you said about sentiment analysis, this can be looked at in two ways. One, there is the overall sentiment in the feedback from customers that we turn into dashboard reporting, thus giving a view of customer satisfaction levels leaning one way or the other. The real nuggets of information come in the coding of open narrative to assess areas of improvement and importance. We work really hard to ensure that when looking at as an example a pie chart of what area to improve upon you don’t see a large pie slice saying “other”. That is no good to the client. The better coding and analysis of the narrative gives the client a complete picture of where to concentrate their efforts and doubly so by being able to understand if those things that need improving or maintaining are of importance to the customer.

John: I know you work with a lot of different industries, including a new MARKETii Medical division. It seems the stakes can be pretty high in understanding issues with customers in the healthcare and med tech industries. What are some of the unique challenges these companies are dealing with?

Duncan: First, we are very excited to announce our new division, Marketii Medical. We saw a distinct need in the medical device marketplace for a Customer Experience company who was strictly focused on helping medical device companies build customer loyalty. Medical devices is a very competitive market place. There are new players coming into the market on what seems like a daily basis. What we are finding is that the vast majority of companies are seeing that service excellence and not product is driving customer loyalty and profitability. Also, service costs for medical device companies are among the highest in the industry, so it is critically important to measure and track satisfaction with service provided to help keep these costs down. Evans Manolis is the President of Marketii Medical and he brings with him over 16 years of experience and has worked with over 100 medical device companies during that time.

John: Duncan, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today! Look forward to seeing you in Santa Clara for TSW!

Duncan: Thank you John, good to talk with you and look forward to catching up in a couple of weeks. Take care.

Thanks everyone for reading! You can meet Duncan and learn more about MARKETii at our Technology Services World Conference kicking off May 5th at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Hope to see you there!

 

Gamification At Work: New Book Provides Rich Examples for Enterprise Apps

June 12, 2013

I did not jump on the gamification bandwagon early. I’ve attended a lot of webcasts and conference presentations on the topic, and I kept hearing the same unconvincing stories over and over, with no great examples of how this applies to the world of enterprise applications. Too many vendors have added a “Like” button somewhere in an application and call it gamification. I’ve seen people talk about revolutionary gamification strategies to drive worker productivity, but it was the same old incentives for extra effort we’ve used for decades. I had started to think that gamification was like the infamous emperor–maybe not completely naked, but at the least scantily clad.

I’m happy to say there is a new book about to be published that finally convinced me the gamification movement is real, it is revolutionary, and it definitely has a place in enterprise software and service operations. The book,”Gamification At Work,” was co-authored by two prominent design professionals, Janaki Kumar, Head of Strategic Design Services at SAP and Mario Herger, a Senior Innovation Strategist at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, California. With a real background in enterprise software, Janaki and Mario provide a deep dive into gamification examples for software, productivity and even support communities (using actual examples from the SAP customer community). “Gamification At Work” will be published later this month, but the publishers have provided a link to access an online version of the book, just for “Ragsdale’s Eye On Service” readers, so please click through and check it out: http://www.interaction-design.org/books/gamification_at_work.html?p=c782

I knew I was onto something when on the very first page, I found this: “[The authors] caution against taking a ‘chocolate covered broccoli’ approach of simply adding points and badges to business applications and calling them gamified.” This has been my exact complaint, so I knew these guys had figured it out.

The previous presentations I’ve seen on gamification give gaming examples and say, “Think how we could use that in corporate America!!!” But they don’t give examples. This book gives examples. Not only does it provide a look at the psychology of gaming, and walks you through the typical push backs on the topic and why they aren’t valid (things like it only works for kids, or women won’t use it), but it also details gamification elements, gives the root of the idea from the gaming world, then shows how it can be leveraged in enterprise apps or corporate processes. My favorite part of the book is Chapter 6, describing various gamification elements, and not just points and badges, but interesting concepts like Scaffolding, Narrative and Emotion.

This book is must read for enterprise application designers, and the examples about online communities and worker productivity make interesting reading for service management as well. Please take advantage of the free online version while available, or order now from Amazon!

Thanks to Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger for sending me an advance copy, and to Lee Traupel of the Interaction Design Foundation for extending the free online version to my blog readers. And as always, thank you for reading!

Resolving Verizon/DirectTV Problem: Only Kafka Could Write This

November 5, 2012

Hopefully you are familiar with Franz Kafka, whose literary works confuse, anger and frustrate. My favorite example is The Trial, published in 1925, with a great film adaption by Orson Welles released in 1962. In The Trial, a man is summoned to court, without knowing when or where to go, and put on trial without ever being charged or accused of a crime. Kafka perfectly captured the feeling of being trapped in bureaucratic processes with no reason or explanation. Unfortunately, that was exactly how I felt all weekend trying to resolve a conflict with my Verizon DSL service and my DirectTV service.

Last Tuesday, my home land line and DSL service went down. According to Verizon it was due to the storms in NY, though I found that hard to believe since I’m 3,000 miles away. But anyway, my central office was down. It came back up on Wednesday, but my DirectTV box could not connect to the internet to download OnDemand movies–a feature I use all the time.

On Thursday, I called DirectTV who trouble shot it for me and scheduled a repair person to be onsite between 8am-noon on Friday. I was pleased with the fast appointment and friendly techs at DirectTV, who always take good care of me. When the tech arrived on Friday, he walked in, looked at my Verizon D-Link DSL modem/wireless router, and said, “I’ve seen this at least a dozen times, that modem has port problems.”

At this point, I started to feel Kafka slipping in. I consider myself more technical than the average person, but when the DirectTV tech started explaining to me what was wrong, it sounded like the teacher talking in a Peanuts cartoon:  blah blah blah, blah blah-blah. None of it made sense. Home networking has now become far too complex for anyone but a network engineer.

The crux of the problem is that when the Verizon central office went down and came back up, they used a default configuration that included blocking the port the D-Link modem needed to connect to DirectTV. There was also an issue with the way this modem refreshes IP addresses. While the DirectTV tech was still there, I called Verizon tech support and asked their help in resolving the issue. They immediately said it wasn’t their problem and there was nothing they could do. I handed the phone to the DirectTV tech, who explained the problem in terms beyond my comprehension…unfortunately also beyond the comprehension of this tech support guy in India. The phone call lasted over 2 hours. The Verizon tech didn’t kn0w how to configure ports, and was using a public website for instructions, which was years out of date (it gave procedures for DirectTV using a software version number that hadn’t been supported for 5 years).

The DirectTV guy apologized, said there was nothing else he could do (he replaced my box, the cables, and everything else just to be sure), and finally left when the Verizon tech hung up on us. I called Verizon back, and was told I needed to talk to Level 3 support and would have to pay for that. Then I hung up in disgust.

The DirectTV guy told me to buy another DSL modem and the problem would go away. I didn’t want to do that since I’ve already paid Verizon for the D-Link modem/router, and Verizon refused to send me a different model.  But Saturday I broke down and went to Best Buy and bought the only DSL modem they had, from Actiontec.

Sunday morning it took 3 hours to setup the new modem, requiring another 1+ hour call to Verizon India. Once the new modem was finally connected, DirectTV instantly connected and began downloading OnDemand movies. The Verizon tech even said himself that the Actiontec was a much better modem than the D-Link and had no connectivity problems with other company’s equipment.

So the problem that started on Tuesday was finally resolved by lunchtime on Sunday, after probably 8 total hours on the phone to tech support, a few smart agents, and a few clueless agents with little or no English skills. While I’m glad the problem is fixed, I’m frustrated as hell that I buy my Verizon and DirectTV service bundled through Verizon, yet Verizon provides modems that don’t support DirectTV, and seem clueless and uninterested in fixing the problem. And to charge extra for level 3 support to fix your own equipment problem is totally unacceptable.

So, in my spare time this week, I’m shopping for a new internet provider. Verizon is the only “traditional” carrier here in the mountains where I live, but there are some satellite companies offering service I need to investigate. In fact, DirectTV is going to begin offering phone and internet via satellite in my area soon, which I may have to wait for.  When you drag a customer through a process that can only be described at Kafka-esque, you have to expect a lot of customer churn. And I’ve reached my limit with Verizon.

Thanks for reading.

Customers Top 5 Pet Peeves About Field Service

September 11, 2012

This post was prompted by an interview request from Darren Weiss at The SmartVan, a blog and news aggregator focused on field service people, process and technology (the resulting story can be found here). I dug out some customer survey work concerning the top customer complaints about field service, and used a poll to identify which of the five give you the most grief. Here’s what you said:

No surprise that the dreaded 8 hour appointment window remains the biggest complaint about field service. Unfortunately still common in the consumer world (ask my phone company), giving a customer an 8 hour window to sit at home and wait for a repair person is just ridiculous. Even without all the automation created in the last decade, you’d think “morning or afternoon” would at least be an option. And with mobile scheduling tools, getting down to a 2 hour window…heading toward an exact appointment time…should be in reach for most organizations.

The last time I had a problem with my land line, I received an 8 hour appointment window: 8am to 5pm. I started calling around 4pm when no one had showed, but they said they would definitely be there. They didn’t call me until 5:30 to say they wouldn’t make it, but they would be there tomorrow….between 8am and 5pm. If your customers has already spent an entire day waiting for you, and you didn’t show, the least you can do is give an exact appointment time for the next day. Another 8 hour window just adds insult to injury.

Having a tech not familiar with the equipment, and/or having to schedule another appointment to fix the problem, tie for 2nd place in biggest field service complaints. Especially if you already gave up an entire day with an 8 hour appointment window, being told they have to come back tomorrow is maddening. And from the provider’s perspective, it costs $1,010 for an onsite repair visit according to the TSIA field service  benchmark. If you can’t fix the problem and have to schedule a 2nd appointment, you are now up to $2,020 for the issue. Being ineffective can be very expensive.

Missing an appointment time without alerting the customer comes in 4th. This is another problem I encounter frequently. I live in a fairly remote area, and about 30 minutes after most appointment times, I receive a call saying, “We had no idea you were so remote. We can’t be there for another hour.” And they usually get lost finding me after that, especially since Google maps and every car navigation system puts me half a mile down the road in the middle of a forest.

It is a bit sad that of the top customer complaints about field service, having an unfriendly tech barely raises an eyebrow, with only 7% of respondents to the poll saying this was their hot button issue. I suppose we are so grateful to finally get a warm body onsite we don’t care how rude they are.  But it definitely impacts the customer’s perception of the brand, and their likelihood of repurchase.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll! And as always, thanks for reading!

Lessons Unlearned Radio Tour: Customer Service is a Hot Topic Coast to Coast

August 28, 2012

This week I completed my Lessons Unlearned radio tour of North America. Over the last few weeks, I’ve done 14 interviews with large and small radio stations in such diverse locations as Boston, Virginia Beach, Colorado Springs, Des Moines, Detroit, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. Some of the interviews were syndicated, broadcast all over the c0untry. While some of the shows were business oriented, and we talked about topics like enterprise CRM, tech trends, why most startups fail, etc., the majority of the interviews were with morning “drive time” DJs who just wanted to entertain.

Based on what I heard in these 14 interviews, customer service is a very hot discussion topic. In fact, my contract was only for 10 interviews, but so many stations replied to the interview request because they loved the topic that I ended up doing 14. Thinking back over all these interviews, which ranged from 5 minutes to 25 minutes, there were 3 themes I heard over and over again:

  • Certain brands have a terrible public perception for service, deserved or not. Bizarrely, three consumer companies came up in almost every interview, with DJ’s asking, “Why does this company hate customers?” These three are AT&T wireless, DirectTV, and Best Buy. There are definitely some brands on my “black hole of customer service” list (read the book to find out who!), but personally I have a great relationship with all three of these companies. I’ve been an AT&T customer since my first dorm room phone line in 1982, and an AT&T wireless customer since my first cell phone in 1997. DirectTV is the only satellite provider in my remote mountain area, and I love them. And Best Buy has bent over backwards to fix any problem I’ve ever had. I love shopping at Best Buy. But clearly these companies have some brand building to do.
  • Phone support is painful. Another complaint I heard on almost every interview is about the endless wait times for phone support, the infuriating voice menus that never have the option you want, and the worst: the non-stop recording saying “Thank you for holding; your call is important to us.” Clearly, if the call were that important, the company would have more phone agents available. Other complaints included recordings saying, “Please listen to all options, menus have changed” when the menu hasn’t changed in 5 years, agents with poor English skills, and in general, bored,uninterested support employees. It pains me to hear these complaints with so much focus on the customer experience. Clearly, companies need to make some major investments in quality monitoring technology.
  • Customers would rather churn than complain. I have a section in my book with advice for consumers when they encounter customer service problems. Nothing surprising really:  take a deep breath, speak with a supervisor, and if all else fails, write a registered letter to the CEO. But what I heard in these interviews is that no one is interested in fixing the problem, they seem on the edge of an explosion at any time, and would prefer to make a scene, trash the company on social media, and start shopping elsewhere. When I suggested that complaining was the only way to let the company know they had an employee needing additional training or mentoring, the reaction was usually the same: “Not my problem.”

While the New York Times has yet to call to say my book made it to their best seller list (I’m still waiting!!!), the timing of the book seems perfect. Customers have had it with bad service and poor experiences, and both patience and tempers are in short supply. Perhaps the most infuriating piece is how easy most of these problems are to fix: better training, CSAT tracking, linking customer experience to performance reviews, doing basic quality monitoring, and for heavens sake, dial in to your own voice system periodically to see how painful it is for customers. And as I say repeatedly in the book, if you truly love the customers, most of these problems evaporate.