Sorry but I’m “frustrated of Peterborough” (but not directly at IT for once). Having just come off a half an hour call with two “major credit card provider” customer service staff, I’m frustrated to within an inch of screaming at someone. In some ways this blog is my outlet (but there is interesting stuff eventually).
You might think I'm overreacting, however, when one’s time is so limited these days, it is difficult to rise above the fact that I wasted 20 of the 30 minutes most likely because the “major credit card provider” has off-shored its customer support to save money (please note that the off-shoring is an assumption on my part based on my interactions).
But what has this to do with IT?
Hopefully you didn’t need to ask this question … I had an issue with a credit card service; many have issues with corporate IT services. We all call up, we all expect a quick resolution, and many expect to be treated in a customer, rather than supplier, focused manner.
Oddly enough, I spoke about this exact point at the itSMFUK London Regional yesterday … from an IT service management perspective (well specifically a service/help desk perspective). That we are now too focused on the mechanics of things (tool and process, AND scripts) and that, in some ways by virtue of this, we have “dumbed-down” the IT service desk.
This is not intended as an insult to service desk people, they have a difficult job: a job where they day in, day out, deal with the fallout from IT failures and the potentially unhappy customers. In an environment where there is very little “good news” or praise.
We all know that the gap between a customer’s expectations and the service they receive is huge. Customers are increasingly knowledgeable about products and demand value-added, personalized service. Businesses struggle with understanding which initiatives will move the needle in a positive direction and are thus worth investing in. Here is the second tip in my 10-part blog series on how to master the service experience.
Step 2: Is your customer service aligned with your company brand?
Meeting the needs of your customers are important. However, it’s just as important to stay true to your brand and design a service experience that supports your value proposition. Customers need to know what your company represents — which is especially important in the message-cluttered social media world that we live in — and have this brand reinforced every time they interact with you during the sales process, and for every interaction after the initial sale.
These companies have aligned their service offering to help reinforce their brand with their customers:
Apple. Its products are high-style and priced at a premium. Apple’s customer service is very much in line with its brand. The firm delivers customer service on the customer’s terms — you can arrange a phone call with an Apple Expert who specializes in your exact question and can talk with them now or later at your convenience. They’ll even call you. You can email Apple or browse its extensive knowledge base.
The statistics that salesforce.com broadcast at Dreamforce last week are impressive: a $2.2 billion annual run rate; 104,000 customers; and 35 billion transactions per quarter (see Benioff's keynote slides here). The conference was attended by 40,000 users, with a further 35,000 joining online. Salesforce.com’s cloud messaging is mature and no longer a focal point. However, what was most interesting from a customer service/CRM standpoint was the focus on the “social customer” and the way that CRM applications need to adapt to accommodate them.
Traditionally, CRM software has been anything but focused on the customer. It has been positioned as software aimed at the business user to increase their productivity and efficiency as they interact with customers, clients, and sales prospects.
Salesforce.com’s new CRM messaging spotlights the customer and the way that customers interact today using the new social channels and loose social processes to research and select products to purchase and get answers to their questions. Customers are also company employees and want to use these channels to collaborate with other employees at work in the same way they use these channels in their personal lives. This means that these social channels and processes need to also extend inside the enterprise. Check out salesforce.com’s interaction map for the social customer:
We all know that companies are trying to leverage social channels for customer service. But how can they be deployed in a way that adds value to an organization? Here are my thoughts:
You can’t implement social technologies in a silo within your contact center because you have to be able to deliver a consistent experience across the communication channels you support: voice, the electronic ones, and the social ones. Read my blog post on how you can do this.
Once you get the basics right, you are ready to add social media capabilities. Best practices include:
Start by listening to customer conversations. These conversations can surface general issues with products, services, and company processes. Make sure you create workflows to route surfaced issues to the correct organization so they can be worked on.
Flag and address social inquiries. Understand the general sentiments expressed in these conversations, but also identify specific customer inquiries and route them to the right agent pool for resolution.
Extend your customer service ecosystem with communities. This allows your customers to share information, best practices, and how-to tips with each other, as well as get advice without needing to interact with your agents. But don’t implement them in a technology silo; they should be well-integrated with current contact center processes.
For those of you that put up with my tweeting on Twitter, you will already know that I am obsessed with customer service. Or to be more accurate, I am obsessed with being treated like a customer. While a polite Englishman at heart, I am not prepared to tolerate poor customer service. In the words of David/Bruce Banner, “You won’t like me when I am angry.”
“But what has this to do with ITIL?” I hear you screaming at your screen. Please bear with me as I recount last Saturday night and Sunday morning (thankfully there is no link to the film of the same name).
Last weekend I spent a single night at a “chain” hotel. The customer service upon arrival was excellent, on the back of my loyalty card I received a room upgrade and complimentary soft drinks and chocolate bars in the room. Ah, the world was good and I was “living the dream.” I felt like a valued customer. Fast-forward to the following morning and the picture couldn’t have been more different.
During the night the room had been so hot that it was difficult to sleep. “You should have turned down the heating or opened the window,” I hear you cry. Check and check. The wall-mounted thermostat made no difference. The window, somewhat morbidly, had been screwed shut. I didn’t call down to reception as I couldn’t face a handyman/woman messing around in my room in the middle of the night (if they were actually available).
Today’s contact center ecosystem is complex, and comprised of multiple vendors who provide the critical software components. Read my blog post on what these critical software components are. Customers are looking for a simpler technology ecosystem to manage from both a systems perspective and a contractual perspective.
Suite solutions, available from unified communications (UC), CRM, and workforce optimization (WFO) vendors, are evolving and include comprehensive feature sets. These vendors have either built these capabilities out or acquired them via M&A activity. And we expect more M&A to happen.
Are you winning? No, this is not about Charlie Sheen! I mean, are you one of the “fortunate” ones leading application delivery in a firm that is winning?
Today’s economy is a mix of winners and losers, with winners weighted strongly toward firms, industries, and regions experiencing rapid growth in customer demand for experiences that integrate their lives across multiple digital (mobile, web, …) and physical (retail, auto, …) touchpoints. App delivery leaders experiencing this rapid growth would say it is “the best of times,” except for how hard it is to keep up — the business demands more and more, faster and faster! So “winning” can be a mixed blessing in software, too:
Relevant Advice For “Winning” App Delivery Leaders
OK, so we all probably now know that the long-awaited ITIL “refresh,” ITIL v3.1 (or the ITIL 2011 Edition as it now seems to be called), is to be released on the 29th July 2011. But four years on from the release of ITIL v3 where are we exactly?
Let’s start with the provided facts about the updated version of ITIL. The ITIL Best Practice Management update points out that this is an “update” not a new version. Paraphrasing the update on the update, ITIL 2011 Edition is designed to:
Resolve any errors or inconsistencies.
Improve the ITIL publications by addressing issues raised to do with "clarity, consistency, correctness and completeness."
Address suggestions for change made by the training community.
Review the "Service Strategy" publication to improve accessibility and understanding.