Make Your Customers Happy AND Cut Costs with Self-Service 2.0

Most of the time, increasing customer satisfaction also means increasing costs: adding product features, providing off-hours support, extending warranty periods, etc.. So, it’s surprising that when an opportunity comes along to both delight customers and save money, many enterprises fail to jump on it.

Yet that’s exactly the case with self-service 2.0 (which is distinguished from self-service 1.0 by being action-focused rather than knowledge-focused). In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, Why Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You, Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff report several provocative findings from research on customer service preferences, among them:

  • “Companies tend to think their customers value live service more than twice as much as they value self service. But our data show that customers today…value self-service just as much as using the phone.”
  • Furthermore, “this indifference holds regardless of (customers’) age, demographic, issue type, or urgency.”
  • Two-thirds of the customers…told us that three to five years ago, they primarily used the phone for service interactions. Today, less than a third do, and the number is shrinking fast.”
  • While time is a factor, the efficiency of using an ATM or airport kiosk vs. interacting with a live employee alone doesn’t explain “why we go out of our way to take care of our service needs ourselves.”

In attempting to interpret these findings, the authors hypothesize that “maybe customers are shifting toward self service because they don’t want a relationship with companies…(and) self service now allows customers the ‘out’ they’ve been looking for all along,” which, if accurate, leads to the startling conclusion that “Running your company as if customers want to talk to you isn’t just expensive, it’s potentially undermining your efforts to build longer-term loyalty.”

Avoid customer frustration: use self-service 2.0
Photo Credit: couragextoxlive via Compfight cc

What may be most surprising about the post is that it was written in 2010. Yet if you’ve tried to resolve a customer service issue recently on any number of corporate sites, you’ll realize how little has changed.

The issue in 2014 isn’t that companies (by and large) don’t offer online self-service, but that many still don’t do it well. In a final finding, the HBR authors note that “a staggering 57% of inbound calls (to customer service centers) come from customers who first attempted to resolve their issue on the company’s website. And over 30% of callers are on the company’s website at the same time that they are talking to a rep on the phone. That’s a lot of frustrated customers.”

Business-to-consumer (B2C) sites are (generally) mature in ecommerce, and making strides in other aspects of online customer service. Their business-to-business (B2B) counterparts are now catching up: according to MarketingCharts,  “B2B commerce is shifting offline to online and self-service, say 57% of B2B vendors from the US and Europe,” with 44% of respondents “also agreeing that B2B commerce is adopting B2C best practices in order to optimize the purchasing experience.”

However, “The most commonly-cited challenge in B2B commerce is providing intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for multiple touch points, cited by half of the respondents.” The challenge in optimizing the user experience and ease of use for customers explains why the HBR findings regarding the high percentage of customers frustrated with online self-service offerings remain relevant.

Fixing these problems is vital. As Forrester Research states in their January 2014 report, Transform Customer Processes And Systems To Improve Experiences, in what they term the age of the customer: ” Competitive differentiation achieved through brand, manufacturing, distribution, and IT is now only table stakes. A major source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled disruption —an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers.”

And obviously, firms that can reduce costs while also achieving these objectives will be at an even greater competitive advantage.

Consequently, Forrester lists among its top customer management trends for 2013 (with our comments in parentheses):

  • “Brands are turning their attention to CX (customer experience) design: More firms will realize that the right customer interactions across all touchpoints don’t just happen; they must be actively designed.”
  • “Untamed processes are getting more attention: More firms will move away from isolated BPM and/or front-office CRM projects and toward cross-functional transformation initiatives to support the invisible, untamed customer management processes critical to exceptional CX.” (This is why an enterprise request management (ERM) approach is valuable; it entails  automating and optimizing cross-functional processes, designing process steps to address the “white spaces” between functional groups where these “invisible, untamed” processes dwell.)
  • “Agile implementation approaches are scaling to the enterprise level: More firms will adopt agile project management” (as well as agile request management) “and software development methodologies based on iterative development principles…”
  • “Mobile applications are empowering employees and consumers.” (Agile service management is again also key to supporting a mobile workforce and mobile consumers.)

Tracking service-related metrics with Kinetic InfoForrester further recommends identifying and tracking specific service-related metrics (such as “the number of customer support cases closed per day, the number of calls handled per agent, the service-level agreement (SLA) compliance rate”); setting process designs  before applying technology; and overcoming adoption issues  by letting business users influence functionality.

Which leaves only the final question of how to improve the online experience for customers; how can organizations best simplify UIs to eliminate the need for customer calls, thus simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction and reducing customer service costs?

One approach is “rip and replace,” discarding existing customer service systems in favor of newer installed or cloud-based offerings. While this approach may seem to offer long-term advantages in terms of a more modern IT infrastructure, it’s expensive, time-consuming, and disruptive; and unless it can completely replace existing systems, it can actually make an organization’s technology environment more complex, and increase the risk of redundant and potentially mismatched data elements.

A better strategy is what Forrester covers in its July 2013 report, Prepare Your Infrastructure And Operations For 2020 With Tools And Technologies, of adding modern systems of engagement atop legacy systems of record (established, in-place management and control systems). This is the approach taken in ERM; leverage existing enterprise and department applications in which you’ve already invested money, time, and training—then add new technology only as needed (e.g., request management portal software, workflow automation, EAI, etc/).

The good news for organizations embracing the challenge of redesigning processes and customer service UIs to simplify the user experience is that doing so not only reduces service costs, but also increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. The even better news is that taking an ERM approach can reduce the time, effort, and expense of conquering that challenge.

For more information:

Enterprise Request Management: The Movie [video]

The Enterprise Request Management (ERM) model optimizes business service request and fulfillment processes across functional departments by combining a unified web-based portal front-end with back-end task workflow automation. The benefits include reliable first-time fulfillment, faster service delivery, lower costs, and happier employees.

Importantly, ERM is an “enhance and extend” approach to existing enterprise systems, not a “rip and replace” project. It’s designed to leverage an organization’s financial and intellectual investments in core management and control platforms as well as departmental software applications.

But what does that look like? In this video, Wally shares his frustration with the tortuous process required to obtain a tablet with fellow members of the Unfulfilled Request Support Group  at Omnicorp. But then a new member of the group suggests the antidote to Wally’s vexation may be ERM.

 

Following this advice, Wally becomes an internal champion for ERM at his company. The rest of this saga is cinematic history. Watch for yourself!

Want to learn more?

Service Catalogs are NOT IT Software – They are Business Software

When you are standing at the base of a mountain, it’s usually impossible to see the true peak. You will see “a” peak in front of you, but upon reaching that summit, you’ll see another “peak” higher up, and upon scaling that one, another…until eventually, you reach an elevation from which you can see the actual top of the mountain.

You must reach the first mountain peak to see the next
Photo credit: Steve Maniam

So it is with service catalogs. They were originally defined in ITIL as “an exhaustive list of IT services that an organization provides or offers to its employees or customers.” According to Wikipedia, each service item within an IT service catalog typically includes:

  • A description of the service
  • A categorization or service type
  • Any supporting or underpinning services
  • Timeframes or service level agreement for fulfilling the service
  • Who is entitled to request/view the service
  • Costs (if any)
  • How to request the service and how its delivery is fulfilled
  • Escalation points and key contacts
  • Hours of service availability

While that’s a useful list, notice that none of these bullet points necessarily describe attributes of only IT services; a service description, timeframes, costs, etc. just as readily apply to services from human resources (e.g., a PTO request), facilities (e.g, reserving a meeting room), finance, marketing, or any other internal shared services group.

Service catalogs are still often thought of as “IT software” because that is the way most vendors have viewed them, built them, and sold them. They only see the first “peak” near the base of the mountain, and that’s all they show to customers.

Once those customers reach the first peak, however, they are able to “see higher up the mountain”—but the software they’ve invested in isn’t designed to let them climb any higher.

The result is that service catalogs are used only in IT. Other functional groups (HR, facilities, finance, etc.) each have their own systems and processes for handling requests. The onus is thus on employees to determine which department (or departments, in the case of complex requests) are responsible for service request fulfillment, which systems and processes to therefore use, and how to use each system or process—as well as to “manage” their request from initiation through fulfillment.

There is a better approach, both in terms of improving the user experience and in reducing cross-departmental service delivery costs. Take the service catalog concept to the next peak (and the next, and the next). View it as business software, not just IT software.

Forrester Research recommends rethinking the IT service catalog “as  a higher-level entity called the business service catalog.” In the enterprise request management (ERM) approach, employees have one single, intuitive, web-based portal for ordering any type of business shared service. Users have one simple system for initiating and monitoring the status of requests, with no need to understand all of the departments, approvals and processes involved. Enterprises get increased first-time fulfillment, time and cost savings, and visibility into actual service levels and delivery times.

Don’t let anyone limit your vision. You’ve got higher peaks to conquer.

To learn more:

ERM and Self-Service 2.0: Because Actions Beat Words

Self service 1.0 focused on empowering users with knowledge. It included knowledge bases that provided detailed instructions for completing a variety of tasks, and service catalogs with rich service item descriptions. While by no means unhelpful, self service 1.0 didn’t give users what they really wanted: the ability to get broken things fixed, and to order new things.

What enterprises learned from self service 1.0 was that the lack of an actionable system required manual request management processes which wasted money and frustrated internal and/or external “customers.”

Based on experiences across hundreds of large organizations, Kinetic Data president John Sundberg recently spoke about the transition from self service 1.0 to 2.0, and the role that enterprise request management (ERM) can play, at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.

As defined in this presentation, self service 2.0 is focused instead on empowering users with process. It provides actionable services and automated processes to accelerate service fulfillment, reduce costs and improve the customer experience. Because the customer benefits (for example, through a single intuitive request interface and the ability to track the status of requests), self service 2.0 is more likely to actually be used than its more static predecessor.

The lesson of self service 2.0 is that having an actionable system in place saves money and delights the customer.

Having learned these lessons, organizations sought to implement self service 2.0 across the enterprise. But service catalogs were specified in ITIL and therefore focused on IT; they didn’t extend well to other shared services groups like HR. And HR applications lacked the flexibility to accommodate IT services.

The ERM approach is ideal for taking self service 2.0 out of “silos.” It combines a single, intuitive web-based portal for any type of request (IT, HR, facilities, finance, cross-departmental) with automation through existing enterprise systems (ITSM, ERP, HR,  etc.) to simplify request management for users while reducing service fulfillment time and costs.

An ERM approach to self service 2.0 provides several benefits, including:

  • Agility: there’s no need for a “big bang” cutover or long implementation process; the ERM approach can be used to pursue the “low-hanging fruit”—processes that are particularly painful or just the most common—first, enabling “quick wins,” then expanded to additional services.
  • Popularity: once users and managers begin to see successes in other departments, they want to implement and use it for their own processes. And because ERM is “function agnostic,” there is less “protectionism” or NIH (not-invented-here) syndrome at play.
  • Efficiency: ERM is designed to leverage existing processes and systems wherever possible. New technology and training investments are limited to “filling the gaps.” HR, IT and other departments still utilize their familiar, existing software to support service fulfillment.

ERM improves the customer experience by providing a single web-based interface for any type of request, eliminating redundant manual data entry, accelerating service delivery, and freeing user from manual request management “babysitting.” But it also reduces costs for the organization and provides a framework and reporting data to support continual process improvement.

The end result of taking an ERM approach to self service 2.0 is a shift from static (information gets shared) to a dynamic (stuff gets done) orientation, reduced service delivery costs—and delighted customers.

To learn more, download the Enterprise Request Management Overview white paper, and join the conversation in the Enterprise Request Management Group on LinkedIn.

John Sundberg to Present the ERM Concept at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo

Kinetic Data president John Sundberg will deliver a presentation outlining the concept and benefits of Enterprise Request Management (ERM) at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, which runs from October 6th through the 10th. The ERM presentation will take place in the Emerging Technology Pavilion Theater on Wednesday, October 9, at 12:35 p.m..

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the world’s most important gathering of CIOs and senior IT executives. This year’s event will focus on how the convergence of forces like mobile, social, and cloud technologies are dramatically reshaping the role and business expectations of IT. The 2013 agenda offers 500+ analyst sessions, workshops, roundtables and mastermind keynotes across five full days. With 10 role-based tracks and 11 industry tracks, the agenda targets your specific title responsibilities and ways to adapt new ideas and strategy to your industry, along with insight on what’s next in IT.

John’s presentation will discuss how an ERM approach to service requests and fulfillment drives cost savings and business agility. Organizations are moving to ERM in response to changes in the business environment—such as BYOD and the consumerization of IT—and the shortcomings of technology-focused service request management approaches in adapting to those changes.

Large businesses and government agencies recognize the need for “self-service 2.0” approach to request management. The core elements of self-service 1.0—posting a catalog of services and list of “known solutions” in the form of a knowledgebase—had limited value. The approach these organizations are finding valuable is to bridge the gap between an employee needing something (anything from a new office chair to resources for a new product development project) to an employee getting something. ERM bridges that gap.

Business function managers are empowered to define their own service items and task flows. Internal or external “customers” get a single intuitive, Web-based interface for ordering any type of service, without needing to understand the underlying approval and scheduling processes. Organizations benefit from accelerated service delivery, improved first-time fulfillment, and lower service delivery costs.

Kinetic Data will also be exhibiting in the Emerging Technology Pavilion. Registration is still open for this Gartner event.

How to Calculate the Cost Savings from Automated Self-Service

It’s not unusual to find large organizations still using manual processes for service delivery. Users fill out a paper form, fax it to a service desk number, then follow up by phone or email to check on the status of their service requests. This approach requires many inefficient, manual tasks in the service fulfillment process.

What many organizations want—and are trying to move to—is automated self-service for requests, with a single intuitive interface through which users can find any type of service, make a request, and get the service delivered with no manual interaction.

In this model, key tasks such as scheduling, approvals, costing and reporting are automated–accelerating the delivery process, improving accuracy, and reducing costs.

Requests are made through a web-based, mobile-friendly portal that requires no training to use. The portal also provides visibility into the delivery process, eliminating phone calls and email messages to check on the status of the request.

Benefits of this approach include:

  • faster service delivery;
  • a better user experience; and
  • a more effective, lower-cost process for delivering services.

Calculating the return on investment (ROI) start with an evaluation of the time spent requesting and delivering services under an organization’s current approach. This is then compared, on a per-request basis, to the time requirements under an automated enterprise request management (ERM) approach, including total cost of ownership for the new system over three to five years.

ROI is the cumulative cost savings across all services that can be automated divided by the total costs (software, hardware, services, implementation, training) of moving to an ERM approach. The total business impact varies with the volume of service requests which are candidates for automation.

To learn more about the ERM approach to automated self-service, download the whitepaper Enterprise Request Management: An Overview.

How Innovating IT Practices Leads to Happier Employees

Everyone wants to work in an environment where they feel good about their jobs. And every CEO wants the organization’s employees to recommend the firm to others as a great company to work for and do business with. Now, findings from Forrester Research quantify the pivotal role that IT plays in supporting these outcomes.

According to Forrester, in companies where employees are advocates ” for their business as a place to work and as a place to do business,” 65% say they are satisfied with the service they receive from their IT departments. In contrast, just one-quarter of unhappy, non-advocate employees are satisfied with their IT groups.

How IT Innovation Leads to Happy EmployeesFurthermore, significant majorities of advocate employees:

  • Report they are satisfied that their IT departments understand their technology needs and what they need to be successful in their jobs.

  • Say they “have access to technology and tools to solve their problems and challenges.”

  • Feel encouraged to solve customer and business problems.

  • Are active users of collaboration and communication tools.

Clearly, as even Forrester points out, there are many other factors that affect employees’ overall work satisfaction and advocacy (corporate culture, policies, work environment,  compensation), but the correlation with IT support is nonetheless significant.

So how can IT managers help create a positive environment of employee advocacy? Here are three key tactics:

  • Help business managers use technology to automate common processes and solve business problems. Ideally, IT should provide departmental / business function managers with easy to use tools to create their own automated task workflows, with minimal IT assistance.
  • Give employees a single web (and mobile) portal to request any type of service. Ultimately, employees don’t care whether a specific request gets fulfilled by IT,  or HR, or facilities, or through coordination between different departments, and they don’t want to have to request different services from different systems and user interfaces.
  • Deliver services the way that users want them. Contrast the typical IT help desk queue approach with the user-friendly experience of Apple Genius Bars, particularly for remote users and road warriors. Enabling users to schedule an appointment online rather than wait in a queue, particularly for complex-but-not-urgent service requests, reduces stress for IT professionals and business users alike.

Trends like bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and an increasingly mobile workforce are creating new challenges for IT departments. But given their importance in employee satisfaction and advocacy, it’s crucial for technology groups to embrace new approaches that both enhance productivity and delight business users.

For more information, check our white papers Say Goodbye to the IT Service Management Queue and Business Process Automation Anywhere and Everywhere.

Automating Employee Onboarding and Provisioning Processes with Request Management

Ready, Set, Go!

Imagine that on your first day on the new job you already have your telephone, laptop, employee username/login, phone line and voice mailbox, employee email account, company iPhone, business cards, and name badge. In addition, you already have access to the appropriate databases and user groups. And to top it off—multiple departments across the organization have already been notified of your arrival. This is the ideal scenario for most organizations. As an employer, you want every new hire’s first day to be as reassuring and productive as possible.

Employee Onboarding and ProvisioningEmployee onboarding

Employee onboarding is best defined as a systematic and comprehensive approach to orienting a new employee to help them get on board.  All of this requires coordination between HR, hiring managers, IT, facilities, and other parts of the organization. 

Onboarding and provisioning the new hire

There are two parts to the employee onboarding process. The first part is known as employee onboarding, Wikipedia refers to it as “the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational contributors.” This part of the process includes HR’s protocol—company and departmental overviews, job expectations, policies and procedures, etc.

The second part of the onboarding process includes provisioning the new hire with the tangible and intangible items they will need to be productive. New hires need to have their workspaces fully provisioned with phones, computers, email accounts, and the appropriate database and application access as soon as possible.

Onboarding in large organizations

Large organizations must onboard and provision new employees quickly and efficiently in order to speed employee time-to-productivity. They need to be able to respond to onboarding and provisioning requests promptly in order to maintain an acceptable productivity level—especially imperative to organizations with many new hires and high employee turnover. If the employee onboarding and provisioning process is not fully automated, it can be tedious and time-consuming.

Benefits of automation

The benefits of automating onboarding and provisioning include less paperwork, reduced costs and increased efficiency. Automation also ensures accuracy—especially beneficial for compliance purposes—and provides a full audit trail if needed. Perhaps most importantly, new employees feel welcome and prepared in their new positions and are more confident they have the resources to quickly make an impact within the organization.

Automating onboarding with Request Management

There are several ways to automate employee onboarding and provisioning, including purpose-built applications, but using a Request Management application is perhaps the simplest and most efficient way to do it.

Request Management is the process of managing a request, from submission to follow up, in order to standardize and automate service delivery.

Request management is a key component of an actionable service catalog; it is the underlying workflow and processes that enable a service request to be reliably submitted, routed, approved, monitored, and delivered.

The benefits of using a request management application for employee onboarding include:

  • Speed the time to employee productivity.
  • Leverage a single configurable interface to orchestrate all employee onboarding and provisioning requests across multiple departments: HR, Payroll, IT, Telecom, Facilities, Security.
  • Reduce costs due to inefficiency.
  • Increase reliability and accuracy, and consistently assure legal compliance.
  • Get visibility to audit trails for compliance and reporting purposes.
  • Reduce human intervention to a minimum with user self-service.

Kinetic Request bundled with Kinetic Task has the capability to do these things and more for your organization. With the power of enterprise-wide flexibility and task management simplification, these products are a valuable asset for organizations looking to increase overall efficiency.  For more information on how these products enhance the automation experience visit Kinetic Data’s website.

In summary, employee onboarding and provisioning activities that are coordinated and orchestrated with a request management application are improved in a number of ways. The automation of these processes has proved time and time again that it is worth the investment. Companies who make the decision to streamline their procedures are rewarded with consistent cost reduction, accuracy, reliability, and cross departmental capabilities as well as increased employee productivity and satisfaction.