Posted tagged ‘collaboration’

5 Key Areas to Maximize Service Excellence

September 24, 2014

Tomorrow I’m hosting a webinar at 10am PT, “5 Key Areas to Maximize Service Excellence,” based on a joint white paper I’m working on with Astea International. The paper has the same title along with this subtitle: “Hot Trends and Investment Areas Every Field Service Executive Should Leverage.” There are so many industry forces driving change to field service operations, and in this short 30 minute webinar, Debbie Geiger from Astea and myself will talk about the top five areas impacting field teams. The five areas are:

  • Talent management. With companies reporting as much as 40% of their service workforce will be retiring in the next five years, field service has an opportunity to rethink organizational design and processes.
  • Mobility and wearable devices. Early adopters of mobile tools and applications for field service technicians are already realizing benefits to productivity, operational quality and cost.
  • Knowledge management and collaboration. Strategies for knowledge sharing and real-time peer collaboration in the field.
  • Internet of Things. Today’s increasingly connected technology creates opportunities for remote access, improving productivity and reducing onsite visits.
  • Expand selling. Leveraging industry trends to introduce upsell/cross-sell strategies, as well as introduce more premium service options.

Not only will we share some industry data to explain the impacts of these hot topics, including some brand new TSIA data showing the business impact of mobile tools for field service, but we’ll hear from Debbie how some Astea customers are harnessing these trends to generate business value, from increased productivity and lower fleet costs to increased revenue.

As a thank you for attending tomorrow’s webinar, we will send you a link to download the white paper when it is published in the next 1-2 weeks. If you work in field service, or are interesting in industry trends driving change to service operations, please click on this link to register:

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you in the audience tomorrow!


TSIA’s 2nd Annual Knowledge Management Survey Is Now Open!

August 1, 2014

I am pleased to announced that TSIA’s 2nd annual Knowledge Management survey is now open! Knowledge management (KM) is one of the most frequent inquiry topics from TSIA members across service disciplines. In fact, 24% of my inquiries over the last year were about KM and self-service, which is pretty impressive considering I cover 24 categories of tools and services in my research.

Though adoption of KM tools is very high, most companies are not happy with their existing implementation. In my 2014 Global Technology Survey, KM received an average satisfaction score of  3.6 on a 5 point scale–hardly an endorsement of existing KM tools. As a result, over half of technology firms have budget for new or additional KM tools in 2014-2015.

KM Spending

Drivers for KM spending include retiring workers, mobile access, and increased interest in internal and external collaboration. TSIA’s 2nd annual KM survey examines core KM processes, tools and metrics, as well as emerging topics such as:

  • Capturing lessons learned by consulting and protect teams
  • Corporate culture regarding knowledge sharing
  • Expertise management, unified search, and crowdsourcing content

This short survey will only take 5 minutes to complete. The survey findings will be unveiled at my Power Hour session at the Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas on October 21, 2014, and all survey participants will receive a copy of the published survey results. Your responses will be kept confidential, and only reported in the aggregate. The survey will remain open until midnight on Friday, August 29th. Here’s the link to participate:

Thank you for your interest in knowledge management, and for your support of TSIA Research!

Top Knowledge Management Trends for 2014

February 27, 2014

Today I co-presented a webinar with longtime partner Coveo, “Top Knowledge Management Trends of 2014.” We had a huge response to the event, and the largest live audience I’ve seen for a webinar in quite a while. KM is always a hot topic with TSIA members, but interest continues to grow as we see knowledge strategies moving beyond customer support to include field service, professional services, managed services, and more. So what are the biggest trends in KM today? Based on TSIA data and member conversations, here are the top 3 trends I highlighted in today’s webinar:


  • Legacy search tools failing. My colleague Ken O’Reilly completed TSIA’s first “knowledge management practices” survey in December, and the results will be published in the next couple of weeks. I shared a couple of proof points in the webinar today to illustrate how existing KM implementations aren’t keeping up. The lion’s share of respondents to the survey have had both their customer-facing and employee-facing KM platforms in place for 4 or more years, which should indicate they are mature, highly adopted, and delivering value. But, when asked to rate their current KM implementations, the largest percent of respondents indicated the worst option: “Needs a lot of work.” So why are these mature implementations failing? In my experience, inadequate search is often at the root of the problem. Legacy search tools don’t do well outside a proprietary knowledgebase, and according to my annual tech survey, SharePoint is now the top installed knowledgebase tool used by service organizations. Not a specialized tool built for support knowledge, a generic content warehouse. With customers and employees now expecting to search content anywhere in the enterprise, in any format, requirements for search have evolved dramatically. Today, companies need a search tool that provides context, intelligence, dynamic taxonomies, and multiple filtering options.
  • Enterprise collaboration. I have a report in editing right now calling enterprise collaboration “the third wave of knowledge management.” Another factoid from the recent KM survey is that less than half of customer issues are resolved by content in the knowledgebase. If you don’t have the answer at your fingertips, the most direct route to the answer is to ask an expert. I’m seeing huge planned spending on enterprise collaboration tools to enable this. But the missing element–and this is a BIG missing element–is how to know who the expert is to ask. This is where expertise management comes in. I have blogged before about the importance of expertise management, and I’m hoping more companies begin to include requirements for this in their KM/enterprise search plans. The same search platform that can analyze all the content in your enterprise to create dynamic taxonomies, can also create relationships between content topics and people. So, if you are trouble shooting an install script, the system can prompt you with the developer who wrote the install script, the Q&A person who tested it, and the Tech Pubs person who documented it. Armed with this information, you know exactly who to reach out to for an answer.
  • Mobility. I tend to refer to this trend as “The Connected Customer” and “The Connected Technician.” The mass adoption of smartphones and tablets has revolutionized the way we retrieve and interact with information. While the majority of mobile devices may be originally designed for consumers, we bring our consumer experiences into the workplace with us. Today’s customers and employees expect–if not demand–that they have ubiquitous access to corporate content at any time, from any place, using any device. But to enable this, you need the right mobile infrastructure. When shopping for KM/search technology, include requirements in three areas. First, the system should support all devices, not just Droid or Apple or RIM. Ideally, this means HTML5. Secondly, the system should offer optimized displays for mobile devices–the same user interface that works fine on a desktop web browser will not work effectively on a 2″x 3″ smartphone screen. And third, the system should be able to retrieve and display a wide variety of formats. I’ve heard complaints from companies whose mobile search tools displayed some file types like ASCII characters–completely unreadable.


For those of you who missed today’s webinar, here’s a link to the OnDemand version: It is only 30 minutes, and worth a listen if you are interested in what’s new with KM. Thanks to everyone who tuned in today. We didn’t have time to answer audience questions, so if you asked a question during the live event, we will be following up with you afterwards.

And as always, thanks for reading!

TeamSupport Provides Collaborative Take on Customer Service

February 14, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Predictions for 2013: Self-service scheduling, BYOD impacts, Real-time collaboration

January 7, 2013

Oh, January is here, and everybody in high tech with a byline is publishing their 2013 predictions. How can I resist joining the herd? Here are my top 3 predictions for service-related technology topics in 2013:

  • Self-service scheduling. NCR takes credit for inventing the concept of self-service with the advent of the electronic teller in the 60s. When was the last time you waited on line in a bank? Tech support has been successfully moving customers to self-service for more than a decade. I think 2013 will see customers demand that the self-service laggard….field service….finally join the revolution, allowing customers to schedule their own appointment times online. Rarely seen in B2C, and unheard of in B2B, with more field support organizations adopting robust scheduling and dispatch platforms, opening up appointment scheduling to end users is a natural progression, and early adopters will get a lot of press–and customer goodwill–for making the effort.
  • BYOD impacts. Tablet and smartphone sales now account for some 40 percent of spending on electronics worldwide, with sales of laptops and desktops shrinking each year. I keep hearing more about “Bring your own device,” or BYOD, meaning companies assume both employees and customers are armed with the latest gadgets and the pressure is on IT to be sure all corporate data and applications can be easily and cleanly accessed via mobile devices. This means a lot of infrastructure improvements, massive UI overhauls, and companies beginning to compete on how well they deliver the customer experience to mobile users. This isn’t just about trying to be cool, either. With a new breed of young, fickle Wall Street analysts doing all their research via Blackberries and iPhones, some big legacy brands will start taking it in the shorts when they see buy recommendations downgraded because corporate websites are not easily navigable via a mobile device.
  • Real-time collaboration. Salesforce Chatter has made company-wide collaboration a breeze. Community platforms such as Jive are putting a big emphasis on making internal collaboration simple and effective. Vendors such as enterprise search specialist Coveo have introduced the concept of expertise management, making it easy to identify an expert on any topic, product or feature. With high planned spending for the last 2 years on collaboration tools, I think in 2013 we will finally begin to see examples of company (and maybe even customer) experts being pulled into real-time collaborations about critical customer issues. The tools are ready, all we need now is the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, and I think with growing numbers of younger collab-minded workers entering the workforce, 2013 will be the year we see real progress toward making this a support standard.

What are your predictions? Please add a comment and keep the conversation going! And as always, thanks for reading.

Becoming Social Inside and Out: The Value of Collaboration in Customer Service

April 17, 2012

This Thursday, I will be moderating a webcast with longtime TSIA partner Moxie Software on “Becoming Social Inside and Out: The Value of Collaboration in Customer Service.” Over the last 5 years, adoption of online customer communities has skyrocketed, with three quarters of TSIA members now offering an online discussion forum for customers. While communities to engage customers and encourage peer-to-peer support have been all the rage, and front and center in analyst and press reports about service, this is not the only advancement made in regards to using communities to enable collaboration. While everyone has been focusing on customer communities, other service divisions have been busy launching employee communities to better enable sharing of ideas across the enterprise. In fact, according to the 2012 TSIA Services Technology Survey, all service disciplines now have high adoption of community tools:

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of these companies have a full, robust, community platform for community; smaller companies likely have a less robust approach to collaboration. But clearly, the community concept applies to more than customers. Other service divisions use communities to:

  • Education: 71% of education services teams are using communities to share tips and tricks for education customers, FAQs from students, strategies to improve learning comprehension, etc.
  • Professional Services: 63% of professional services teams are using communities to share custom code created for application customizations and integrations, lessons learned on customer projects, etc.
  • Field Service: 74% of field service teams are using communities to share information on how to repair unusual problems, or older versions of equipment, sharing other insights gleaned from customer appointments, etc.

The nirvana, however, is to began merging the dynamic customer communities with the dynamic employee communities, allowing customer issues to be resolved even faster by collaborating with experts across your enterprise, even development, QA and product management. However, there are a few obstacles to work out prior to successfully bridging customer and employee communities, and in Thursday’s webcast, I will discuss each of these “opportunities:”

  • Create a path towards expertise management
  • Enable real-time collaboration among community members
  • Leverage expertise and collaboration to improve service levels
  • Better capture knowledge from experts for reuse

Regardless where you are in your community journey, join us Thursday to learn more about enterprise collaboration and creating more customer-centric organizations. If you don’t have time to attend Thursday’s webcast, register anyway! We’ll send you a link to watch a recorded version of the webcast at your leisure, as well as a copy of all the slides from the webcast.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Cool Consolidation 1: Oracle Acquires Tacit Software

November 6, 2008

Economic downturns always lead to an uptick in technology mergers and acquisitions.  Small companies struggling to stay afloat as deals begin to dry up suddenly look very attractive to large vendors hoping to add some cool, innovative capabilities to their often moribund suites.

I’ve written before about the need for better internal collaboration tools.  The customer community vendors don’t want to sell to internal communities because they can’t make enough money with their page-view pricing models.  And even if companies have invested in building or buying a good internal collaboration platform, they struggle to identify experts on a topic across a huge global workforce.  The hole in most collaboration platforms has been expertise management:  how to instantly identify who the expert is on any given topic. Once that is accomplished, inviting them to join an online collaboration is easy.

I was very pleased to read earlier this week that Oracle had acquired Tacit Software, the only specialist I’ve run across for expertise management.  Oracle will be incorporating Tacit’s expertise management into their Beehive enterprise collaboration platform.  So how does this work?  Tacit’s ActiveNet analyzes content across the enterprise (project/product documents, discussion forums, email, internal chat/IM, etc.) to create a matrix of who knows what about a concept. When you need an expert on a given subject, not only does it give you a pick list of those in the know, it guides you to *what* they know about the topic so you can pick the right person. (more…)