Schneider Electric Energizes Employee Services with Smarter Request Management

Organizations constantly change: they add and drop product lines, acquire other companies, divest business units, and expand into new markets or countries.

The true measure of any enterprise technology is not whether it can merely adapt to such changes, but also enable continual improvement,  both operationally and in employee experience.

Schneider Electric call deflection savingsWhen Schneider Electric launched an initiative to upgrade its employee services request portal, it put its request management software to the test. Here’s the company’s story.

Schneider Electric is a global organization with more than 170,000 employees in 134 countries, supplying a wide range of business and residential energy products and services.

Continue reading “Schneider Electric Energizes Employee Services with Smarter Request Management”

The Future of IT Service Management – New Research from EMA

Two recent posts here have explored predictions for IT trends in the coming year and what IT may look like by 2020. While specifics vary, the common thread is that IT teams will be expected to accelerate their own workflow while delivering technology to transform business processes.

Future of IT support - EMA researchA new study from EMA Research on the future of ITSM, reported by Dennis Drogseth on APMdigest, reflects this theme as well while adding new insights. Here are half a dozen key findings from EMA’s survey, along with additional commentary and observations from this blog.

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How ERM Helps With Employee Retention

To enhance their competitiveness (or to address the expectations of stakeholders, in the case of government agencies), organizations have been investing in new and better technology for decades. These investments are generally made to meet one (or some combination of) of four primary objectives:
Technology that makes employees happy

  • to reduce costs;
  • to improve product or process quality;
  • to accelerate workflow; or
  • to enable new capabilities.

Employees were provided with and trained on the use of new technologies and tools in order to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. True, in many cases new technologies made employees jobs easier, but the primary objectives for new investments were still focused on operational and financial benefit for the enterprise. Continue reading “How ERM Helps With Employee Retention”

Customer Satisfaction Soars at ATS with Enterprise Request Management

As noted here before (and here and here), enterprise request management (ERM) is a business-efficiency strategy that reduces service delivery costs while increasing user satisfaction. Combining a single intuitive portal for requesting any type of enterprise service with back-end process automation, the ERM approach simplifies request management for employees, accelerates service delivery, and ensures first-time fulfillment.

Automating workflow processes with ERMWhat does that look like in the real world? Continue reading “Customer Satisfaction Soars at ATS with Enterprise Request Management”

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:

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:

Upcoming Webinar: The Enterprise Request Management Approach to Reducing the Cost of Service Delivery

In survey after survey conducted by leading business publications and analyst firms, executives consistently rank “making business processes more efficient” and “improving the customer experience” among their top priorities. Yet organizations continue to struggle with inefficiencies and customer satisfaction issues.

Business process automation (BPA) software can help–but it’s only a tool. If processes themselves aren’t engineered to optimize the customer experience, the result is simply that broken processes get completed more quickly. Enterprise Request Management (ERM) is a strategy geared towards improving service, while reducing the cost of delivery in an scalable and risk-managed approach.

What’s needed is a different approach to managing service requests and delivery, an approach that:

  • makes it easy for customers (whether internal or external) to request services of any type from a single, intuitive interface (with the simple elegance of websites like Amazon.com);
  • enables business managers to define and continually refine their own automated processes and task workflows, with minimal assistance from IT;
  • leverages investments in existing enterprise software systems and federated data sources–while hiding the complexity from users; and
  • automates approvals, scheduling, costing, and reporting to support continuous process improvement.

You can learn more about the ERM approach in the upcoming webinar on May 22nd at 2:00 EDT. If delighting customers while decreasing service delivery costs sounds appealing, register for this webinar today!