Archive for the ‘customer support’ 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!

10th Annual TSIA Global Technology Survey is Now Open! Free Research Report for Participating

March 3, 2015

I’m pleased to announced that my 10th annual TSIA Technology Survey is now open! This survey covers 24 categories of tools and services used by customer support, professional services, education services, managed services and field service. The survey is open to everyone (not just TSIA members), and if you complete the survey, you will receive a copy of the resulting research report, “The 2015 TSIA Heatmap,” which discusses adoption levels of each category and top technology trends related to service organizations.

The survey addresses adoption, satisfaction, and planned spending for commonly used technologies including CRM, knowledge management, enterprise search, web collaboration, online communities, social media monitoring, analytic platforms, learning management, etc.  The survey asks which line of service you work for, then only prompts you with categories that apply. For example, if you work in Field Service, you will be asked about scheduling and dispatch tools, and if you work in Professional Services, you will be asked about professional services automation. So you won’t have to answer all 24 categories!

Along with the traditional service technology, the survey also addresses some emerging hot technology areas critical to TSIA’s B4B, customer success and expand selling messages:

  • Consumption Monitoring/Analytics: These tools are used to measure and monitor customer consumption of technology, gauging how quickly customers are adoption new tools, common process flows, top used features, number of users and length of session time, etc. Consumption Monitoring is a key piece of a Customer Success strategy.
  • Recurring Revenue Management: These tools are used by service professional to manage the sales and renewals processes for maintenance and service contracts. Functionality includes automating renewals, renewal dashboards, and analytics to predict likelihood of renewal and manage profitable contract/maintenance programs.
  • Upsell/Cross-Sell: Also known as offer management software, these tools prompt call center, tech support, field service, or renewal sales reps with contextual offers to extend to customers, using analytics to identify offers they are most likely to accept. Tracking extend and accept rates, the software continues to learn which offer to prompt for which situation and customer profile.

I make great use of the data collected, with mulitple reports published of the survey findings for the Spring Technology Services World Conference in Santa Clara. First is the 2015 Technology Heatmap, which looks at high level adoption and spending trends across service disciplines. This report will be sent to everyone who completes the survey. In addition, I will publish detailed spending report by service discipline, a separate report on EMEA, as well as the “top installed” report, listing the top used tools or service providers in each category. If you are a TSIA partner, ask your customers to take the survey!

The survey is open until March 31st. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete the survey. Your responses are kept confidential, and are only reported in aggregate. Here is the link to the survey:  http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1994057/2015-Global-Technology-Survey

Thanks in advance for your support, and after you take the survey, pass along the link to your friends in service organizations! The more responses, the better. 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!

Best Practices for Successfully Migrating to a New CRM Platform

August 19, 2014

Over the last few months I’ve received multiple inquiries from companies moving to a new CRM platform, asking for any best practices to make the migration efforts less painful, and to ensure a successful result. Most companies I talk to have 3-5 different systems in place, usually due to acquisitions and mergers, so they have an even bigger task of migrating everyone off disparate systems onto a single platform moving forward. Based on my experience working for CRM vendors, doing consulting projects as an analyst with companies implementing CRM, and many recent conversations with companies moving to a new CRM platform, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Change is hard. No matter how long you’ve had your old system, and how much people may grumble about using it, getting employees to embrace a new system isn’t easy. The #1 complaint from employees when I do system audits is “they shoved this new system down my throat.” This is one of those times when you should over-communicate with employees. Tell them why you are making the change. Give them demos of the new system. Buy everyone a mug or t-shirt with the new vendor’s logo. Do what you can to get them informed and excited about the new system before you start training them to use it. This will go a long way towards getting acceptance and rapid adoption for the rollout.
  • Change is good. The biggest mistake I see companies make when they migrate to a new system is just replicating the old screens and process flows on a new platform. You need to take a very hard look at your legacy implementation and figure out what’s working, and what’s not. Do a real audit of the current system so you know what NOT to recreate in the new platform. I even recommend surveying employees about what they like and don’t like in the old system, which goes a long way toward getting them invested in a new system. Typically, a lot of fields and process flows were added over the years for one reason or another, and many of them need to be eliminated. Process analysis isn’t fun, but you need to look at all your customer-facing processes and identify where changes should be made. Implementing a new CRM system is a wonderful opportunity to change what’s not working.
  • Minimize customizations. Popular CRM systems have thousands of customers, and their “out of box” capabilities and screens reflect the most common, i.e., best practice, approaches used by their customers. Try to stay “out of box” as much as possible. If you see areas—and you will—that need major customizations to meet your current processes, ask yourself if those processes are really providing competitive differentiation for your company. Maybe going with a common industry approach is the right thing to do. The other thing to keep in mind is that the traditional OnPremise CRM platforms are fairly complex, and customizations may require a highly trained system administrator with some programming skills. In newer cloud CRM platforms, customizations are very simple to do with little training. This is both a blessing and a curse. Because customizations are so easy, companies go crazy making constant tweaks, which can wreak havoc for users and degrade usability. Make sure you have a process in place to evaluate and approve every customization before implementing it.
  • Prioritize integrations early in the project. I’ve done a lot of writing and inquiries about integrating CRM to other systems to enable “quote to cash.” There are many 3rd party applications you should consider integrating with CRM to streamline processes and avoid employees juggling multiple applications. Knowledge management is an obvious example, with integration performing automatic searches of the knowledgebase based on incident text and field values. PSA is another example, with integration to CRM automatically passing along new project information to the PSA system to enable resource and project management. The majority of the time, companies say, “Let me just get CRM up and running, and we’ll do the integrations in Phase 2.” The problem is, Phase 2 never happens. Hopefully, you have selected a CRM platform with integrations in mind, as each CRM vendor has a set of ecosystem partners with packaged integrations to minimize the effort required. Get a realistic estimate early in the project about time/costs to integrate each 3rd party system, and try to get as many integrations as possible into the initial project phase.
  • Pick your implementor with care. I guess this goes without saying. But I’ve heard some horror stories about really bad implementors, so be sure you carefully evaluate their credentials and check several of their references. As I said previously, implementing cloud CRM may not require as much technical/programming skills as OnPremise CRM systems. A decade ago, most CRM implementors worked with big accounting firms, and you were assigned a project team with deep experience in process optimization and certified on the CRM platform so they knew every bell and whistle in the system. Unfortunately, today I see companies hiring some yahoo whose only experience was implementing a cloud CRM system for small non-profits or a 5 person insurance office, and they have no clue about “best in class” processes or any real depth of knowledge about the platform.

I know many of my readers know as much or more than I do on this topic, so please submit comments with any other suggestions you may have on what to do–or what to avoid doing–to make moving to a new CRM system successful. Thanks for reading!

How to Leverage the Googlization of Knowledge Management

May 20, 2014

In my last blog post I wrote about the winners of our Service Revolutions competition at TSW, in which a group of tech companies each had 7 minutes to demo bleeding-edge technology, with the audience voting to determine the “coolest” presentation. This Thursday I’m hosting a webinar at 10am PT, “Making the Web Work for Customer Support,” with the winner of the Service Revolutions Commercial category, Radialpoint.

Radialpoint is really at the center of a number of converging trends around knowledge management in service. In the webinar I’ll be talking about:

  • The rise of complexity is making each customer issue harder to solve, and more companies are questioning the traditional “generalist” model of support, moving toward a collaborative group of expert specialists.
  • Traditional knowledgebase solutions are only meeting part of the needs of companies, leaving large gaps of customer issues with no corresponding content.
  • The primary way most people attempt to find information now is using Google (which I refer to as ‘Googlization’), and I have new survey data to illustrate this. I’m hearing from more support managers that they’ve invested heavily in KM, but their support techs use Google and bypass all the internal content.
  • Useful web content found by support techs isn’t captured or shared with other knowledge workers, causing support techs to “reinvent the wheel” researching the same  problem again and again.

Radialpoint can help address each of these problems. You need to see a demo to understand how cool this technology is, but in a nutshell, they are able to incorporate all your internal content (knowledgebase articles, manuals, case notes, release notes, etc.) into the Google searches your employees execute, automatically positioning your content along with web content. And, they can capture links to useful web content so it can be validated (much like you would a new knowledgebase article) and shared with other support techs. And, they offer some hot new features to enable and encourage collaboration, such as expertise management.

My thinking on knowledge management continues to evolve. Clearly companies need to recognize there are enormous amounts of useful information in online discussion forums, developer boards, even in YouTube videos, and you ignore all of this to your peril. But you still can’t abandon the traditional knowledgebase, which is proven to streamline resolution for repetitive issues. I would argue that Radialpoint helps solve both issues.

Please sign up for Thursday’s short 30 minute webinar. Here’s the link to register: http://www.tsia.com/documents/Making_the_Web_Work_for_Customer_Support/

If you aren’t available then, sign up anyway, and we’ll send you a link to the OnDemand version afterwards which you can watch at your leisure.

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you live on Thursday!

2014 TSW Vision Awards at Service Revolutions: Recap

May 13, 2014

Last week at Technology Services World Best Practices, the closing event of the conference was the Vision Awards at Service Revolutions. This “American Idol” style competition gives tech companies 7 minutes to demo their coolest technology. The competition was hosted by our CEO, JB Wood. A panel of judges, consisting of Al Gray, Vice President, Bentley Systems; Tony Brucha, Director, Advanced Services, WebEx Customer Success, Cisco; and yours truly, asked questions and made somewhat relevant comments after each presenter. Audience voting determined the winners.

To be considered for Service Revolutions, technology firms submit applications in 3 categories:

  • Service Practitioners. These are service organizations within tech firms, showing off technology or programs they have developed to improve customer service, streamline operations, or drive service revenue.
  • Commercial. These are established technology firms selling products to service organizations. The products must be in Beta phase or newly released.
  • Startup. These are brand new tech firms within their first 2 years, often pre-VC, showing off products yet to be released. The winner of the startup category wins a check for $10,000!

The finalists who took the stage were:

  • Service Practitioner: Blackbaud. Blackbaud demonstrated their group consulting model for professional services.
  • Service Practitioner: SAP. SAP demonstrated their Learning Hub for customer education.
  • Commercial: Ancile. Ancile demonstrated their in-product dynamic help technology.
  • Commercial: Radialpoint. Radialpoint demonstrated their Google extension which incorporates internal content into employee’s Google searches.
  • Commercial: Transversal. Trasnversal demonstrated Prescience, their voice self-service product.
  • Startup: SimpleQL. SimpleQL demontrated their dynamic analytics tools, “the Festivus of Business Intelligence.”
  • Startup: XOEye Technologies. XOEye demonstrated their camera and video enabled saftey glasses for field service, with a price point in the hundreds–not thousands.

The winners were Blackbaud, Radialpoint and SimpleQL. I thank all the presenters for great demonstrations, and congratulations to the winners!

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!

Social Support Content Featured at Upcoming TSW Conference

August 29, 2013

Our Technology Services World (TSW) Service Transformation Conference is just around the corner, October 21-23 at the Aria in Las Vegas. I am very excited about our new venue, Aria Hotel and Conference Center in City Center, the newest hotel property on the strip with lots of high tech features, including internet everywhere. That’s right, free internet in the hotel and conference center, and those staying at the hotel will even have faster connect speeds than the free option. Hopefully that will encourage attendees to be more social than usual. Get ready to hashtag yourself into a stupor!

Over the last few weeks we have been doing prep calls with speakers, discussing breakout session content and best practices, and we have created a solid group of sessions around various aspects of social support and I wanted to call those out now. If you are active in your company’s social media or online community efforts, or are interested in learning how to get started, here are examples of the social content you can expect to find at TSW:

Monday 10/21

Benchmarking Your Way to Customer Community Success. The first round of breakouts at the conference is the “Power Hour,” with TSIA research leads presenting sessions from 4:15-5:15 on hot topics in each service discipline. My session will give an overview of a new member program I am launching at the event, a benchmark survey for customer communities. Open to all members, this survey covers critical metrics on community size, growth, problem resolution, staffing, technology, etc., and will allow me to have coaching sessions with individual members on how their online communities compare to their peers. In this session, find out what questions are in the survey and how to participate.

Tuesday 10/22

Building a Customer-Centered Business, from the Support Organization Out. Usually many of the top attended sessions at TSW are technology case studies, and I expect this session at 9:45am, presented by SaaS provider Blackbaud and leading community platform vendor, GetSatisfaction, to be standing-room-only, so arrive early for a seat. As a SaaS pioneer in non-profit financial management, Blackbaud differentiates by creating a customer-centered culture. Their service organization leads the charge in this effort by creating and nurturing a base of enthusiastic and supportive customers. Find out how these efforts by the support organization are transforming their business and the results they’re seeing. The presenters are Kristen Gastaldo, Community Manager, Blackbaud, Inc., and Scott Hirsch, VP of Product and Content Marketing, GetSatisfaction.

Stump the Panel: Empowering Service Organizations to Take Community to the Next Level. This panel discussion at 2pm focuses on the strategic value of communities. Though at first communities were seen as a way of lowering support costs, today the emphasis moves beyond deflection to identifying how communities can empower their social-savvy customers through collaboration, with direct ties to product direction, customer satisfaction, loyalty and repurchase. For this session, TSIA has invited three recognized industry experts on customer communities to share their views on the current and future role of communities within technology firms, and to answer your questions, both tactical and strategic, on building, launching and driving adoption for customer communities. Prizes will be awarded to the audience members with the most challenging and thought provoking questions, so this is a great opportunity to bring your biggest community-related challenge and leave the session with a plan of action you can immediately implement. The panelists for the session are Rob Shapiro, Senior Director, Customer Service Technologies, Oracle Corporation; Joseph Cothrel, Chief Community Officer, Lithium Technologies; and Scott Hirsch, VP of Product and Content Marketing, Get Satisfaction.

Social Media: The New Customer Service Channel. This session at 3:30 is presented by Carl Knerr, Services Director at Avaya. Carl has already made a name for himself as a social media expert via the Avaya CONNECTED blog. Check out his series on social media in customer service, which he will expand on in this session. According to Carl, “There is encouraging news that companies see the need to move into social media as a customer support channel. In fact, 80 percent of companies were planning on utilizing social media as part of their customer service strategy by the end of 2012; something they know is important, as 62 percent of their customers are already there. While companies are moving to this space, that does not mean they know how to approach the problem. I’ll cover my ten recommendations on how to proceed.”

Also, for those of you who participate in the Social Champions group, we will have a Social Breakfast of Champions on Wednesday morning, 10/23, beginning at 7:15am in the Expo Theatre. I will be there to answer questions, facilitate discussions, and get to know the champions in real time. For more information on the Champions program and the Champions breakfast, follow this link.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing all of you at TSW!

 

 

Only a third of US workers engaged in their jobs: Tips for Support Managers

June 18, 2013

I was enjoying a pot of English Breakfast tea and working my way through this morning’s newspaper when I found an article that made my blood run cold. According to an article by Ricardo Lopez in the Los Angeles Times, a Gallup poll of 100 million Americans holding full time jobs conducted 2010-2012 found that the majority of workers are not engaged…in fact a surprising percentage hate going to work. Here are the numbers:

Gallup poll of 100 million US workers

  • Only 30% of workers are “actively engaged,” i.e., “were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.”
  • 50% are “not engaged,” meaning they are just going through the motions at work and are “checked out.”
  • A shocking 30% of workers are “actively disengaged,” i.e, employees who hate going to work, and undermine their companies with their attitude.

As a manager I’ve felt this shift happening, but didn’t realize the numbers were so bad. The days of “lifetime employment”  I experienced early in my career–in which I knew I had a job as long as I worked hard and performed well–have vanished, and job security no longer exists, with companies cutting valuable, long-time employees when one quarter’s financials don’t look good. Companies that treat workers like commodities are now reaping what they sow.

I also think generational differences contribute. Older workers whose parents survived the depression were raised with sometimes severe work ethics, eager to work long hours for job security and hopefully to get promoted a few times along the way. Let’s just say today’s 18 year olds have a different attitude about work/life balance, willingness to work long hours, and willingness to put in years of effort in order to be rewarded.

In my book, Lessons Unlearned, I talk about the importance of loving your employees, and how to work with people who have bad attitudes to help them understand, and be empathetic,  to the plight of the customer.  I realize none of this may be revolutionary, but here are some hints for service management on how to turn around bad attitudes in the workplace.

  • Catch ’em doing something right. Today’s managers are usually so overworked they rarely have time to do more than react. I’ve fallen into this trap myself a few times, becoming so busy I let my employees fend for themselves, and only step in when someone messes up. This isn’t good, and sends the message that you are only there to complain and punish. It is critical that you actively look for things employees are doing right, and praise them for it. Positive reinforcement costs nothing and is hugely motivating. If you give frequent, sincere compliments to someone who is actively disengaged, you can really start turning their attitude around.
  • Ongoing coaching. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, and front line customer service is hard. Even the best employee in the world may have a bad day, and spending the day listening to customer problems–and having customers often taking their frustration out on you–can put anyone in a bad mood. I had a part time job once working at the Atlanta Symphony box office ticket line, and I started using the name Hector because when I told someone the front row seats they wanted weren’t available, it was easier to hear, “Hector, you are a worthless piece of ##$$%!!!” 5o times a day than, “John, you are a worthless piece of ##$$%!!!” (And  yes, my boss knew about my pseudonym in case someone complained about or complimented Hector.)
  • Role play. I’m a big believer in role play, in which you play the angry customers and put your employees through a training scenario. If you can adequately train workers to handle difficult customers, they are able to see past the emotional outburst, and move the interaction forward. I also talk in the book about ways to relieve the stress of angry customers. My favorite is “Magic Slate Therapy” on page 18–check it out!
  • Open, honest assessments. I write about how much trouble managers get into when they sugar coat the truth, not giving an honest assessment–particularly to volatile people–usually to avoid conflict, which never gives them an opportunity to learn, grow and change. These days, I think almost the opposite is happening. I’m so sick of policies like “everyone is a 3” and “to us, a 3 rating is good!” which sends me one message: stop over achieving because no one cares. If your policy is “everyone is a 3,” I guarantee you have even higher rates of actively disengaged workers than the Gallup poll suggests.

Are you feeling this shift happening? What are you doing in your company to hire motivated workers, and identify disengaged workers so you can turn them around?  Love to hear some insights from the field. And as always, thanks for reading!

 

Doing a poor job on social media support is worse than not supporting social at all

March 19, 2013

I’ll probably catch a lot of flack for this column title, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it. I just finished reading an article in today’s San Jose Mercury News about a study done by cloud vendor LiveOps about social media support, claiming that 70% of customer complaints on Twitter and Facebook are ignored; the average response time for Facebook questions is 2 days (opposed to 2 hours, which is the customer expectation), and that more than a third of companies have deleted a customer question from their Facebook page they didn’t want to answer.

Unlike phone calls and emails, social media support is very public. I always say that opening up a new customer interaction channel is like blowing a hole in the side of your corporate office. You now have a big gaping hole for customers and information to flow in and out, and if you don’t police that hole, including audit trails for traffic in and out, and service level agreements for who can use the hole and how quickly you must respond, you will get in big trouble.

Thousands of companies put very little thought into the decision to begin supporting customers via Twitter or Facebook, and I suspect many now regret it. Once that hole in the side of the company is open, it is all but impossible to close. And it is incredibly visible when you can’t keep up with the volume and begin ignoring–or deleting–customer questions.

Based on lots of TSIA data, it is clear that online communities/discussion forums are hugely successful for technical support–or at least have the potential for being hugely successful. But on the B2B technical support side, I remain unconvinced about social media channels. The typical use case for Twitter support is, “I called Comcast and was told there was an hour wait for an agent, so I Tweeted instead.” I don’t think any TSIA members have an hour wait for a phone agent. Ever. In the B2B, i.e., enterprise support world, in which you pay a very large fee for access to technical support, you don’t have long wait times. In fact, dedicated account reps are common for premium support. And the bottom line is, if a system administrator Tweets or Facebooks that their corporate ERP or supply chain system is down, that is not reporting a tech support issue, that is airing your company’s dirty laundry and a fireable offense.

There is also something in the article I laughed at. According to the survey, “customers are likely to spend about 30 percent more money” if the company has a social media presence. Well, I review RFPs all the time, and I’ve never seen a B2B purchase decision based on which vendor has the most Twitter traffic. It galls me that news outlets refuse to differentiate between B2B and B2C when they write things like this, and some wrong-headed B2B manager is going to bring this article into his boss and say, “Let’s start social media support and we’ll raise sales 30%.”

So, before you decide to begin supporting customers with technical issues via Twitter or Facebook, please remember:

  • Only a very small slice of traffic will have anything to do with a technical support issue. Most traffic will be about your latest commercial, your stock price, your CEO’s private life, the color of your company logo, etc. Technical support engineers are not equipped to handle these questions, and it is a waste of their time. But, if you are going to support the general public via a social channel, you need a strategy for these non-technical issues. If you don’t have an outbound marketing or PR group staffed to handle these posts, which will probably be 90% of traffic, don’t open the channel to begin with.
  • If you do insist on supporting customers via social channels, please leverage one of the many knowledge platforms now offering plugins to social media. For example, you can create a tab on your Facebook page that allows searching your self-service knowledgebase and shows lists of FAQs.
  • Record every interaction in CRM..or someplace. You need an accurate history of which customer asked which question, regardless of channel, and you need to understand which questions are asked and answered by all channels to make sure knowledgebases are current and accurate.
  • Establish SLAs. If you are going to support a new channel, whether it is social or not, you have to establish response times for the channel. And you must have staff dedicated to meet those SLAs. I’m not saying you necessarily publish the SLAs (“All Facebook posts will be answered within 2 hours”), but internally, you must have some SLA guidelines and the ability to measure how well you are doing in meeting those SLAs. Customers have expectations, and if you can’t meet them, you shouldn’t launch the channel.

And as always, thanks for reading!