Posted tagged ‘mobility’

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!

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:  https://cysalesteam.com/tsia/event/5-key-areas-to-maximize-service-excellence?webinarsource=TSIAwebsite

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

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:  https://cysalesteam.com/tsia/event/on-demand-top-knowledge-management-trends-of-2014. 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!

Providing Mobile Devices for Service Employees: Mixing Business and Pleasure

September 26, 2013

I have a dear friend who is a retired teacher, a former “Teacher of the Year” in Santa Clara County. One of his pet peeves is hearing business people talk about how easy it would be to overhaul public schools if only they would “run their schools like a business.” From this I’ve learned not to offer much advice in the area of education, since I have no expertise in this area. However, after reading today about how Los Angeles schools are having a crisis because it took just a week for nearly 300 students who got iPads from their high school to figure out how to alter the security settings so they could surf the web and access social media sites, I had to weigh in.

With apologies to my friend Matt, I have to say: schools should really take a lesson from business on this issue.

One of the biggest trends over the last 2 years has been the adoption of smartphones and tablet devices by technology firms, providing their field service employees with mobile devices and applications. Armed with these tools, field techs have real-time access to corporate info, entitlement data, trouble shooting videos, knowledgebases, and collaboration tools so employees can easily interact with team members when stuck on a problem.

I’ve had conversations with dozens of companies wondering if they should “lock” the devices to limit personal use of the web, email, social channels, etc. I think this is a terrible idea, and let me tell you why.

One of the greatest examples I’ve seen about this came from ServiceMax, a cloud based field service automation provider, who I’ve frequently written about because they have the sexiest iPad application for service I’ve seen to date. Making a decision to roll out iPads to your field techs is not that different from making a decision to roll them out to high schoolers: the devices are very expensive, and these users are hard on devices. A major hurdle companies must overcome is how do we get the users to treat the devices with care, using them as needed for work while making sure they aren’t cracking screens and demanding replacements every week?

For one ServiceMax customer, this was an easy problem to solve, and the model they used is one I recommend frequently to companies starting this journey. In the initial rollout, this tech firm bought 500 iPads for their field team. With the cheapest iPad with wifi/cellular connection costing $629, this was a $30,000 expense even before you add on extended warranties and sales tax. How did they make sure the employees would take care of the devices so they would last in the rough-and-tumble world of field workers?  Here’s what they did:

Instead of trying to block access to capabilities of the iPad not required for their job, they got all the field techs together, gave them all a brand new iPad, and said, “These are your babies. If you want to check your personal email or browse a website, knock yourself out. If you want to use the device at home for games or social media, knock yourself out. But you are responsible for these devices. Take care of them as you would a personal device. As long as you use the tool to do your job, we’ll let you use it for your personal use as well.”

As a result, the workers felt like they were getting a bonus. Not only were they quick to adopt and use the ServiceMax iPad application for receiving their appointments and logging work performed, they bent over backwards to take care of the devices and protect them from damage.

If you think blocking iPad capabilities is keeping employees (or students) focused on work, don’t be ridiculous. They have their personal smartphones they can use to access the web or social media any time they want. What you are actually doing is giving them a $629 device which they will resent, and not treat well. As a result, you will see lower adoption of the device and applications, you will have a much higher rate of lost and damaged devices, and a much more expensive and less effective mobile program in the long term. In other words, get ready to hear, “My dog ate my iPad.”

My advice to the LA schools is this: if you want to tightly control how students use mobile devices, buy them calculators. They only cost 99 cents at Walgreens. If you want to mobile-enable your students, establish rules about the use of internet and social during school hours–on any device–and stick to it. But don’t give them this amazing tool and then say, “You can’t use it to do what it was designed for.”

I also think Apple and Google should be talking to these students. Sounds like you have some great future engineers ready for internships.

BTW, I’ll be speaking at the ServiceMax Maximize conference next week in San Francisco at the Westin St. Francis, hope to see you there! And as always, thanks for reading!

Join us live for TechFUTURES in Santa Clara!

May 2, 2013

Last fall at our Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas, the question I asked everyone I talked to was, “What does the support desk of the future look like?” What I heard were lots of elements that are quickly evolving, and will definitely be different in 3 or 5 or 10 years. Social media and rising customer clout were voiced by many people. Impacts of mobility–on how we service customers and how customers consume our products–is another game changer. Remote workers becoming the predominate model for support was also on the minds of many people. And other people expressed concern that many of today’s challenges, such as knowledge management, will only get worse in the years to come.

Out of these dialogs grew a new TSIA event, TechFUTURES, which will open our Spring TSW conference on Monday at 11:00am at the Santa Clara Convention Center. TechFUTURES presents a day in the live of a support technician, and the day in the life of a technology customer, in the year 2018. We will look at how things will change in respect to four specific areas:

  • Social media. How will social media shape customer conversations, especially as Generation Y becomes the primary demographic for employees and customers? After seven years of investment, TSIA members are finally starting to see ROI for social initiatives. How will customer communities, as well as current and future social media channels, allow service operations to accommodate ever-growing customer demand for support without infinite scaling of service employees?
  • Knowledge and content management. With the amount of content exploding due to rising complexity and faster release cycles, how can future service employees navigate an impossibly large knowledge infrastructure? Tomorrow’s corporate content store will be even larger and more dispersed than today, creating challenges for service organizations to find what they need quickly and efficiently. How can knowledge tools become more intelligent, anticipating our needs and proactively serving content to employees and customers?
  • Mobility. The mobile revolution has quickly moved customers from desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets, with a myriad of smaller and smarter devices on the horizon. As customers become inseparable from technology, their expectations for service continue to rise. As more sophisticated mobile devices proliferate, and mobile applications become the predominate way customers access our technology, how do we effectively support this increasingly mobile customer?
  • Customer experience. With the customer quickly gaining clout and visibility, how will the customer experience movement impact service operations in five to ten years? With the push toward managed services, how can next-generation remote and proactive support technology radically change the customer ownership experience? Where can we make investments today to better enable the ultimate customer experience in the future?

I will open TechFUTURES and then turn things over to our panelists, each an expert on one of these areas, who will present their vision of the future. Our experts are:

  • Social Media: Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer, Lithium
  • Knowledge and Content Management: Diane Berry, SVP, Marketing and Communications, Coveo
  • Mobility: John Purcell, Director, Products, LogMeIn
  • Customer Experience: Anthony (T.J.) Felice, President, ISOdx Solutions

After the 4 presentations, each audience member will vote live for what they think is the most provocative view of the future, using hand held response units provided in each seat. I will announce the winner during the awards ceremony at Service Revolutions on Wednesday at the close of the conference.

If you are interested in attending TechFUTURES, attendance is included with your TSW registration. If you aren’t attending TSW, TechFUTURES is open to the public and you can register and get an entry badge at the TSW registration area in the rotunda. I’m really looking forward to this new event, and hope to see you there! Thanks as always for reading!

Finally: Field Service Gains Sex Appeal

December 13, 2012

If ever there was an area within service in need of a makeover, it would be field service. My very first technical support job, back in the 80s at JCPenney in Atlanta, involved working closely with NCR and IBM to dispatch field techs when store point of sale equipment needed onsite repair. Frankly, not much has changed in field service since then, and in all the years I’ve been tracking field service technology and adoption, there has never been an industry-wide push to update and modernize as we’ve seen in other service areas (multi-channel, knowledge management and social support being three good examples).

Until now. There are several drivers making field service automation a hot area. Planned spending is up, the industry is ripe with innovation, and even Wall Street seems to be taking notice. Consider these drivers:

  • The cloud. Legacy field service automation suites were 12-18 month implementations, with price tags for large enterprises in the $10M or more range, often due to the complexities of logistics and parts management. With new technology providers offering end-to-end field service in the cloud, acquisition and maintenance costs are much lower, with business user targeted controls not requiring an IT system administrator to own the implementation.
  • Mobility. I see mobility as the primary driver for many companies to finally take the plunge and overhaul their field service infrastructure. The productivity improvements possible by arming the field staff with smartphones or tablets shows enormous potential. Streamlined scheduling and dispatch, access to enterprise content from onsite, easy collaboration with peers across the globe, etc.
  • Revenue. TSIA data has shown that upsell/cross-sell is nearly 100% successful for field service engineers, due to the intimacy of face-to-face contacts, as well as the trust customers tend to have with a friendly and knowledgeable field tech. With so many companies under renewed budget pressure for 2013, looking beyond cost cutting toward incremental revenue to fill the gap becomes a compelling strategy.

The final clue I needed to prove field service is a hot area came yesterday, when an equity firm reached out to me for information on the industry, because they see it as a hot investment area. I hear from equity firms all the time, but the topic is almost always related to social media, or maybe multichannel. If the guys with the big bucks see field service as a major growth area, who am I to argue? Clearly interest in this area is growing, not only with customers demanding features like self-service appointment scheduling, field service teams looking to mobility to streamline processes and energize the workforce, and now investors looking for the “next big thing” to invest in.

It was about this time last year that the video of the delivery person tossing a computer over the fence went viral. I honestly believe that served as a driver as well. Let’s hope the next viral video is about exceptional service, not broken packages or field techs napping on the customer’s couch. We need some good stories to share.

Happy holidays to everyone, and thanks as always for reading Ragsdale’s Eye on Service!

TSW: The Shift To Mobile

October 17, 2012

Yesterday was Day 2 of Technology Services World at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and I hosted a workout session on mobile applications that was a lot of fun. Due to a speaker cancellation  I had to pull together a panel at the very last minute (last Friday!), but the results were terrific. The focus of the session was creating mobile versions of applications for customers and employees. I’m starting to get more questions from members, so wanted to pull together some experts to share their experiences and answer questions from the audience.

My panelists were:

  • Karin Ondricek, Director, Product Marketing, Lithium Technologies, Inc. Lithium, the leading provider of community and social solutions, released mobile applications to allow both customers and employees to interact with the community any time, any place, boosting the collaboration potential.
  • Bill Platt, SVP Operations, Engine Yard. A TSIA member, Engine Yard provides a mobile development platform, so Bill had lots of technical information on the intricacies of developing mobile tools, and the gotchas most companies encounter when they try to build it themselves.
  • Don Brass, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, LogMeIn. TSIA members primarily know LogMeIn as a remote control and desktop sharing solution, but they also have a whole line of mobile products for consumers and the enterprise. I use LogMeIn on my iPad to access my home computer, so I’ve stopped bringing my laptop on some trips. They also offer a Rescue product allowing you to remotely control mobile devices–a huge benefit for supporting mobile customers, or employees.

We kicked off the discussion with the top mobile application FAQs I’ve received from TSIA members:

  • Who should build it? Internal development or a specialist firm? What I learned yesterday is that you may want to own the UI and feature set, but few companies are able to build the back end part of the application. The hard part is making sure the data and processing is happening on your server–not the mobile device–and still offer fast performance.
  • What platforms should we cover? This is a hard one for many companies, because you want to cover as many devices as possible to encourage adoption, but the droid world remains unstable, with 50+ OS versions to deal with, and lots of device specific requirements. The panel’s advice was to survey customers to find the most popular devices and prioritize your development list.
  • How much functionality is enough? Recreate everything or basic flows? Everyone seemed to agree that going with minimal functionality in the first version makes sense, so you can get your feet wet in a small pond before jumping in the ocean. But again, consider involving customers to make sure some key feature isn’t left out, dissuading adoption.
  • How much support traffic is generated for mobile application help/support? Is self-service enough, or is assisted support required? None of the panelists have found that support volume increases measurably with the introduction of a mobile app, perhaps because the primary demographic for mobile users are also more prone to try self-service or peer support, not assisted support.

I’d like to thank the panelists for stepping in at the last minute and doing such a great job, and I’d also like to thank the audience for their interest and all the great questions and comments.

And as always, thanks for reading!