Archive for the ‘Enterprise 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!

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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!

Hot off the Press: “How Companies Succeed in Social Business”

January 15, 2015

I’m very pleased to announce the arrival of a new book, “How Companies Succeed in Social Business: Case Studies and Lessons from Adobe, Cisco, Unisys, and 18 More Brands.” Shawn Santos, who initiated social research at TSIA around 2009, was the driver and editor of this book. Shawn reached out to experts among tech companies who have successful social business programs, as well as thought leaders in the social world. I’m happy to have contributed a chapter to the book, “Chapter 7: The State of Enterprise Social Technical Support.”
socbiz front
There are 22 contributing authors in all, including TSIA members Adobe, Cisco, Unisys, Bentley, BMC, Infor, Oracle, IBM, ServiceNow and Symantec. Francoise Tourniaire of FT Works, a longtime TSIA partner, also contributed a chapter.

I know there are a lot of books out there on harnessing social media for business purposes. But the majority of those I’ve read are by self-proclaimed experts–with little or no real-world experience–pontificating about how you must embrace social or die. This is not one of those books. “How Companies Succeed in Social Business” is by real practitioners, with stories from the trenches about what works, what doesn’t work, and how to increase the success of your social programs. If you are looking for self-promoting pontification, this is not the book for you. 😉

For my chapter, I shared TSIA research showing best practices and Pacesetter practices for online customer support communities, as well as leveraging social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter for customer support. Most of this data has not been released outside of TSIA membership, so I’m glad to be able to share some of our intellectual property with a larger audience. I made an effort to include as much data and analysis as possible–not just opinions.

socbiz data

The book is available via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/How-Companies-Succeed-Social-Business/dp/0134036484

Thanks for reading, and I hope you order your copy today!

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!

Getting Ready for TSW: Partner Advisory Board, Knowledge Managment, and Customer Success

October 20, 2014

Today kicks off our Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas at the fabulous Aria. Though the conference offically starts today, I was here yesterday for the Partner Advisory Board meeting. We had a very productive meeting, with a lot of sharing on both sides. I presented the findings of my recent knowledge management survey, and our newest research executive, Judi Platz, gave the partners an advance look at the Customer Success data she is releasing at the conference. Great discussions on industry trends related to knolwedge sharing and corporate culture, the cloud economy and impact on service operations, and defining and measuring customer success.

Today I open the conference with the TechBEST Showcase at 12:45, interviewing the finalists for our TechBEST Best in Adoption award. The results are determined by my annual technology survey, and we recognize the three partners who had the largest increase in adoption by TSIA members in 2014 compared to 2013. The finalists are Changepoint, LivePerson, and Verint Systems. For more information, here’s a writeup on the award and finalists.

After the opening keynote speeches, the first round of breakouts are the Power Hour sessions, with each of TSIA’s researchers giving a presentation on what is hot in their service discipline or focus area. My session will be revealing the results of my August Knowledge Management survey, and the results of the survey are being published on the TSIA website today as well.

The survey showed that companies still see enormous potential for productivity improvements from KM, and there is growing adoption of KM processes across service divisions. I also collected a lot of data on new technologies related to KM, including expertise management, unified search, mobility and video, and crowdsourcing content. And, I have data on KM staffing, approach to content maintenance, as well as very interesting data on corporate KM culture.  Stay tuned for a post tomorrow with a few data points from the survey. And for those of you attending the show, send somebody to my presentation today!

For those attending the conference, I still have a few 1:1 meetings available on Tuesday. If you’d like to book a 30 minute meeting with me, please ask at the conference registration desk.

Thanks to everyone for your support, and I look forward to seeing all of you in the EXPO!

TSW Day 2: Top Attended Sessions

May 7, 2014

Yesterday was the first full day of sessions at Technology Services World Best Practices. I spent most of my day in 1:1 meetings with members and partners, as well as moderating a workout session on selecting the right Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool. A big thanks to the panelists who presented in that session: Al Gray, Vice President, Bentley Systems; Keith Drab, Solutions Architect, Changepoint; and Jeff Gebhart, Senior Solutions Consultant , Planview.

I always like to report on the top attended conference sessions, because while we all like to say what the ‘hot’ topics are, attendees vote with their feet. We had six sessions with over 100 attendees, with one session having over 200 attendees! Here are the top attended sessions from Tuesday:

Business Makeover Case Study – Support Services. This was the top attended session with 205 attendees (wow!). Business Makeover Case Studies consist of a member company who bravely agrees to “open the kimono” and talk about the biggest problems they face in their service operation, then receive input from a panel of experts on how to solve the problems. The audience also gets a chance to chime in. While finding someone brave enough to spill the beans about their own issues is difficult at each conference, clearly these sessions are hugely popular with members, the majority of which have the same or similar problems, or have solved them in the past. The brave volunteer for this session was Don Stanley – VP, Customer Support, CA Technologies. This session was moderated by Judi Platz.

Next-Generation B2B Online Community. This was the 2nd top attended session with 156 attendees. Customer communities is always a hot topic, and Joe Cothrel from Lithium is always a big draw. (Checkout Joe’s new book, Social Customer Experience.) Here is the session description: If you think online communities are just discussion forums, think again. Companies like AppDynamics are stretching the boundaries of a B2B community, encompassing documentation, learning, ideation, app exchange and other elements to create a one-stop shop for sharing and learning. In this session, Steve Levine, Senior Product Manager at AppDynamics, will share the business rationale for creating such a hub and what it took to bring all the right pieces together. Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer at Lithium, will set the stage with some observations about B2B trends across Lithium’s global customer base.

Eliminating Serial Escalations: Leveraging Technology Skill Groups. This session, led by Matt Stone, Director, Customer Success Services,
NetApp; and David Yoffie, Customer Impact Consultant, PwC; had 151 attendees. Here’s the session description: Technical Support organizations tend to be characterized by teams with product focus, serial escalation of more difficult problems, and complex workflows. NetApp has embarked on a path to bring the appropriate level of technical assistance as close to the customer as possible while continuing to improve support efficiencies. In this session, we will share an approach to achieving these goals while servicing a highly demanding, global, extremely heterogeneous customer population. Leaders and practitioners that would like to explore new ways of providing high levels of service in complex technical environments will be interested in this presentation.

Power to the People! This session was led by Julian Lopez, Head of Customer Loyalty, Rackspace Hosting, Inc.; and Clayton Sherwood, Business Development Director, Clarabridge; received 131 attendees. Here’s the session description: During an epic 15 year journey, Rackspace® has transformed from an obscure San Antonio start-up into the global leader in hybrid cloud, the founder of OpenStack®, and a constant on Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. The home of fanatical support, Rackspace® now operates on four continents and is helping the world through the cloud revolution. Learn how they empowered customers to guide them on this journey by combining trusted disciplines and a fiery culture, with a unique set of tools. Then get a sneak peek into the future as they share their plans for empowering front line employees to drive the next wave of innovation.

Business Makeover Case Study – Services Revenue Generation. This session, with another brave member discussing their top challenges, received 112 attendees. Longtime TSIA member Phil Nanus, Sr. Director, Business Development, SaaS, Infor Global Solutions, Inc. volunteered to discuss his challenges. This session was moderated by Julia Stegman, VP of Research for Service Revenue Generation.

I Know Social Media. What the Heck is Social Support? Another social topic rounds out the top attended list with 101 attendees. I know from my annual social media survey that 46% of TSIA members are now interacting with customers via social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, but the majority of companies started doing this because marketing was monitoring social channels and started forwarding them Tweets from unhappy customers. How to formalize the program and do it right remains a challenge. This session was presented by Tim Albright, Senior Director Community Strategy, Jive Software, Inc.; and Matthew Stauble, Vice President, Global Customer Support, Palo Alto Networks.

I will be back later this week with some final thoughts on today, the last day of TSW. Hope to see everyone at the Service Revolutions competition kicking off at 11am. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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!

Recapping 2013: Hottest Service Technology Trends

November 27, 2013

Is it too early to start recaps for 2013? With the end of the year barely over a month away, I’ve been thinking about what I heard this year that was new and interesting, and trying to put these trends/innovations into useful categories. Based on my member inquiries and partner briefings, here’s a stab at the hottest topics to emerge in service technology over the last year:

Large enterprises embrace cloud applications. Small and medium-sized businesses were early adopters of cloud applications, and as many OnDemand suites are much less sophisticated than their OnPremise counterparts, the lighter-weight tools met the needs of SMBs just fine. But this year I’ve talked to service executives of some the largest tech companies in North America and Europe who were in the midst of a migration from a legacy CRM system to a lower cost cloud suite. As I’ve written about before, large companies moving to cloud tools have to streamline and consolidate processes as the applications don’t support heavy customization. Unfortunately, about 3 months after the move to the cloud, I start getting calls asking about functional gaps they did not anticipate. Your cloud CRM tools probably do not include support for complex entitlement, automating renewals, or knowledge management beyond a list of solutions. With the move to the cloud all but inevitable, there is some heavy lifting that must be done to achieve extreme efficiency with the new technologies.

Knowledge management evolves beyond support. I first published a report back in 2009 about knowledge management being a cross-discipline (support services, field service, education services, professional services, managed services) subject, with convergence needed to leverage existing tools and processes across the enterprise. But it wasn’t until this year that I started receiving numerous KM inquiries outside of support. PS asking for best practices to capture and share lessons learned across project teams. Field service wanting to know how to best leverage mobile tools to access corporate knowledge from the field. Education services interested in how to define KM roles, as demand shifts from teacher to librarian. And, as I heard at our recent Las Vegas conference, support may have their KM practices well-defined, but other groups see support’s approach too slow,  too complicated and too focused on experts instead of collaboration. I think what we consider “KM best practices” is going to radically shift, and I also expect to see more Knowledge as a Service (which I’m going to call KaaS) providers entering the market. Too many companies have re-implemented KM tools and jump-started KM practices every 3-4 years for the last 12 years, maybe it is time to try a new approach?

Professional Services Automation (PSA) is the new MUST HAVE application category. I’ve always joked that professional services teams were too busy implementing technology for their customers to ever use any for themselves. PSA, which includes modules for resource management, project management and project accounting, is still not that highly adopted (according to my 2013 Member Technology Survey, 58% of PS members are using PSA). But, spending is on the rise, with over half of PS members (54%) having budget for new or additional PSA in 2013-2014. And as a proof point, my inquiries on PSA have risen to become my third hottest topic, after CRM and KM. I just published a new report, Five Key Criteria in Making a PSA Decision, based on dozens of these conversations over the last year. If you are still managing your PS operation using spreadsheets, now’s the time to make a change.

Video in Service: Here to stay. A couple of years ago I gave a conference presentation about the future of video in service, and received more than a few snarky comments saying it would never happen. Never mind that even then, Salesforce.com was using video chat tools with premiere customers, and the use cases for incorporating video into trouble shooting were many and varied. But video in service suddenly became a very hot topic recently when Amazon released the Kindle Fire HDX, and featured a video chat option, called the “Mayday button“, in print and TV advertising. The ads show a customer linking to a live video chat agent for help, with the agent able to take control of your device and even write on the tablet to illustrate how to do something.  Remote control of mobile devices isn’t new (checkout LogMeIn and Bomgar), but seeing it used along with video chat introduced a whole new user experience. That one commercial is going to convince consumers this is an option they need, so get ready for your closeup, Mr. DeMille.

“Core” is shrinking fast. I’ve written before about how service is constantly re-evaluating core verses context, realizing that less and less of corporate operations really are key to their success. Even outsourcing technical support was a bitter bill for many B2B companies to swallow, though I’ve talked to many who now realize they should have looked to partners for assistance a decade ago. But over the last year, with more companies trying to boost revenues and cut costs in the face of all the realities described in B4B, I’m seeing more and more options on the table for outsourcing. First it was technical support level 1, then level 2/3, field service, and now maintenance renewals, managed services, social media, online community management–there are no more sacred cows. As I alluded to earlier, I’m predicting 2014 is the year Knowledge as a Service emerges as a viable approach for more companies.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be thinking about how these hot topics will drive trends for 2014, and you can expect to see some of these ideas again when I publish my “state of the industry” reports in Q1. Stay tuned. And as always, thanks for reading!

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!

 

Getting Ready for TSW: Overview of Some Cool Technology Sessions

October 11, 2012

TSIA’s Technology Services World Conference kicks off Monday at the Mirage in Las Vegas, with three full days of breakouts, keynotes and Expo presentations. As I’m TSIA’s technology guy, I wanted to highlight some of the tech-focused sessions at the event, and you don’t need to look any further than the Services Technology Advantage Case Study Track, which takes place on Tuesday from 9:45-10:45am, with multiple technology case study sessions to pick from. Here’s a peek at your choices:

  • Hit Me with Your Best Shot! Starting with KCS on the Road to True Customer Success. This is not your normal tale of implementing Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) with a particular vendor of choice. This is the first chapter in the continuing story of TSIA member Riverbed’s goal to create a truly customer intimate support experience. The first leg of the journey is the implementation of KCS, but, rather than being your typical newbie presentation, this focuses on Riverbed, Stone Cobra, and DB Kay & Associates bringing years of KCS and systems expertise to the table to finally do an implementation “the right way” and having everything go smoothly.
  • How Companies Drive Transformation: Learn How Smart Services Leaders Drive Effective Transformation within their Organization. The road to Services Transformation is not for the faint of heart. Before organizations embark on their transformational journey, they need to clearly understand what the catalysts are within their organization that are driving transformation. The panelists will reveal what the catalysts for transformation were within their individual organizations. They will also discuss what “levers” they are using to drive transformation and why they believe that the following levers will affect change. Focusing on professional services and professional services automation (PSA), this session is hosted by Compuware, with panelists from NCR and Vertafore.
  • HP Snapfish: Improving Customer Connection and Conversions through the Use of the LivePerson Platform. Snapfish by HP is the number one online photo service, with more than 90 million members in over 20 countries and 2 billion unique photos stored online. Today, the Customer Care team for Snapfish uses LivePerson’s LP Chat and LP Insights in managing their business to improve conversion rates and customer satisfaction throughout the purchase process. For all the B2B companies interested in chat, this session shows how a consumer firm handles large volumes of chat traffic with great satisfaction scores and even incremental revenue!
  • Leader to Leader: How Actionable Insight Transforms Service Operations. When information needed to serve customers is hard to reach, support becomes harder than it needs to be and service levels and customer satisfaction suffer. Customers demand to be “known” by and get quick, relevant responses from the support organizations that they rely on. This requires that support teams sift through and make sense of an overwhelming social and enterprise content clutter of customer information that is scattered across systems and teams. It’s an increasingly time-consuming and nearly impossible task for agents and managers. Join this interactive panel led by Coveo, with panelists including Tokyo Electron America, to learn how to empower your team to get the right insight, every time in one view. Panelists will share case studies on how they leveraged the collective knowledge of their support systems and people to transform support performance, improve FCR, reduce ACHT, increasing customer and employee satisfaction.
  • Social Media Customer Care Best Practices. Many companies are planning to allocate staff and technology to support social customer care, but are struggling with how to operationalize it. Learn how a leading contact center outsourcer, Telvista, is using the voice of the customer (VOC) in its social media centers to enhance loyalty and brand reputation, drive better decisions, and reduce costs. Some of the primary topics that will be addressed in this interactive session include how do you develop a social customer strategy; what does it take to deliver social customer care; how can I measure customer sentiment as part of VOC; what are some examples of how social care drives real-world voice of the customer success; and what are seven recommendations regarding starting a successful social care program? This session is sponsored by Verint Systems.
  • Streamlining the Global Services Organization at Bullhorn. Join this session to learn how Bullhorn, a leading provider of software and services that improve the way employees and employers come together, partnered with NetSuite to automate and streamline a global, multi-currency professional services organization. They will discuss how unifying resource and project management, project accounting, forecasting, reporting and time and expense management helped Bullhorn move away from dependence on cumbersome, disjointed Excel spreadsheets; accelerate and streamline revenue recognition; automating customer subscription to billing for professional service revenue; unify global operations serving more than 100,000 customers across 126 countries, and foster end user adoption.

Look forward to seeing everyone next week! Safe travels to Las Vegas. And as always, thanks for reading!